Fellow Passengers Don't Hate Flying with Your Kids as Much as You Think They Do
Boy, do I dread getting on a plane with our kids. Always have. But without fail, the most stressful part of every trip is worrying about whether the other passengers are going to be annoyed–not managing our kids. Are we taking up too much space? Oh no! Was that a little cry or just noise from the baby? Either way, was it too loud? How am I going to fit this diaper bag “beneath the seat in front of [me]“, yet still reach the wipes when I need them? I’ll just wait for the guy in the aisle seat to get up before we try to slide out and change the baby. I don’t want to bother him.
Our three children were all born overseas and we traveled a lot in the early days, especially with the first one. We took her from Rome to Amsterdam, Prague, Brussels and of course all the way to the US to visit family. I was a nervous wreck on these flights. But it wasn’t really necessary. A pretty easy baby, Phoebe was (and is) a good little flyer. Every time we land, the passengers around us typically smile and say “she did great.” Often no one even realizes there was a baby/toddler/preschooler on board at all.
Out of all the flights we’ve been on together, about 20 in the last four years, we’ve had a multi-minute crying jag once. Even so, I’m always on edge as we board, jokingly apologizing to passengers “in advance”. But with one exception (a woman who took one look at our baby in the Bjorn and called a friend as though I couldn’t hear her, “Wish me luck on this flight. There’s a BABY next to me.”), each person has simply smiled and launched into a story about his or her own children or grandchildren. In fact, the first time I flew on a plane by myself with Phoebe as a baby, we were assigned the middle seat on a nonstop flight from Orlando to Seattle. We were in between two men and I’ll admit that my heart sank a bit, assuming they wouldn’t patient or understanding if anything should go wrong (and when I say “wrong” I mean loud). But what I found was a soldier on leave to my right. He had a toddler and a baby the same age at home. And to my left, a salesman who had raised 11 children. Yes, 11. They were both extremely polite, as were we.
But if you go by what you read the newspapers or even glance at the comments of any online version, you’ll immediately see how annoyed many people are at just the MENTION of kids on planes. Horror stories of babies crying, usually remembering one particular flight that will forevermore cause a weary traveler to wince every time a pint-sized passenger buckles up in the next seat. Or worse. In February, someone even slapped a toddler who “was making noise as the plane landed.”
THIS is why I was always so terrified every time we stepped onto the plane.
But it’s really the minority. At least in my experience.
Yesterday I saw Tori Spelling’s top tips for flying with kids and well-meaning as it may have been, she encouraged parents to bring a little packet of goodies for fellow passengers. I actually tried this recently, on an international flight when my husband and I had all three kids (all under the age of four at the time) with us. “We’re moving”, we kept over-explaining to everyone around us. Then we tried to hand out the goodie bags. And, fail. Besides the fact that it took tons of time, effort and at least a little bit of cash to go and buy Italian chocolates, baggies and write out notes for a dozen potentially irritated passengers, no one even wanted one when we got on the plane!
Each person looked at me like I was crazy. Or even a little jaded. They all shrugged as I apologetically explained that they were peace offerings up front, “You know, in case any of the kids make a lot of noise.” One after another, all of our temporary neighbors shrugged off the chocolates, smiled at the kids and asked why we thought we needed to do something like this anyway. Because everyone hates flying with kids, right? That didn’t seem like the right thing to say, so I sort of said nothing.
I’ve never been on a flight where kids were crying or running down the aisles or any other irritating behavior, but I can imagine how annoying that would be. I HAVE been on lots of flights where people talked loudly the whole time, took up more than their own share of space (including the overhead bins), needed medical intervention, got drunk or reclined their seat so far into mine that I couldn’t use the tray for my “meal”.
Listen, kids can be annoying. I know, I live with three of them. But taking them on a plane isn’t something you have to apologize for. Not if you do your best to parent them day in, day out and even 30,000 feet above ground for longer than you would ever choose. I’m not talking about situations involving kicking seats, temper tantrums, or general havoc being wreaked. That should be avoided onboard. But if you can do all that, and do it in an enclosed space for several hours, you’re the one who deserves a bag of chocolates, and one big sigh of relief.
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