Notice anything about those airline ads on TV? You know, the ones where peaceful, relaxed passengers bathed in golden sunlight close their eyes and blissfully smile? THERE ARE NO FAMILIES WITH CHIDLREN ON THOSE PLANES.

 


Forget mud runs, going four-wheelin’ or a day at the machine gun range. Nothing tests your grit as a man like flying with small children.

 

 

In reality, lots of families fly. You’ll find them crammed in the back of the plane amidst piles of diaper bags, backpacks emblazoned with cartoon characters, extra carry-ons and hand sanitizer. Forget pushing your seat back and nodding off. Typically, the flight is as peaceful as an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese.

 


But—this is an opportunity!

 

 

My wife and I recently boarded a plane with our four year and 11 month old sons. Before our bottoms actually touched down, the seat pockets were packed with milk bottles, baby wipes, disfigured peanut butter sandwiches and toys. It was time to “Man Up.”

 

 

PATIENCE:

 


Flying with children is a great test of patience. That morning, I focused on getting our family to the gate on time. My son had other goals:
 

  • Get me to tickle him in the busy security line, while we were standing in front of the TSA agents and loading our 10,000 items onto the conveyor belt.
  • Stand, not walk, on the moving sidewalk
  • Step on all of the lines in the floor tile

 

Then we had our “Reasons My Son is Crying” moment when we didn’t go up the escalator he wanted to ride.

 


And of course, our bathroom stops are now bathroom layovers, with two children. 

 

 

BRUTE STRENGTH:

 


You want to impress your wife? Drop bicep curls. Instead, walk through an airport looking like a department store with legs. Once you’re loaded up with a folded stroller, car seat, duffel bags and a backpack while towing two suitcases with your little finger, it will feel like an aphrodisiac to her.

 

 

 RISK ASSESMENT:

 


Air travel allows you to be in full protector mode. Take the challenge of guarding your children from the countless germs around them when they are programmed to TOUCH EVERYTHING. 

 

 

Our 11 month old was classified as a “Lap Baby.” This saves money, but is the equivalent of trying to fly 600 miles while holding a live muskrat.

 


Trays will be unlatched, the passenger’s hair in front of you is in constant danger, a crayon could be thrown toward the front of the plane (true story) and a bumped head or pinched finger is imminent (true stories). And again, those germs…

 


“Bunny” fell on the floor by my feet. I quickly picked it up, only to discover a—I kid you not—giant black hairball the size of a laboratory rat stuck to its face. Did someone’s moustache fall off during a previous flight?!

 

 

DECISION MAKING:

 


Your son has jelly stuck on his fingers at the same time your baby just spit up mid-flight and may need a diaper change. Your wife also needs you to get something from the diaper bag and the flight attendant is handing you peanuts. Quick! What do you do? Air travel allows your decision making skills to take flight.

 

 

PERSEVERANCE:

 


You will build perseverance on a plane.

 


Goodbye coveted window seat. I now sit in the middle seat so I can take care of our son on one side and assist my wife with our baby on the other. My head basically ping-pongs back and forth the entire flight.
On this last trip my son fell asleep on one arm while my wife was sleeping on the other. All of our drinks and snacks were on the tray in front of me. Basically, I couldn’t move my arms and was confined to a space the size of a cereal box … for a long time.

 

 

GOAL SETTING:

 


Flying allows you to set goals—on how to make it through the flight. If you’re successful, you won’t become “that couple” with “that baby.”

 


We were “that couple” one time. Treats, drinks, toys, blankets, rocking, yodeling—absolutely nothing stopped our baby from crying during the flight. Other passengers were asking if they could help. Honest. It was humiliating.

 


Thankfully, the Bible says testing produces character, so even the trials that make travel bumpy can build you as a leader.

 


You can set other goals like seeing the trip through your child’s eyes--airports and planes are awesome. There are lots of things to see, teach about and experience together. 

 


Plus, if you’re able to laugh with your wife through the craziness, the experience can actually build teamwork and solidarity—and that leads to less turbulence after the flight.

 

 


Patrick Dunn
 is a contributor for Dad Matters and the Senior Producer of TV and Webcasts at Focus on the Family. 

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