Ellen Byron

Parenting a Teen Cured My Fear of Flying

I’ve always been afraid of flying. I do it, but not without copious amounts of Xanax and wine.  I once burned through so many sedatives traveling from New York to Australia that I thought I’d have to check into rehab when we landed. Then there was the time I burst into tears on a particularly turbulent cross-country flight and was comforted by a ten-year-old girl who had the misfortune of being seated next to me.

I’m a television writer by trade, but a few years ago I began writing my Cajun Country Mystery series on the side. I soon discovered the wonderful world of mystery conventions, great places to network with other authors and readers. But it means flying to locations around the country.

Our daughter was a high school freshman when my first book, Plantation Shudders, came out. I’d been warned that parenting gets harder as kids get older, but I refused to believe it. What could be harder than helping a kid navigate middle school? High school, that’s what. High. SCHOOL.

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There’s getting a teen up and out the door for a first period or zero period class, God help us. There’s making sure they get their homework done, get decent grades, garner an impressive list of extra-curriculars, sign up for SAT tutoring, sign up for the SATs, get their college apps in on time. Once they get their driver’s license, there are the heart-in-mouth hours when they’re on the road, and in Lalaland where we live, many of those roads are freeways straight out of a Mad Max movie. Then there are the parties they get invited to – will there be drinking, smoking, vaping, juuling, whatevering??? It’s an endless list of potential parental heart attacks. Have I mentioned the teen mood swings?

Back to those mystery conferences and conventions. The first one I attended was Malice Domestic, held in Bethesda, Maryland. malice

This required an 8 a.m. cross-country  flight. I left the house at five a.m. to ensure I’d be at LAX, the world’s worst airport, by six a.m. (Sidebar: arriving two-hours early is considered cutting it close in my family. My parents once showed up to an international flight eight hours early. The airline employees weren’t even there yet.)

I had a revelation on the drive to the airport. I was alone. It was quiet. Plus, five a.m. is that rare window of time in Los Angeles when traffic is relatively light. (Noticed the word “relatively.” By five-thirty, that window is slammed shut.)

I’ve been a loyal American Airlines passenger for years, so I’d booked my flight with them. Immediately after clearing their terminal’s security, I noticed a Homeboy Café. IMG_0497

I picked up a hot tea and one of their terrific sandwiches for the plane ride, found a seat near my departure gate, and then… I relaxed. Yes, relaxed. It was a strange but welcome sensation.

At six-thirty a.m., the time I’d be trying to drag the teen out of bed if I was home, my heart began to race.  All I could think was, what if my husband calls to tell me she won’t get up? Or can’t find her keys? Or forgot to do an assignment due that day? I held my breath until an airline employee began the boarding process. Once I got on the plane, I finally heard the words I’d been waiting for: “Please turn off all electronic devices or place them on Airplane Mode.” Yes, captain, my captain. I am on it.

And then there was the flight itself. Oh, those glorious five hours of uninterrupted reading! Even the dreaded turbulence that usually sent me into an emotional tailspin didn’t bother me. I was safe in my cocoon, my 78-ton cone of silence.

 

This has now become my convention travel routine. A Homeboy Cafe visit, a case of nerves at the wake-up witching hour, then that blessed plane ride and the heady feeling of knowing that for a few hours, whatever is going on at home won’t be my problem. Because I am– oh, that magic word – unreachable.

Currently, cell phone calls aren’t allowed on American Airline flights. I live in fear of that policy changing. For the love of God, let us be unavailable for a few hours in one place on this planet! Or at least thirty-five thousand feet above it.

Our teen starts college in August. I wonder if once she departs, my fear of flying will return. But first, there’s a solo flight in June to a librarian convention – and a delicious Homeboy sandwich waiting for me at the American Airlines terminal.

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Readers, have you ever conquered a fear? Coincidentally, I’ll be flying back from NYC on the day this posts – not alone, sigh – but I’ll be checking in!

 

31 thoughts on “Parenting a Teen Cured My Fear of Flying

  1. Ironically, my fear was showing my writing to other people. Guess I sort of HAD to get over that one, didn’t I?

    I’ve said it before, I’m with you on the teenager thing. I still can’t fall asleep until The Girl is safely home. She goes off to college in August (yes, only 10 miles away, but she won’t be under my roof), so I’ll have to get over that, too.

    Of course, her brother turns 16 in July. Which means HE will start driving and I’ll have to start supervising HIS college search and prep process (he’s going to require more attention than she did). Just as I thought it was getting easier…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I have a fear I have yet to conquer ….skydiving. Everyone in my family has done it but I cling on to the airport fence every time they try to drag me with them.
    Love your blogs ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • EVERYONE in your family has been skydiving, except you?! I bet your family reunions are exciting! And you’re a pip, Mary Lou, I predict you’ll make the leap one of these days! Send us pictures when you do. 🙂

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      • No, no, NO, Mary Lou! You keep holding on to that airport fence. I’m right there with you!

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  3. Heading to Shanghai next May and I am stressing about the length of the flight. I cannot read on a plane so I listen to podcast (especially Beyond Bourbon St). I plan to take the drowsy formula of Dramamine for this trip

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This may sound odd, but I had a fear of flying until I went up in a friend’s small, twin-engine airplane and sat as co-pilot, helping look out for other planes in the sky. He even let me take the stick for awhile and fly the thing. All of a sudden, floating up there riding the wind, it made sense how an airplane could fly and not come plunging down to earth. After that, I never had the same fear of being in a commercial jet plane.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Lucky you! I’ve been in a small plane once and did okay. And you know what? The one time I had to take a helicopter, I was also okay. I think it’s because I’m closer to the ground, which makes no sense!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, hubs gifted me with a flying lesson once for my birthday. I’m with you, the feeling of being in a small four-seater plane and steering it was a huge rush!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with you — I love uninterrupted airplane time! I was terrified of needles for a long time after having oral surgery (getting a shot in the gums is the worst!) but I finally overcame it. I can get flu shots and even give blood without a second thought. But if I ever have to get a shot in the gums again, I will probably relapse!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I actually look forward to long flights for the very reasons you’ve mentioned. Not that my phone rings on a regular basis, but I love the uninterrupted reading time when I really can’t do too much else.

    Hopefully now that you’ve found this, it will stay a relaxing experience for you.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Great post, Ellen! I don’t mind flying, except for having to climb over 12 people to get to the micro restroom. I have plenty of fears. If I ever conquer one of them, I’ll share with the group!

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  9. Now I feel like a terrible parent! I’d better not let my kids read this! My daughters were on their own when it came to waking up to their alarm, on their own when it came to doing their assigned homework, on their own getting their college applications in on time (although I did edit the essays.) Somehow it all worked out, phew, and they’re out of the house and on their own now.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sounds like you were a great parent! My daughter needed a LOT of nudging,hence my helicoptering. But oh, how I wish the words “on her own” applied more at our house.

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  10. I took my first flight alone across the country at age 7. I still remember getting those junior pilot wings and the special kids menu with a hot dog. It wasn’t until I got older that I developed a fear of flying. I’m fine until we hit minor turbulence. And I love to land. But once I did comfort a marine recruit on his first airplane trip to report for boot camp. It was so bumpy we went through all the chocolate chip cookies his grandma had packed in a Xmas tin.

    Liked by 1 person

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