Many years ago, long before parenthood, my husband found himself seated on a plane next to a young mother with a baby. The baby cried the entire flight. My husband tells that story now the same way he told it then,
“At first it was super annoying. I was pissed I was going to have to listen to this kid scream the whole flight, but then I looked at the woman. The entire flight she sat there silently crying while her baby screamed, tears rolling down her cheeks the whole time. So I just put on my headphones and turned my music up. I felt so bad for her.”
If you’ve ever had a baby, you know what that woman was experiencing.
Over the last few years the internet has been filled with stories of families being kicked off of planes for unruly children. A few crazy-ass people even think children shouldn’t be allowed on planes. “If you have little kids you shouldn’t be flying,” they say ignorantly as if that’s a real option for anyone. Others offer that there should be special flights just for families with little kids.
Then there are the stories about the considerate parents who board the plane with goody-bags for their fellow passengers that contain candy, gum, earplugs and an apology in advance in case their baby gets unruly.
With my first kid I sympathized with these parents handing out the goody bags. I thought it was a good idea. I was so nervous to fly with an infant. What if his ears hurt from the pressure and no amount of nursing or gummy snacks help? What if he screams the entire flight? What if he is restless and smacks the head of the person in front of us? What if he takes a giant stinky poop when the seat-belt sign is on and we can’t change him? What if he pulls the cover off while I’m nursing and an uptight flight attendant threatens to kick us off the plane? And on and on . . .
But now, four years into parenting and multiple flights with kids under my belt, I will tell you this:
People have lost their damn minds.
Children are people and they have every right to be on a plane.
I refuse to apologize for my investment in the continuation of the human race.
Telling people that they shouldn’t be allowed to use the safest and fastest form of travel because they have a child, a little human being that might (just might) annoy someone for a couple hours is completely insane.
For many families, the span of time from the birth of their first child until their youngest is school age, is a decade.
So, you’re saying that these people shouldn’t be allowed to travel for ten years? And by “these people” I mean every human being that has ever reproduced.
On our most recent trip our kids (a preschooler and a toddler) did fantastic. You would have never known they were on the plane. But that didn’t stop people from giving us dirty looks. There were countless business travelers in the airports that sneered at our double stroller.
There was a young man across the aisle that stared daggers at me every time my two-year-old spoke. Not cried, or screamed, but spoke at a normal volume. Apparently her very existence was a personal affront to this man.
Then there was the flight attendant who offered us an entire bottle of water to share and said, “Here, I’m not supposed to give you the whole bottle but I will since your kids are so well behaved.” She handed it over while rolling her eyes at a mother a few rows up with a crying baby. It was a nice gesture but I wish she could have offered that same kindness to the family that really could’ve used it.
I kind of wanted to slap her, and the young guy across the aisle and every smug business traveler with their tiny rolling suitcase.
I wasn’t self conscious this time.
I was pissed off before we even made it onto the plane.
Every time that guy across the aisle looked at my daughter with disgust I looked at him with murder in my eyes. I was more than prepared to tell him what a useless excuse for a human being he really was.
Here’s the thing:
No parent gets onto an airplane unprepared to fly with small kids.
We spend months leading up to the trip with a mild sense of dread. We start packing two weeks before our flight. We go on message boards and talk to friends to get suggestions on “busy bags,” snacks, age appropriate games, and which app will lock the iPad so our toddler won’t have a tantrum when they keep accidentally exiting out of the game. We pack extra clothes and diapers in case of a layover. We even bring a garbage bag and a towel, just in case. We have to figure out how to bring car seats, strollers, Boppy pillows, and porta-cribs.
We’re prepared and we’re terrified of making a scene.
And yet you see us approaching the gate and you sneer. You worry we’ll be seated next to you. You forget you were once a child. You forget that children are people with rights too.
And you seem to forget the most important thing of all. You’re not flying with kids.
So order a stiff drink, put in your headphones, turn up your music. Enjoy your flight.
Because I’m not giving you a fucking goody-bag, but I will choke you out.