Seize the playdates

Ever wonder if airlines seat all families with little kids in the same section of planes, so we are the only ones who have to listen to each other’s children rant, rave and lose it?  Since we took Grace on three long-distance flight in 10 days, it must be true because if airlines now charge us for having legs, charging us for breeding only makes extra sense.

Of course, being parents, carry-on luggage now means markers, sticker books, tattoos, coloring books, not only for Grace but also in the hopes they might distract the kid kicking my seat in time to the Backyardigans theme song. A few times now Grace and random kids have started an impromptu play-date over the place back, which has led to switching parents seats so the grown-ups can read, nap or ignore a spouse.

It’s extraordinary watching two five-year-olds become sudden best friends when normal adults usually require a bottle of wine to thaw out. One flight, a juicy baby, was collectively play-date-cuddled by row G and H, fulfilling a communal baby fix and giving Baby-Momma and Baby-Daddy’s laps a massive break.  

Last night we left Calgary after nine families packed sub-zero days.  With Grace we navigated baggage, security (where Grace insisted on taking her boots off too), customs, then felt super-entitled to spend the last of our Canadian cash ordering a massive wine in order to nap on the plane, which was scheduled to begin boarding just as I downed the last of my chardonnay big gulp- setting off a loud bout of hiccups.

Grace and Canada tried to scare the hiccups out of me, but the only fright that worked was finding out our flight home was delayed. But it is Canada; our well-uniformed Flight Deniers were unfailingly polite as they admitted our flight hadn’t yet landed in Calgary so that boarding would be impossible.

Knowing Grace hadn’t gotten her daily dose of ya-yas out, we spotted a lame ‘play area’ where a 4-year-old boy was doing hard time on a plastic non-moving moose.  Attempting to sober up, we initiated Hide n’ Seek with Grace but exhausted all hiding options in the designated play area after one round. Suddenly the 4-year-old boy piped up from underneath the moose- “Seek me! I hid.”  We made a meal of finding him, and he was delighted.  

Probably due to the alcohol, we were overly enthusiastic Hide n’ Seekers, to fool Grace into feeling like a sufficient amount of ya-yas were exhausted. Then the Super-Polite Flight Denier informed us our flight was delayed another 20 minutes.  So this Hide N’ Seek round,  we widened our hiding play zone to the fake potted trees rimming the antiseptic, easily hosed down, pre-designated, imagination-killing play space. The 4-year-old, named Aaron, asked if he could play more- his exhausted parents enjoyed watching him hide under our pile of coats.  

Then there was a tug at my elbow. A six-year-old girl with static electricity posing as hair pronounced herself available for Hide N’ Seek if there were any immediate openings available. Bronwyn was folded into the next round, then her big brother Sam asked to join our killing time crusade, then her other, bigger brother James came aboard. Later, our Polite Flight Denier admitted our initial wait would be further distended another 20 minutes but politely refused to acknowledge that these three 20 minute delay-segments added up to a full hour.

But we didn’t care because an eleven-year-old twin, Jack and Isabel expanded our rotation to seven kids in our Freestyle Play-Date.  We developed the Hiding Hot Zone to the vending machines and a glass wall. Sober now, I game show hosted Hide N Seek, helping the little ones find the bigger ones who hid brilliantly, pretending to wait for imaginary planes and making costume changes, thanks to carry-on luggage.  

By the time we finally could board we were surrounded by a crew of happy, sweaty and TIRED kids.  Watching Canada be the ultimate impromptu Play-Date dad made the hour-long flight delay serve many purposes including making me fall in love with my husband all over again. Thanks, Air Canada!

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