Mama Madison: Sibling flying behavior

The unexpected peace at 35,000 feet

I was a bit of a nervous flyer when the kids were younger. My anxiety had nothing to do with when to don an oxygen mask or how to prepare for a water landing though, but instead was brought on by a fear of what annoying things my kids might do once we were in the air. Would ear pain cause my son to scream bloody murder on both take off and landing? Would my daughter be the child that insists on enthusiastically demonstrating her sense of rhythm by kicking the seat back of the passenger in front of her the entire length of the trip? And I had never realized that in-flight vomiting all over the stranger in the seat next to us was in the arsenal of disgusting and embarrassing things my son could do until it happened one fateful toddler trip.

Trust me, I'd happily have removed a lot more than my shoes if the TSA agent could have warned me that my baby was planning a full-scale diaper blow-out. I've discovered, more than once, that it is not easy to give anyone (including myself) a head-to-toe bath in the tiny airplane sink.

Flying with older kids, though, as I did on our annual vacation last week, is a world apart. First, no one cries or throws up any more. And I'm pretty sure my children aren't too much of a nuisance to any of the adults on board, with the possible exception of the flight attendant when asking for a second bag of pretzels. But the best part, I've discovered, of air travel with teens and tweens is their unexpected ability to get along with each other -- at least for the duration of the flight.

While at the gate, my kids will bicker about anything and everything: What flavor of gum to buy, who gets to board first, who has to take the middle seat. But somehow as soon as the carry-on bags are safely stowed overhead, the rivalries and tensions seem to melt away. Like clockwork, all three of them will immediately pick up their individual issues of "SkyMall" and discuss the merits of owning a Lord of the Rings-inspired jewelry collection, ultraviolet shoe deodorizers, and elevated pool-side dog beds. They will spend hours discussing the likelihood that a passenger has ever been inspired to purchase a full sized replica of "The Peeing Boy of Brussels" fountain while cruising at 35,000 feet. They'll play cards, share sips of their sodas, discuss vacation plans, and even agree on which movie to collectively watch on the iPod using a set of headphone splitters.

This year our family went to California, a fairly long flight. And my husband and I relished the opportunity to sit three rows away from our offspring for four full hours pretending to be a much older version of the incredibly relaxed, purposefully child-free, couple on the cover of Time Magazine a few weeks back.

The serenity was, of course, short-lived. Because the minute we touched down, my oldest, perhaps by accident, perhaps on purpose, dropped a suitcase on my daughter's head while taking it out from the overhead bin.

Yes, we had been warned, that the contents might shift in flight. Carry-ons are notoriously unstable, much like my children's attitudes toward one an other.

But I will take this moment, nonetheless, to say thank you to the Wright Brothers for at least giving the mother of the Judge Brothers (and sister) the time to quietly enjoy her own SkyMall.

I am seriously considering purchasing the Guardian Angel of Peace statue. Something tells me I am going to need all the in-between-flight serenity help I can get.

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