A letter inspired by my recent experiences as a solo parent flying with children.
Dear fellow travelers,
Traveling by yourself with a newborn isn’t hard, but it isn’t easy either. It can be challenging to navigate a busy, unfamiliar airport with a stroller, baby gear and small baby. Responding to cries over hunger and poopy diapers and nursing while in close quarters with many people can be stressful too.
But you, the people in the Nashville, Austin, Chicago (ORD) and Toronto airports and those of you on the same flights as ours made it not so.
In February and March, I took three trips in with Ezra, my son who was born New Year’s Eve. On one of those trips, my 3.5-year-old daughter, Adeline, was also in tow. Leading up to my travel dates, people told me I was crazy to be flying with children, but the trips were necessary, and I believed we would manage alright.
And we did manage, in part because you helped to make our journeys easier.
To the flight attendant who sat with my sleeping Ezra so I could go to the bathroom on my flight from Austin to Nashville, thank you. Your warm smile and sweet words that it was no trouble meant a lot to me.
To the Canadian customs agent who was gracious toward me despite my failure to bring a letter from my husband saying I could travel with our son out of the country, thank you. And to the other agent that I got sent to (for not having said letter) who was so excited about The Fringe Hours and trusted why I was in the country, thank you to you as well. I had never been through a customs process without my husband, and the kindness from both of you was so appreciated.
To the sweet Toronto gate agent who kept my stroller as I walked to another area to deliver my checked car seat so I wouldn’t have to wrangle both while wearing Ezra, thank you. I was stressed about the long lines and making it to my gate on time, and your unexpected help was just the grace I needed.
To the security guard at the security entrance as I was heading home from Toronto, thank you. You saw me alone with Ezra, pushing my stroller piled full with my purse and diaper bag, and graciously let me go in some other line, saving me at least 30 minutes. Those few extra minutes allowed me to pick up a bagel for breakfast and nurse Ezra before getting on the plane. We both were grateful to board with full tummies.
To the people in every airport who simply offered a smile in my direction as I nursed Ezra, burped him and wrapped him tightly against me. Your smiles of understanding, encouragement and friendliness meant more than you realized.
To the lady who chatted with me before my flight home from Wisconsin, thank you so much for your friendly words. You smiled at Adeline and Ezra, told me about your son in college and reminded me how fast this season flies by. Before boarding, you asked if I had to go to the bathroom and offered to keep an eye of my things. On the plane, you held Ezra so I could take Adeline back to the tiny airplane potty. I regret not asking your name, but I won’t ever forget your heart.
To the dozens of people exiting the plane who smiled and responded genuinely to Adeline as she said Happy St. Patrick’s Day! over and over again to so many of you, thank you. You demonstrated to her that a warm response is always the best choice.
Flying with children sometimes gets a bad rap. But in the six flights I took during February and March, people like you impacted us with kindness time and time again. Thank you for your helpfulness, patience and goodness. I will always remember this season of travel and the way my children and I were treated.
I hope that this letter reminds others to treat traveling parents and their children as well as you treated my family.
How have people helped you when you’re flying with children?