Air travel is wonderful.
In a culture that demands space and privacy, the security process alone is therapeutic. There you are, standing barefooted and beltless, questioning what is a jacket and what is your shirt. On the queue amongst strangers, we are all in the same state of affairs. We are travelers adrift in search of sanity in safety. There is eye contact, shared experience, and compassion for the one chosen to play a “bad guy” that morning. Vulnerability is a powerful tool in community building. But that’s the adult perspective. For kids, it’s a horse of a different color.
Traveling with children on a plane can be hilarious. Especially if you are not their parent, and seated a few rows back. I have not yet had a plane trip that was not improved by a few rows of kids, swaggering down the aisle their bulging backpacks of snacks and excitement, whacking any unsuspecting passenger foolish enough to not recognize the size of their joy. Nothing more giddy and gleeful than “kids on vacation.” It is beyond a good mood, it reeks of unlimited access to parents, relaxed rules and excess ice cream. I could be biased. I’m fond of travel myself.
The atmosphere is contagious. Those who are not kids, or active duty parents, should always have the good sense to breathe in this air of anticipation, and enjoy the view. I think traveling adults behave better in the presence of traveling children. They smile more, complain less or they move much further back. Who could ignore the sticky face cherub that pops over the top of the seat with the “Is this great or what” smile? Suddenly, it IS great; we are flying! Those are clouds out there and the buildings are tiny. Talk about empowerment for the not so silent minority!
Most kids address their day with a sense of adventure. Give these cosmonauts a ride in the sky and their worldview has just exploded. We may find it cramped and uncomfortable in 16D. These mini explorers spend all their road trips strapped into tight seats in the back row. The view is so much better from the sky, and your parents pay more attention.
On a recent trip from Florida to New Mexico we were seated in front of a pint size philosopher with the comedic timing of a Borscht belt comedian. I wrote this down. Nothing ever made up by an adult can top a child’s raw experience. As the plane eased out of the gate at Tampa, preparing for the runway, his voice could be heard over the engines.
“Are we there yet??” We left the runway on laughter, even the sincerely cranky enjoyed that classic.
A few minutes later swooping over Tampa bay at a rakish angle. “Sometimes I get scared Dad. Dad? Did you hear me? Sometimes I get scared!” Dad, it turned out was a combat veteran; I’ll bet he understood that very well.
“Dad, you have something up your nose. What IS that up your nose?? We were in the aisles.
“Where’s our hotel Dad, is that Texas? Calla, Calla we’re in Texas! Dad everything in Texas is so small! Where’s our hotel Dad, is it that box?” (Circling Houston)
Diagonally we have a small, but fully cognizant being. Impossibly skinny legs in purple knit leggings sticking out from under a flowered ruffled mini dress shaped like a bell. Two pig tails of different lengths, wrapped in rubber bands, sticking out at revolutionary angles. It appeared as if she had done her own trim recently. She was succinct and cool. Eye contact, appraisal, approval and back to her iPad. A few bumps, a few mini rolls, and we are all stapled in for the duration, she took it all in stride.
The toddler next door began a sleep song as plaintive and intricate as a Robin’s end of day parable. She repeated the song in its entirety; same tone, same cadence, same vocables, three or four times before she sang herself to sleep. She created her own song and was singing it for herself. Awesome self-soothing, wish I could be as self aware. How much do we really understand about being a child? And why do we rush to make them adults with sad eyes and nervous hands? Maybe some research into the basis of their wisdom might serve better. Maybe we could sit in the back seat more often.
Children and angels are of the same fabric
They’ve forgotten their guile and
Left their façade at home
Don’t even try to keep them
From standing too close and looking too deep
They can see you anyway.