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Future (In)Frequent Flyer

We took a trip last weekend to visit
relatives, and while most parts of the vacation went really well,
we did have a few small snafus. The airlines lost a bag of ours for
over twenty-four hours, the girls had a bit of difficulty adjusting
to sleeping in a room together, that sort of thing.

Oh, yes, and we discovered that Cora’s terrified of

We’d flown to Texas last January
when we moved from New York and Cora had nothing but good things to
say about the flight, but then again she was only eight months old
and so probably didn’t realize we’d left the ground.
This was our first flight since then, and in the days and even
hours leading up to the flight out she seemed quite excited,
chatting happily about taking a plane ride and going all the way to
Wisconsin. She was excited to be going to the airport, and spent
the whole time up until boarding simply staring out the window at
the airplanes, enraptured.

And then we got on board.

Let me say in Cora’s defense that we flew on a really small
plane – one of those little toy jets with one seat on the
left, two on the right, and a total of perhaps fifteen rows at the
most. When I start to take off in one of those things I want to
offer to get out and help push, so I can see how going up in the
sky in such a small craft can be a bit alarming. But still, I
don’t think Cora’s got a huge grasp of what actually
happens with a plane, so I’m still not sure where the freak
out came from.

All I know is that we took two steps on to the plane and Cora
started screaming. “Mommy, I want to get off! Take me off!
Take me back out! Don’t make me sit down! NO! NO! NO! OFF!
OFF! OFF!” And so on. We had to forcibly restrain her in the
car seat, and she screamed from the moment we got on the plane
until a good fifteen minutes after take-off, much to the visible
delight of the other passengers.

This seems to be an actual fear of flying, not just something about
the unknown; her fear definitely kicks into high gear when the
plane is ascending, descending, or going through turbulence. She
would sit in the seat shaking like a leaf, saying, “Mommy, I
am afraid! Mommy, I’m really afraid!” After that first
screaming fit she didn’t lose it completely again, but her
whimpers would start to escalate any time we hit an air pocket or
climbed altitude.

Cora stared at the floor the entire time we climbed – which
in a small jet is a really long time. She didn’t unclench her
toes until we leveled off, and no amount of books or candy could
completely distract her. I had to ask all the passengers
surrounding us to close their window shades, because open was
definitely worse than closed. Out of sight, out of mind, or at
least almost.

My poor baby had such a bad experience on take-off that I spent all
of our weekend dreading the return trip, sure we’d have an
encore presentation. But she seemed resigned to her fate and
didn’t scream. She whimpered a lot, and clutched my hand in
her white fist, and began to melt down when we hit turbulence until
I brought out my last resort – the dvd player. That seemed
sufficiently distracting to calm her down.

I talked to my poor brave girl and told her how proud I was of her
for being so brave. “But Mommy, I’m not brave –
I’m scared!” “I know, baby. But brave is when
you’re scared to do something and you do it anyway.” I
heard Cora repeating that over and over like a mantra for several
minutes afterward.

I feel terrible for her, and don’t know what to do to help.
We’ll clearly be flying again, and I don’t want this to
become one of those things that shapes who she is as a person
– that girl who’s afraid to fly. But I’m not sure
what to do to make this go away, other than love on her and be

That, and make sure I bring the dvd player on the next trip.


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