How getting your child to sleep on a plane is not unlike passing through the stages of grief

It starts out pleasant enough. We wake up at 2 freaking 30 in the morning to catch our black eye flight to the other side of the continent where my family is anxiously waiting to meet our bouncing baby girl. A black eye flight is one in which you have to wake up so early that you feel like someone has punched you in the face for the rest of the day.

1. Desperation

The free bus that shuttles us from our monopoly free parking to the airport doesn’t leave until 4:30. We didn’t know. So we have to hustle as soon as we and our sixteen pieces of luggage arrive at our terminal. We arrive, breathless, with only two minutes to spare before boarding. Wonderful. Crisis averted, this will be a great trip. We are already tired and sleep deprived. Surely our kid will sleep on the plane just fine. Never mind that she refuses to sleep anywhere but her own bed, and most times not even then. But I digress.

I will Not Sleep

2. Denial

You think that your child will sleep. Foolish you. The thing about our Taquito is that she is insatiably curious. Which is great. It’s one of the things I like the best about her. The thing is, it doesn’t make for a good sleeper. She refuses to sleep in the car, in a stroller, or anywhere else, as I’ve already mentioned.

Insatiable Curiosity

 The engines rumble, the wheels leave the ground, and we’re airborne. All two hundred passengers swaying in rhythm to one another like flowers in the breeze. My child is wide-eyed and observant. Not sleeping. Any time Taquito got tired enough to fall sleep someone would make an interesting noise or motion that would demand her undivided attention. It is cute… at first.

3. Anger

Not anger at my daughter  of course, but at the buffoons jabbering loudly in the seats behind us. Or the little old lady who needs to keep opening the luggage compartment. Snap… Clack… Snap… Clack…. Most of my anger gets vented toward the captain. The guy is constantly coming on the speaker with inane announcement s about drink-serving schedules, and trivial pursuit. The volume on the stupid speakers are loud enough to WAKE THE DEAD. “HELLO EVERYONE! THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING. IF YOU LOOK TO YOUR LEFT THERE IS AN ENORMOUS BOWL OF OATMEAL. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. HAVE A NICE FLIGHT.” My ears are bleeding. And my child is awake.

You Will Not Write

4. Bargaining

Or more appropriately in this case, Russian Roulette. My wife and I pass the child back and forth. When the kiddo gets too squirmy for one of us we move her to the other one. This way we she finally does fall asleep we have equal chance of being paralyzed, because, woe to you if you wake the sleeping baby.

5. Disaffected Apathy

My daughter is currently ensconced in the developmental phase known to science as, “Mr. Potato Head Manipulation.” This means that she tests and retests her hypothesis that all of your facial features can be pried off and rearranged to her whimsy. She has nearly succeeded in removing my nose and eyes on more than one occasion. She kept trying to grab a fat fistful of the hair of the passenger in front of us. I almost let her try. Just so the flight crew would have something interesting to squawk about over the speakers.

I will pull his hair

6. Sweet, Sweet, Relief

She fell asleep. In my lap. So I had to sleep too. And apparently so did my leg. I didn’t wake up until the pilot screamed at us again about the turbulence we were currently experiencing.

Sweet Sleep

All told, it wasn’t a terrible experience. But next time I plan on looking into cryogenic freezing. Just in case.


But then, it wasn’t really so bad.



Joshua Rigsby is a writer, tea-drinker, and planet 9 enthusiast based in Southern California.


  1. I love #6! Such serene looks on the faces of Dad and daughter.

    1. Joshua Rigsby (Post author)

      Thanks! Sweet relief.


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