Intercontinental Flights. Experienced, Not Learned

In August of 2010 Robert, Amanda, and I boarded Jet Blue plane for a flight  from Boston to San Jose, CA. It was Robert’s first airplane trip since August of 2001.  He had already flown three times to Poland to visit his grandmother.  Those flights in 1997, 1999, and 2001 differed significantly from each other.

The first trip in 1997,  was very difficult for all of the  members of our family. Other passengers, however, were not affected or less affected than they would had been by any typical baby, toddler, or preschooler. We managed (with the help of airlines) to arrange our seats in two rows. Jan and Amanda in front of Robert and me. If Robert kicked the seat in front of him it was Jan or I (when we switched) who mildly suffered. Mildly, because Robert was still very small.  It was much harder to make sure that Robert stayed seated. As I said before, there were reasons why Robert was called Little Houdini. Keeping him seated was quite an endeavor, despite the buster seat we had with us.  Both ways were equally challenging. I  don’t remember fondly stopping somewhere in Europe to change planes. But the matter of fact, Robert required so much of my attention that all other details of the trip are blurry. I don’t remember, for instance if we flew to Brussels or Amsterdam to change planes.  I remember that the airport was dreary, smelled of marijuana, and didn’t have right kind of fries for Robert.

The flight on a way to Poland in 1999, was rather uneventful, although my husband and I were both tense expecting the worse. The worse came on the flight back to US. Maybe Robert did not want to part with his grandmother, his loving step grandfather, the old orchard, and the neighborhood children, who treated him like he was a part of their group. Something which has never happened in America before or after.  Maybe, he ate too many of  his  barbecue chips, we bought to sooth him during the trip.  A year later we found out that those chips caused Robert’s severe stomach pains.  Maybe, the new antihistamine we gave him (Benadryl instead of Novahistine) caused unpredicted reaction, but Robert was screaming a lot, going to the restroom a lot, smelled bad, and kicked the seat in front of him a lot.  And that seat hosted a young, extremely patient man, who didn’t even once turn back to us to signal his discontent.  When we arrived in Boston, the drug sniffing dogs turned their noses from us in obvious disgust.  We felt so beaten  up that we did not say a  word in the cab that brought us home.

I thought I would never take Robert again on a long  flight, but his grandmother missed us all.  She missed Robert. We missed her.  So we dared to fly again in August of 2001.  Robert knew where he was going, he knew what to expect, and more or less he knew how to behave. Moreover, somehow he came to his own conclusion that he should follow his sister’s lead, whenever he left the house.  Between 1999 and 2001, Amanda became his role model.  This time, Robert loved the airplane. He was both excited and mellow.  He wanted his window blind up so he could watch the sky.  The flight attendant wanted it down, so we worked on the compromise.  The blind was two inches up.  Enough for Robert to see and enough to satisfy flight attendant.  It was a beautiful trip with a few soothing flights.  Yes, there were other children on the plane, who cried or even screamed.  I felt for the parents, I knew what they were going through, but I was not one bit disturbed by the noise. As bad as it sounds, I didn’t feel the slightest discomfort. They were not my children and I did not have to do anything about to calm them.  Such a relief!

I would fly with Robert anywhere, anytime! Or so I thought.

Then, two weeks after our return from Poland to JFK, 9-11 happened.  New security measure took place.

I recalled the incident, which seemed insignificant at the time, but became important later, in a new, post 9-11 world.

As we waited, before our flight, at the gate at JFK , we let Robert run in the rather empty space near our seats.  We did not notice any doors.  But although indistinguishable in color and shape from the surrounding wall, the doors were there.  Robert  noticed them and  opened them. The alarm sounded. Loudly.  The woman came out,  checked what had happened, gave us a sort of scolding,  and left. Her reaction was rather mild. It was still August 2001.

I imagined, what reaction could we expect if Robert opened that door after September of 2001 and my resolve to travel diminished so much that in 2009, I chose driving from Boston to San Carlos, CA over flying.

But although it was a wonderful road trip, I knew I would not repeat it without having another driver with me all the way to California and back.  We had to fly.

So after nine flightless years, in August of 2010, Amanda, Robert, and I boarded a Jet Blue plane on a flight from Boston to San Jose, CA.

But that is another story and another post on this blog: From Coast to Coast with Herman the Fly

When I look back on those journeys, I am glad that we took Robert with us when he was just 5 years old, and relatively small.  It was difficult for us, but we could manage.  It was a priceless exposure  to traveling by plane.

Maybe it would be better to take him on shorter flights before the long ones.  Maybe we should take him sooner. I am not sure.

At one or two of those flights we had a DVD or a computer game we could use.   I am not sure, however, if that made a difference.

We should not have  used a new, over the counter medication on the trip.  We should stay with only zyrtec, since novahistine was already removed from the market.

I am not sure what else we could do. I know we had to travel.  I am glad we did.