My winning streak of four plus years flying with babies and toddlers came to an end tonight.

The two-hour flight home from Denver was intense. It was messy. It was dizzy. It was an upper-body workout. It was so very, very loud. The kind of ear piercing loud that makes dogs cower. If I could have passed out noise cancelling headphones to the entire plane, I would have. This scene came out of nowhere, and several hours post flight, I’m still trying to shake it.

I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, and both girls have been amazing flyers. I did all the research, read all the blogs, and perfected my craft of flying with kids. Nurse or bottle at take-off, a lollipop if they are older, pack lots of snacks, a few things to do, new items from the dollar bin at Target, music, a movie, plastic cups to play with—you name it, I’ve done it… And it works!

I proudly embrace all of the compliments deplaning flights:

“Oh, your baby was so good!”

“I didn’t even realize I was sitting near a baby. She was so quiet.”

“You have the happiest baby on the block!”

“What great little flyers you have!”

“Your kids are amazing!”

“What is your secret?”

“What did you put in the bottle?”

This afternoon we boarded our flight leaving Denver to Oakland, ready for a quick and easy flight. We all just ate, the girls had plenty of things to keep busy on the flight, and the 4-year-old enjoyed her lollipop at take off and the baby her bottle of milk. As usual, all the tricks were activated and we were on our way to add another happy flight to the books.

Not even halfway across the Rockies the baby was not falling asleep post bottle. Instead she was ready to slide right out of my lap and explore. Of course like most flights leaving Denver heading west, it was bumpy. So the seatbelt sign stayed on, but that was not going to stop our youngest flyer. She wanted to climb, she wanted to play “slam the tray table,” she even wanted to turn into a puffer fish on the window (gross).

The flight got bumpier. I found the last Dum Dum in my purse. She hasn’t had a lollipop before, so I thought, PERFECT, she will love that it is something new and she will finally sit still and keep busy in my lap.

She took the bait. She was finally sitting still on my lap, quietly sucking away.

This lasted maybe five minutes. The result, a sticky baby, but worse, a baby who is now driving on sugar.

My lap was out, so I pulled out everything interesting I could find. Markers, crayons, the safety card in the seat back pocket, plastic drink cups and napkins (these had worked so well in the past, but she saw right through it this time), books and even my own wallet. My 4-year-old sat perfectly looking out the window at the snowy peaks listening to music on an old iPod.

My last resort provided some relief: Bath & Body Works glitter hand sanitizer. She held her hand out, I squirted a tiny drop and showed her how to rub her hands together. She signed “more.” Another sparkly droplet, and another and another. This was definitely the winning activity of the flight. I scored 10 minutes of lap time trying to power through the turbulence (both plane and baby).

Commence the descent.

Our flight got even bumpier, so the seatbelt sign illuminated and the flight attendants came to make sure my lap child was indeed sitting in my lap (and not roaming the floor of our row).

Unleash the flying dragon.

My sweet, brilliant baby flyer was BEYOND pissed off. Now on top of the squirming, climbing and decorating the window with her mouth, release the tantrum. It started off with just a few tears and quick thrash or two, but the final 15 minutes of our flight was filled with screams so loud you could have probably heard them in air traffic control.

I was kicking myself because we were completely out of milk (I let her drink too much in the airport), and I had no other tricks to use. The crying was so loud I couldn’t think straight. Other passengers began to stare. They turned away whispering to their seat mate. One even tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I think her ears hurt, sweetie.”

No, MY ears hurt.

The screaming continued. I tried racking my brain to find the cause of this nightmare flight. Was it flying later in the day? Don’t we usually fly in the morning? Was the hummus bad from the airport lunch? The lollipop? The turbulence? Traveling during the stress of the holidays?

My 4-year-old started singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to help calm her down. This usually works immediately. Not tonight. Since there was nothing else I could think of, I just rocked her and let her continue on with it.

The wheels finally hit the runway. My arms, ears, and mind ached. My poor baby still crying. And then out of nowhere, my 4-year-old started bawling. “I. Tried. To. Sing. And she doesn’t like my song!” she sobbed.

Row 25 Seats A, B, C: complete disaster.

As passengers began the deplaning process, I tried to hide, looking down at my feet. I got a few “We’ve been there” and “You’re brave flying with a baby” and even a “She’s got some pipes!” from passersby.

And of course as I did my long walk off the plane, my red-faced, covered-in-tears baby was now as happy as can be, pointing at signs, smiling and laughing.

My winning streak of flying with babies was over. Baby 1, Mommy 0. Time for some new tricks to pack for our next flight. Any ideas?

Featured Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Thompson