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How Not to Fly With a Toddler

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My son, Mason, is an energetic child. And by "energetic," I mean he doesn't stop moving from the moment he gets up until his head hits the pillow on the other end of the day.

When he's not sleeping, he's usually jumping. He jumps in his crib, he jumps on the couch, he jumps in the bath, he even jumps when we're trying to change his diaper. It isn't pretty.

All of this jumping can be a problem at times like when he and I fly by ourselves to visit my parents in Los Angeles.

Since he was born, I have taken Mason by myself on a flight to L.A. a couple of times a year.

This gives me the opportunity to practice chasing a toddler around a busy airport terminal for an afternoon and gives my wife, Nicole, the opportunity to get a mani-pedi.

During my most recent trip to L.A., I decided to produce a detailed minute-by minute log of everything that happened during the trip so that (1) other Dads will have a textbook example of how not to fly with a 2-year-old, and (2) because the claims adjuster asked me to.

For those who haven't had the pleasure of doing it, taking an energetic 2-year-old on an airplane feels kind of like transporting a sack of live bees. He's constantly moving, other passengers don't want to sit too close to you and every once in awhile, you get stung.

Here's how it went down on our trip:

6:15 a.m.: I wake up late. Nicole reminds me I have to leave in 35 minutes. I figure this gives me 25 minutes to shower, shave, get dressed, eat breakfast and start -- and finish -- packing. Plenty of time.

6:16 a.m.: I survey the half-packed suitcase. I have a pair of jeans, 2 t-shirts, a sweater and a toothbrush. For Mason, I have: 17 diapers, three pairs of corduroy pants and one hoodie sweatshirt. Nicole informs me it is going to be 86 degrees in Los Angeles.

6:17 a.m.: Nicole: "What's that sound?" Me: "What sound?" Nicole: "There's a clawing sound from Mason's bedroom. I think he might be out of his crib." I stand in front of Mason's closed bedroom door and see four fingers scratching the floor beneath the door. Me: "Nope, I think he's still in his crib."

6:25 a.m.: Mason has been jumping on our bed for eight minutes straight. I try to stop him. Mason responds by demanding the iPad, then Elmo, then the iPad again. He pulls all clothing from the suitcase.

6:32 a.m.: I repack the suitcase and collect snacks for the airplane. Tip for Dads: pack numerous different types of snacks to keep your toddler occupied on the plane. For example, I have packed baggies of raisins, goldfish, Cheerios, orange slices and "Fun Size" Snickers. Nicole removes the Snickers. Damn.

6:55 a.m.: Depart home for Oakland airport. Before I leave, Nicole hands me a detailed "snack list," arranging our snack items in reverse chronological order by their intrinsic appeal to a 2-year-old.

"If you give any of these snacks to him out of order, then he won't want to go back," she says. "If you give them to him in order, he will eat them without objection." I recall LSAT logic games that required less mental gymnastics than a 2-year-old.

7:05 a.m.: On our way to the Oakland airport, I check on Mason in the back seat. He is eating the "snack list." At least he is quiet.

7:40 a.m.: We arrive at the remote parking lot at Oakland Airport. I breathe a small sigh of relief.

7:41 a.m.: Phone call from Southwest. Our flight has been cancelled. Mason helpfully protests the Southwest cancellation by removing his shoes and socks and demanding the iPad.

7:42 a.m.: I telephone Grandma, who agrees to call Southwest. She helpfully suggests we kill time at the Oakland Zoo, where we have a membership. I head toward the Zoo. I ask Mason what animal he's most excited to see. His response: "Elmos."

7:52 a.m.: Midway to the Oakland Zoo, I look up zoo hours on my phone. Zoo opens at 10 a.m.. I turn back to the airport.

8:05 a.m.: We arrive at a shopping center close to our off-airport parking lot to kill time. The only stores which are open are an AT&T store, a Quizno's and a Walmart. I briefly consider signing Mason up for an iPhone just to keep him busy for 30 minutes. Swallowing my pride, we head into the Walmart.

8:15 a.m.: Mason poops. I'm not sure what this says about Mason's opinion of the nation's largest retailer.

8:25 a.m.: With a fresh diaper, Mason dives head first into the 100,000-square-foot warehouse which is WalMart and somehow immediately locates the Thomas the Tank Engine display. The display is adjacent to ammunition, fishing hooks, hunting knives and rifles. I am not making this up.

8:35 a.m.: Grandma calls to say she got us on a later flight. Bad news: It leaves in three hours.

8:35-10:35 a.m.: Two hours at WalMart which I will never get back.

10:50 a.m.: We arrive at a completely packed Oakland Airport. Mason reacts like a puppy dropped into a sea of chew toys. It's as if someone slipped a double espresso into his sippy cup.

11:15 a.m.: We board the airplane. I get Mason situated, secure in his CARES seatbelt harness. Feeling victorious, I decide to give Mason the iPad early.

11:16 a.m.: Flight Attendant asks passengers to turn off all electronic devices, including the iPad. Chaos ensues. There are tears, pleading, begging. And that's just from me.

11:35-11:45 a.m.: Mason cries at the top of his lungs as we climb to 10,000 feet. In spite of my efforts, Mason takes little interest in the Spirit Magazine sudoku. I ply him with snacks until he settles down.

11:45-12:15 a.m.: iPad time. Sweet, sweet bliss.

12:16 p.m.: Flight Attendant orders all electronic devices to be turned off again. More chaos. By now we have run out of snacks. I briefly consider checking to see if the personal flotation device is edible.

12:50 p.m.: Touch down Los Angeles. In their excitement to see Mason, Grandma and Grandpa nearly knock me over, only to discover Mason sound asleep in his stroller. I assure them he will be up and jumping before they know it.

John Corcoran is an attorney in San Rafael, California. He lives in Marin with his wife and son Mason, age 2 ½.