Fredericksburg Parent

July 2013

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How to be a Popular Parent When You Travel by Plane BY DEBBY GIRVAN T hese days, families live all over the world so airline travel is a necessity. In airports, weary, stressed out parents are loaded down like pack mules with a baby or a toddler buried in a stroller under a mountain of blankies, diaper bags and too many toys and stuffed animals. Abandoned Cheerios and Teddy Grahams trail behind them as though they might forget their way back to the parking garage. I close my eyes and pretend not to see them. It's too painful. In my last career, I traveled so frequently for business I joked that my suitcase was my double-wide mobile home. The queen of efficiency and free upgrades, I knew how to snag a first class seat and could pack two weeks' worth of fashionable clothes in a carry-on. Then my son was born. Nothing dethrones your elite flight status quicker than a baby, no matter how many miles you fly. If you're an inexperienced parent traveler, you are assumed to be unpopular until proven otherwise. Plenty of businessmen groaned or outright swore when they realized they were seated next to my precious baby boy. My baby was better behaved than most of those businessmen. By the time the wheels hit the ground, some were making silly faces and goo goos, but popularity is fickle. Do everything right and somebody is still going to hate you. I learned all my parenting skills the hard way. Oh sure, I was popular on trips where dads envied my son's tiny Denver Bronco sweatsuit with matching Chuck Taylor's and grandmas begged to hold him, all cuddly in his fresh diaper and jammies. But then there were those other trips. But the worst kinds of unpopular are the parents who don't even know they're unpopular. Don't be those parents. Talk up the trip with your child before you leave home so he knows what to expect. Let him have the candy, chips and soda that are usually off limits. Use your imagination and make it fun. Teach him courtesy and manners so he doesn't grow up to be an inconsiderate business traveler. There will be circumstances that unravel your best planning and preparation but it's a scientific fact that popular people are happier and have more fun. My motto is hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The only guarantee is the flight can't last forever. Just like your howling toddler, the plane will eventually run out of gas. Have your own story to tell? Email me! 14 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • July 2013 16 Ways to be Popular or Unpopular: Enjoy these real life scenarios (OK, I embellished one or two for a few laughs). 1 POPULAR You prepared your child for security. Bobby Bunny "tells" your toddler he can't wait to go through the "car wash" (x-ray machine) but somebody needs to go through the "magic door" (metal detector). The nice "police man/lady", "Power Ranger", "Transformer" (pick a hero) might need to wave the magic wand over him or "tickle" him before he can board the plane. UNPOPULAR Your toddler shrieks as you snatch Bobby Bunny from his arms and toss him in the bin with your purse and shoes as they're sucked into the dark hole. Then you realize your child is wearing only one shoe and the stray is nowhere in sight. 2 POPULAR Lunch is your child's favorite sandwich, a banana and the cheese curls he always begs for, but you never buy. Because he sits quietly and stops kicking the seat you reward him with a rare treat like a lollipop — or maybe several — since it's a long flight. UNPOPULAR You make your child eat natural peanut butter on pita bread because even though it's dry and tasteless it's organic and portable. Carrot sticks are nature's candy. Lunch ends up on the next passenger's shoe. Visit to read all 16 scenarios.

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