Skip to main content

Leslie Banks/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Our son is well travelled. At just 3 1/2, he'd already flown between Vancouver and Toronto twice, plus two times to the Caribbean and back, although it wasn't always easy going. He's a great kid, but flying seems to unhinge him. One time on the runway in Atlanta, our plane was held for 10 excruciating minutes while we tried to get him to stop screaming and flailing. Other times, he has refused to sit still, or to eat, or to sleep. The sleep was what we all needed most.

And so the other month, as we were readying for a long, two-stage flight to Italy, we finally gave in and drugged him.

Friends of ours swear by Gravol. They rhapsodize about its sleep-inducing powers. But it can have the opposite effect, too, we'd heard, and so we tested it a few nights before the trip. Gravol turned our kid into a jibbering, sweating, red-faced, crazy-dancing monster. We gave up on the drugging idea, temporarily, at least.

It was still the farthest thing from our minds as we boarded the red eye to Frankfurt a few days later. An hour after takeoff, as he watched Fireman Sam contentedly, we didn't even give it a thought. But two hours in – well past his usual bedtime – he showed no signs of sleepiness. An hour after that, he was keeping the passengers all around us awake. "Honey, you know I have some lorazepam," I said to my wife. She knew what I meant, and assented, sort of, but her nod meant she didn't really want to know.

An adult dose of lorazepam is 1 mg, and a small adult weighs about 120 lbs, I calculated. Our kid weighs one third that. I split off a third of a pill, ground it up and slipped it in his apple juice. He swallowed the juice in three quick gulps.

An hour later, nothing. He was kicking the seat back in front of him, as though I'd given him a sugar pill. So I gave him another third. Again, nothing. He only fell asleep hours later – 35 minutes before touchdown.

It makes sense that he was tired that morning, and it's probably reasonable that he looked dizzy, too. But he seemed to recover on our connecting flight (through which he remained wide awake). It wasn't until we got to the rental car desk at the airport that he had his first big puke. Then he threw up in the car, too. Twice. I heard it first, of course, and recognized the sound instantly, and then I felt the warm, fine mist on the back of my neck. I guess I got what I deserved.

That night we all went to sleep early, and slept for 12 hours straight. Drug-free, in case you wanted to know.

Family Pharmacist is a Toronto father.

If you have a dirty parenting secret to share, e-mail your story to

Interact with The Globe