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Plane Trips: A Guide for New Parents.

November 20, 2014 1 comment

 

When you move far away from your family, you need to go back home to visit. Sure, they can come to you, but then you miss out on seeing friends and going to your favorite places. We’ve been taking our four year old on planes since he was not even three months, and I’ve even done it once without my wife, so I’ve learned a thing or two. Pay attention.

The golden rule is to Get there EARLY!  My parents were the type to leave early for everything, so for plane trips we left earlier than early.  It’s new to my wife, but I’ve convinced her to at least humor me.  Besides leaving a time cushion for unforeseen traffic or a long security line which you hopefully won’t have to go through (see below), there’s a couple of other good reasons to get there early:

1) That “feeling rushed to make a flight” thing sucks, and with kid(s) it’s even worse. There are lots of extra things to leave time for. Slower legs if they’re on foot, bathroom/diaper changes, bottles/snacks, and the fact you have extra luggage/stroller/carseat/etc, all stuff that you didn’t need pre-kid, to carry around.

2) If you are traveling with an under 2 year old and you didn’t buy him/her a ticket, you can’t use the boarding passes you print out at home or show on your phone. You need to go to the counter where you check bags and get yourself a boarding pass with the name of your child as a “lap infant”. TSA won’t let you through security without this, at least not in my experience.

Speaking of TSA, we’re batting about .650 in the “getting to skip the long line and going through the much shorter special first class security line simply because we have a little one” game.  I’m not sure if this is officially in the TSA training or not, but it seems many TSA workers have a soft spot for babies. Truthfully, that other family with the seven year old who won’t stop straying from the line to see what’s in the gift shop while the twin five year olds simultaneously hang from each of their parents arms as they try to manage their luggage and keep the seven year old from booking it probably need this benefit more than a couple with one newborn/toddler. Well guess what…they’re not getting it.  But you might, so take advantage if the situation presents itself. Overwhelmed looking faces, either real or fake, can help. I’ve even had a case where one TSA officer told us to stand in the long line, but when we got back there and told another officer what we were told, he was like “she said WHAT!?!?…with a BABY!?!?…come on over here right now…” and off we went to the first class area to skip the line.

Anyway, back to the list:

3) Once you make it through the line, if you’re doing the lap infant thing or didn’t get to pick seats together when you bought tickets, go see the person at the counter near your gate and tell them your situation. They will do their best to give you a three seat row to yourself so that you have more room and no chance of getting seated next to a baby-hater.

So you got there early and everything went smoothly? No problem. Killing time is easy. If your kid is like mine, a huge fan of “big things that GO!”, what better place to be than the airport? One trip we even did the bus/train/plane three-peat…took a bus from the satellite parking lot to the terminal, went on the “train” that goes from terminal to terminal, and finally the plane itself. Even just looking out the window at the planes, fuel trucks, and luggage carts, is built-in entertainment.

Kid not interested? No worries. If they’re mobile, let them run around the terminal a little (or a lot). Some even have dedicated play areas, but these are optional to me. The more they expend energy, the more tired they get and the better the chance they fall asleep on the plane. And if you haven’t yet figured it out, getting them to sleep on the plane is the ultimate goal.

Lastly, on the plane. With infants, the theory is that you let them nurse to try to circumvent the pressure in their ears.  With kids old enough to play with toys, you’ll want to have something new that they’ve never seen before, and a tablet with some pre-downloaded kids shows and movies. A while back there was a popular blog post in which someone made goody bags for the other passengers as a preemptive measure for when the kid cried.  However, fellow dad blogger Mike Julianelle mocked this idea, and he is correct that this is an unneeded gimmick.  You have every right to be on the plane.

Planning ahead and knowing a few things can make flights with little ones less daunting.  And, while there are no guarantees, with the right pilot, your kid just might get to have a personal flying lesson to top the whole thing off:

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Jellyfish and “The Routly”

October 28, 2014 Leave a comment

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You might wonder what I’m doing posting a picture of myself wearing my glasses (which usually never come out in public) and a Kangol hat, with my mouth wide open giving a thumbs up.  No, I’m not inviting flies to come into my mouth.  I’m doing “The Routly,” a pose made famous by fellow Dad Blogger Chris Routly.  I’ll let you guess which guy is Chris in the picture below:

Chris recently made an advance copy of his new book, Sometimes You Need a Jellyfish available for me to review.

I could have read it several times to dissect and analyze it.  I probably would have called it something like “wonderfully silly” and wrote that Routly’s creativity bursts off of the pages.  I’d probably talk about the how rhyme schemes worked really well and the words roll off the tongue when read aloud.  I’d say that Routly is onto a concept that could have longevity and be repeated over multiple books, similar to Numeroff and Bond’s If You Give a _______ a _______.  series.

However, instead of just diving into it myself, I wanted a completely unbiased and relevant opinion, so I did the only logical thing I could think of: I read it to RJ.

He stayed engaged throughout the book, following along with the silliness that leads up to the book’s punchline, at which point he laughed out loud and gleefully repeated the ending, which I won’t give away.  And then he wanted me to read it again.  And again. At four years old, he’s the perfect age for the book to be read to, although Routly’s use of some advanced words make it something that kids in elementary school could use to practice reading skills and build vocabulary.

Routly has self-published a few books before using a do-it-yourself online service in which the final product is a decent paperback, however with this project he’s trying to go all the way and do a formal hardcover edition of the highest quality.  He’s set up a kickstarter project for which the rewards vary from a copy of the book all the way up to an in-person reading and cartooning lesson for a children’s class or group of your choosing.  If you’re up for pitching in and getting a reward in return, check it out here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1606880501/sometimes-you-need-a-jellyfish-childrens-book .  If you’re not the kickstarter type, stay tuned, because the book is expected to be released in early 2015.

Cousins

August 4, 2014 2 comments

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There’s something especially awesome about the cousin relationship. Somewhere in between sibling and friend, It’s beauty is in both it’s significance and it’s ambiguity. It can imply a straightforward familial connection, as is the case with first cousins, or it can also get more vague and harder to quantify once the various delineators (second, third, once removed, “cousin’s cousin,” cousin through marriage, etc) get thrown around. And if you’re like my wife and I, certain non-blood-related friends of ours get the honorary “auntie” and “uncle” status, leaving their kids to be our son’s technically unrelated, but unquestionably bonded cousins. They say you can’t pick your family, and this is true of cousins, but it’s okay to have some favorites, or feel close to them even when the actual relationship may not be the closest according to the family tree.

Growing up, I never lived close enough to any of my cousins to see them on a daily basis or be in the same school or activities with them. Our opportunities to interact were left to holiday get-togethers and family occasions, so when we had the chance we went all in. Age difference sometimes affected the nature of how things went down (my paternal cousins are all older than me, while my maternal cousins are all within four years), but through sports and games, or less structured fun and shenanigans, I always loved being able to see my cousins.

One of my favorite parts of being a parent is to see my son in these same cousin situations. It takes me back to when I was a kid. Like me, he has some who are significantly older, and others who are very close to him in age. Whether he’s playing age-appropriately with his similarly aged cousins, or engaging his older ones to bring the play down to a level that can include him, he has fun, just like I did with mine. And even at age three, I can tell that he understands that his cousins are special.

Categories: Family, fatherhood Tags: , ,