I recently faced one of my greatest fears: taking my son Skylar on a plane
I needed to fly out to Colorado to stand as godfather at a baptism and
decided to use the trip as an excuse to stop in New Jersey first to see
family and introduce them to Skylar. The fact that Id have my
11-month old son for a week without Mom was enough to lay the foundation
for an ulcer, but it was that time Id be trapped in the giant steel can
that haunted me most.
The non-stop flight from San Francisco to JFK is a seven-hour flight.
I began to question my sanity for deciding to be thrifty and carrying
Skylar on my lap the entire trip instead of buying him his own seat.
I knew I simply couldnt be prepared enough. What if he puked?
Id need an extra outfit for him. But what if he puked again or
his diaper leaked? I stuffed two more outfits and a handful of socks
into my carry bag.
On to the next anxiety: What would my son eat? The airline was quite
adamant that I had to bring my own food for Skylar since I didnt spend
several hundred dollars on a seat for him. Today Skylar likes
bananas so one went into the bag. But what if he stopped liking
bananas? I threw in an apple. Five kinds of cookies. A
pound of individually wrapped slices of American cheese. Three kinds
of cereal in snak-sized plastic bags. Two sipper cups for water and
three bottles buttressed with the extra large tin of formula. A
twenty-pack of diapers. Several toys, a picture of Mommy, and a
prayer that Id forgotten nothing important. I lifted the bag; it
weighed at least forty pounds. But was it enough for a twenty-four
pound boy for seven hours?
Cant be too prepared, I thought, cant be too prepared. Oh
yeah, stuff to entertain myself during the flight. No, I wouldnt
need anything. I know my son. Id have my hands full.
Now deciding what I was going to wear was a long, deliberate, and very
important process. Normally I employ the happy-and-insane method of
travel: I wear a pair of my too-difficult-to-look-at pants, which I
suspect are legal to wear only in California, and put on my biggest smile.
That way nobody bothers me. But not on this trip. I would be a
dad traveling alone with an eleven-month old just learning the joys of
walking and slamming cabinet doors. If I was going to survive this
trip, I would need to play the sympathy ticket. Conservative jeans
and shirt. And layers, in case some of the puke landed on me.
Why dont you use your upgrades to fly first class? suggested
Rebecca. Then youll have more room.
Rebecca obviously doesnt fly much. A screaming infant in first class is
simply too great a wrong and could cause the universe to collapse in on
itself. If I upgraded with Skylar in tow, Id find myself
surrounded by hostile people who had paid at least double or triple what I
paid for the very reason that they didnt want to sit next to a baby.
My best option was to voluntarily exile myself to the last rows of coach,
where I might get lucky and find a few allies in other parents who had
been there themselves.
With my last hours, I surfed the Internet for sites about flying with
infants, wanting to leave no stone unturned. I even called
Skylars peditrician for advice. She suggested that he suck on
something during take-off and landing, to relieve the pressure in his
ears. I meant for me, I told her.
Finally I ran out of time to prepare. As we fought traffic on the
way to the airport, I found myself almost praying that we wouldnt make
it in time. But we did, and then I stood at that hardest of
crossroads: boarding the plane. I had prepared for every eventuality but
getting on the plane.
I felt Rebecca push me from behind. Have fun, she said.
And before I realized it, I was walking down the gangway. Have fun?
Id been so busy preparing that the idea of having fun had never
occurred to me. I located our window seat and settled in for the
long journey. Suddenly I found myself on the edge of an adventure.
Just my son and me.