The woman across the aisle on a recent flight gave me a knowing look.
“Would you like me to sit with your daughter while you walk with your baby?” she asked.
As a mother, I’ve learned that offers of help should almost never be declined.
“Yes. That would be lovely,” I quickly replied.
True to form, my 10-month-old, who had been inconsolable for the last 20 minutes, fell asleep on our second lap down the narrow aisle.
After a few more minutes of rocking, I walked back to my seat and thanked my benefactress, who almost seemed disappointed that I returned so soon.
My toddler was absorbed in an episode of “Veggie Tales” on my tablet; she hardly seemed to notice I was gone. Her screen use is limited to one circumstance only — when we’re flying. That probably explains her frequent requests to “go on the plane.”
“Mama, watch Peppa Pig, please?” she asked.
Sure. Whatever gets us through this flight.
Flying with kids is one of those parenting challenges that can break you if you let it.
Delayed flights, endless security lines, TSA pat-downs and turbulence are bad enough when you’re on your own. Throw babies into the mix, and you’re in for some real fun. Especially when you’re solo-parenting the travel.
You quickly learn to embrace certain inevitabilities: one of your children will poop right before the captain turns on the “fasten your seat belt” sign, and one will eat something off the terminal floor while you frantically search for your gate.
And you also come to appreciate all of the benevolent people around you who are only too willing to lend a hand or offer a word of support.
The second time I flew alone with my oldest daughter, she screamed for 30 minutes before falling soundly asleep across my lap — and the lap of the kind lady in the next seat.
“I have grandkids. I get it,” she told me, unfazed by my daughter’s feet in her face.
Our flight to the East Coast last Christmas was our first with two kids, and it was epic.
We’d mistakenly been put in an exit row — which is not allowed with a lap child, let alone, two — so after a game of musical seats my infant and I landed between some unsuspecting travelers who ended up being two of the most tolerant people I have ever met.
On my right was a grandmother from Philadelphia. Throughout the flight, she helped me retrieve all sorts of things from my diaper bag, which had somehow migrated into her foot space. She didn’t mind.
On my left was a young man and former college football player. He wasn’t yet a father but from the way he tickled my daughter’s toes, disregarded her drool, gas and fussing, and helped my husband and me pass our kiddos back and forth over the seats, he very much seemed like a seasoned pro.
The irony about flying with kids is that is despite its many, many added burdens, it can actually make the flight a better experience.
Before kids, flying was oddly isolating. Unless you’re commiserating with fellow passengers about the random gate changes or the TSA agent who got a little too personal during the pat-down, you’re probably not terribly engaged with the people around you.
Glance around any airport terminal or the plane next time you’re flying.
Most people are immersed in their smartphones or wearing headphones to drown out the din and avoid talking to strangers.
But if you’re carrying a cute baby or even a screaming toddler, you attract some attention, and in my experience, it’s almost universally good.
Our kids help humanize us, and they seem to have the same effect on the people around us.
And flying with them has the side effect of making us far more sympathetic to fellow passengers in frustrating situations.
About 30 minutes before our scheduled landing on our recent flight, the captain informed us we’d be rerouted due to weather.
“It will add another 25 minutes or so,” he explained.
I looked at my girls and the woman across the aisle.
No worries. We got this.
Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.