Busy Papa: A few parenting lessons learned from trip to Japan and back

Staff writerJune 15, 2014 

We are the luckiest parents in the world.

I know what you’re thinking: Oh, please, doesn’t every parent think that?

But we really are the luckiest parents in the world because our 2½-year-old son was mostly well-behaved during a 10-hour flight to Tokyo and on another hourlong flight to Hiroshima. That is where my in-laws live and where we spent three weeks in May.

As much as we wanted to see my wife’s family and for them to see their grandson, we also quietly dreaded the prospect of a long flight with a screaming toddler. And not only is it a long flight, but it would be our son’s first time on a plane.

So how lucky were we? He fell asleep during takeoff, slept for four hours, then was kept busy the remainder of the flight with steady meal service and snacks while looking out the window at the plane’s wing.

Even more amazing: He fell asleep during the landing as well, turning the first leg of our trip into some kind of unbelievable dream.

He also mostly slept on the regional flight to Hiroshima.

As a result, after leaving Seattle about 11 a.m. Thursday, we arrived on my wife’s parents’ doorstep about 9 p.m. Friday (yes, Japan is one day ahead of us) exhausted but in good spirits — unlike, for example, if our son had bawled his way to Tokyo.

He did not, and we, and everyone shoehorned into economy class on that flight, were grateful.

Coming home was a slightly different story.

Our son decided that trying to sleep upright is a drag, so he wanted to lie down on the floor of the plane near our feet. We put down a blanket and a pillow and covered him with another blanket, and he went straight to sleep.

But it wasn’t long before a flight attendant came by and said that it wasn’t safe, so, could we pick him up, please? I’m sure the looks on our faces said, “Are you sure about that?”

She was, so we picked him up and, not surprisingly, he started to cry and scream and scream and cry, and within seconds nobody was asleep on that plane.

Did we or anyone else on that plane want another hour of that? Nope. So we put him right back where he had been.

The flight attendant didn’t bother us again.

Here are some tips we’ve learned for flying with a toddler:

  • Bring some of his or her favorite snacks.
  • Bring a tablet computer that can be loaded with games.
  • Bring something chewable — not gum — that they can eat to relieve air pressure in the ears during takeoff and landing. We brought fruit roll-ups.
  • Check to see whether the in-flight entertainment includes cartoons or an animated movie.
  • Take advantage of bathroom breaks in other ways, such as giving them a chance to stand and stretch their legs, or even to briefly walk up and down the aisles.

And pack as many snacks as you can. After we arrived in Japan, our son, as only a toddler can, thumbed his nose at all the healthful and delicious food in that country. In fact, at first he turned down everything offered to him, but eventually he settled on milk, dinner rolls and french fries for three weeks.

Kids. You gotta love ’em.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403
rboone@theolympian.com

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