You've no doubt been in awkward situations before; you may have had to endure uncomfortable meetings or entrances or appearances. But there's nothing that tops the stabbing looks you get when you stroll onto a plane carrying a squirming, lip-quivering and visibly mucus-covered 2-year-old.
Due to my wife's lively work schedule, and the fact that she's far too smart to actually board a plane with a tempestuous toddler, I recently flew to Chicago with the baby and, for one leg, his 9-year-old brother. I did this both to hit up a family reunion and because of my love of extreme inconvenience. I did this because when I booked the flight the younger one was still of "lap-baby" proportions. When I booked the flight he was an infant; when I boarded the plane, he was a giant moody red-haired potato.
This was supposed to be easy. My older son and I flew all the time; he was often the easiest non-pilot traveler on the plane. Being a male traveling alone with a baby ends up being a fascinating sociological study because you become this object of tremendous pity, like you just crash-landed from another planet, which is of course silly because if that were the case, you'd have far less luggage. And it makes you target of subtle and warm-hearted gestures of pity: bonus peanuts, help with my bags, and if I'm really lucky, an open row with an extra seat or two.
By contrast, I have begun considering sending the new kid on an entirely different plane. The older one would sleep on my lap after a reading or two of "Go Dog Go"; the younger compelled two -- count 'em, TWO -- stewardesses to visit me before takeoff asking if I brought Benadryl. True story.
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It wasn't like the baby was particularly awful, or that he behaved in a manner worse than you'd expect from a 2-year-old who knows only that he's in a confined space, is surrounded by odd-smelling strangers, has ears that hurt like the dickens and isn't allowed to go running up and down the aisles because of "FAA regulations" or some such nonsense. It was an average flight with a 2-year-old. I mean, sure, it lasted three weeks and I'm pretty sure at one point I was crying into a SkyMall, but it was an average flight with a 2-year-old. I'm heartened that I didn't have to change a diaper in the airport lavatory, which is a task that can only be undertaken vertically.
And truth be told, he was fine, with the possible exceptions of takeoffs, and also landings. These are the periods where you are not allowed to have your Approved Electronic Devices, although I'm going to confess to the nice airline people that I was not remotely interested in your magazine's profile of David Beckham but instead using his smoldering British tattooed visage to hide the fact that my toddler and I were totally rocking Temple Run 2 on the iPad while you "landed your plane," sorry about that. Related story: I'm pretty sure you can leave your electronic stuff on at all times.
At least, I hope that's the case, because the one time I actually got busted and made to turn off Temple Run, my 2-year-old Lost. His. Fool. Mind. You are free to spend this paragraph judging me for allowing my child to get so attached to a running-and-jumping game that its removal results in 20 minutes of fierce shrieking and the pouring out of two perfectly good bags of pretzels, but whatever, it kept him quiet at 25,000 feet. Besides, here's what I figure about planes: I listen to you people talking about business deals, bachelor parties and golf. I watch you try to jam suitcases the size of my first apartment into the overhead compartments, then get furious when the compartment fails to reorient its molecular structure to accommodate your huge carryon. My kid's ears hurt. If it'll make you feel better, you can have these pretzels.