Which airport parent are you?

Traveling with kids is like a rite of passage in the parenting world. We’ve flown with our older son tons of times, and just this past week, initiated our 10-week-old into the frequent flyers club. Having been in airports with kids so often, I feel like I’ve noticed some common parenting stereotypes that are totally true. Honestly, I’ve been most all of these myself. Which one describes you? 

1. The newbies. These parents have never flown with their child before. You can spot them because you can sense their nervous energy as they stand in the ticketing line. “Do you have the tickets??” “Did you bring the copy of the birth certificate?” “Where did you pack the snacks? The water? The bottle? The Xanax?!” “Do we put the baby on the security belt or do I hold her? Do I need to take off her shoes? What about her diaper? WHAT IF YOU ASK ME HER BIRTHDAY, AND I AM SO SLEEP-DEPRIVED I FORGET AND THEN YOU THINK I’M KIDNAPPING HER!?!?” And on it goes. If you see these parents, be a hero and lend a hand (or buy them a beer on the plane. They need it).

2. The sherpas. These are parents who pack everything but the kitchen sink because you just don’t know when you might need a winter jacket when traveling to South Florida in August. They usually have a filled up jogging stroller that they use in the airport, not for their children but for hauling all the extra gear that they plan to use on the plane: pillows, blankets, and life-sized stuffed animals. They’ve also got each child old enough to toddle pulling a suitcase on wheels, in addition to backpacks and fanny packs for everyone. “Leave nothing at home!” is their mantra. Do not get behind these parents in security if you want to make it to your flight on time.

3. Leashes. I will be honest that I used to judge parents who used leashes to keep hold of their kids. And then I watched my then-18-month-old son sprint off into oblivion in the Philadelphia airport one time without a care in the world, and as he was running farther away from me, it hit me: leashes are magical. These parents know you are judging them, but they also know they will have their kid at the end of the day. Possibly the smartest invention around, if you can deflect the evil eyes other parents may be tossing your way.

4. The athletic coaches. Want to make sure your kids aren’t restless during a 4-hour flight or that they stick to their nap schedule at 35,000 feet? Run them ragged pre-flight! These moms and dads are the ones who’ve claimed an empty gate all to themselves and have transformed it into an Olympic training center. Their kids are doing sprints, jumping jacks, and obstacle courses while you sit there lazily and sip your coffee and wipe crumbs off your shirt. They may be a sweaty mess by the time they board, but everyone will probably be sleeping soon after take-off.

5. The old pros. This is not this family’s first rodeo. They know that some trips go well and others are disasters, and there’s really nothing you can do to predict it. They pack what they need, but don’t lug everything from home because they know that the vomit bag can provide lots of entertainment when decorated with markers and stickers. And yes, it is ok to let an iPad babysit your child during a long flight when all you want to do is sit back and rest. These are the parents who know one bad flight can’t make or break you, so just get through the day with your sanity (partially) intact and enjoy wherever it is you are flying to — even if it’s just going back home.

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Medical Director, Pregnancy

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery and has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.


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