After experiencing the horrors of traveling with a feral 3-year-old, I will forever be kind and patient with parents in this position. If you need help, or a friend, I am your girl.
Humor Parenting

Behind the Plane Ride

After experiencing the horrors of traveling with a feral 3-year-old, I will forever be kind and patient with parents in this position. If you need help, or a friend, I am your girl.

By Shannon Armenis of

We had already taken this trip to Greece once before with my oldest when he was 18 months old. Honestly, we didn’t even bat an eye at the idea of traveling internationally with him. He rose to the occasion and was better behaved on the plane than I was. This was a different time, though. While my ability to travel for 16 hours had hopefully improved, I had real concerns about our 3 year old.

You see, out of all three boys, the youngest is one that doesn’t exactly go with the flow. He is more of a swim against the current kind of kid.  He was born with a strong will and spirit. Even still, I remained naively optimistic.

Embracing my strong need for planning, I thought it would be a brilliant move to introduce him to the idea of being on a plane by taking a short flight a few months before the big trip. Since my husband had to work, I decided to take a solo trip with all three boys to Myrtle Beach and visit my Dad and Stepmom. It is, literally, a 1 hour flight and I felt confident I could handle anything thrown at me for 60 minutes. I was prepared—heading into war prepared.  In addition, I had two soldiers with me, my older two boys.  Everything was moving along smoothly until we sat down in our assigned seats, and the crying began. Screaming, actually, in row 12 – seat B, as if he was injured and lying on a colonial battlefield with only a shot of whiskey, as I amputated a limb.

My older son who was seated in the row in front of us, promptly put his earbuds in, did not make eye contact the duration of the flight and acted as if he had no idea who we were. My middle son who was seated in the row with my youngest and me, looked on in horror as the color quickly drained from his face. The rest of the passengers, although very kind in their offers of candy and help, quickly retreated to their seats in defeat. The screaming and crying continued for about 30 minutes through take off, at which point he fell asleep. That relief was short lived when he immediately picked up where he had left off with about 15 minutes left in our flight. Upon landing, I sent my Dad a photo I had snapped during his performance’s intermission, with the message “I am going to need a drink and please, make it strong.”

As we stood up to exit, I quickly announced to the plane, “If anyone would like to travel with us again, we head back to Baltimore on Saturday.” They chuckled. I cringed.

This is the exact story I relayed to my husband, in addition to voicing my concerns about future air travel, but he felt I was exaggerating the situation. That is, until we entered the plane headed to Greece a few months later.

Imagine you have a friend who keeps asking you to get on the tallest, fastest roller coaster that exists. You have already taken a ride on this roller coaster. You’re sure it is a bad idea. You know the friend may never recover from the terror but the friend keeps insisting that there isn’t a roller coaster out there that scary. “Let’s do it” you say, against your better judgment. Just as you inch to the top, you’re frightened but also a little giddy at the idea of watching your friend become paralyzed with fear while at the same time realizing you were right. When the ride comes to a halt, you promptly look over and tell your friend, as they vomit, “I told you so”. Now, imagine that ride lasts 8 hours, takes place overnight and everyone on the ride wants to punch you in the face, specifically one French lady seated behind you. That was our plane ride to Greece.

We sat on the runway for a good hour, lengthening the duration of combat time spent on this battlefield. My husband’s expression was similar to how I picture his face if we were together, in the middle of a desert, water-less and my head was on fire. My oldest followed his fool proof method of acting like he had never met us before and our middle son followed his lead this time. My mother-in-law, who was also traveling with us, was sure he had the Mati (Evil Eye) and immediately began crossing and praying for him for an hour straight.

I was sure that if we could just get in the air, he would fall asleep and victory awaited us. In addition, I had already prayed to God for His mercy and given him a dose of children’s Melatonin before we boarded. Before I receive some sort of backlash for giving Melatonin to a 3 year old, I consulted our pediatrician beforehand and suspect that had she been traveling on our flight, she would have chosen to prescribe a Quaalude instead.

In between screams, passengers kept throwing lollipops to me like I was some type of amateur mother, with a juggling knack, who would board an international flight without a backpack full of candy and toys. I felt their pain, and the flight attendants on AirFrance felt mine. They were kind, understanding and helpful. I highly recommend flying with them if you have an uncooperative, feral-like family member.

The French lady seated behind me…. not so much. I ignored her as she rolled her eyes while huffing and puffing after each one of my failed attempts to console him. I understood that this was a difficult situation, but being a bitch wasn’t helping and certainly wasn’t changing a 3 year old’s position about not wanting to be on a plane.

At last, we took off and just as I had suspected the little one fell asleep, albeit, with 90% of his body sprawled across mine. In retrospect, I should have been willing to hold a plank with him sleeping on my back for the 7 hour flight. Maybe it was the scoliosis in my back or the feeling like I had just gone 12 rounds in a boxing ring, but in any case, I decided that the 2 inch recline might possibly provide me with some relief for the remainder of the overnight flight. It just so happens that, unbeknownst to me, mon amie was attempting to get up from behind at the exact time. I call it Karma. She chose the term “bunch of animals” in French, which I understood crystal clear from studying French in high school and college.

I spent 30 unsuccessful seconds attempting to conjugate French verbs before abandoning my efforts for English and yelled out, “I am not an animal, lady, you’re an animal!” at which point my husband, who was seated in front of me, turned around in horror and asked what the hell I was doing. I gave him the condensed version, strategically increasing my volume when confirming that “I understand French” while locking eyes with my opponent. This may, in fact, have served as the metaphorical point on the roller coaster ride where my husband realized I was right. I spent the rest of the flight silently scolding myself for not brushing up on my conversational French in 15 years but as they say in France, C’est la vie!

What I can tell you from this trip is, if I am ever seated behind you on the other side of this same experience, feel free to recline that seat all the way back, sister. Need a drink? I got you. Want me to start a collaborative, passenger rendition of Joy to the World by Three Dog Night to drown out your child’s cries? I am on it, because Jeremiah isn’t my only friend. Anyone in your position is also a friend of mine. And if by chance someone so much as looks like they may grab a phone to record your agony, I will knock that shit out of their hand with the warrior mastery of a Feudal Japanese Ninja. I got you, weary traveler.

Because sometimes you must walk through the dark to get to the light, even if that light is dim and far away, looking down from the window of an airplane.

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About the Author

I am a stay at home mom to 3 boys. Between breaking up fights, forgetting to fold laundry in the dryer and cleaning toilets, I like to sneak in a little time for writing at Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @motherlover3SA.