About four years go I hopped on a plane from Wisconsin, visiting my family, to California, back to my husband. Actually, I hopped on a couple planes. My oldest son was 18 months old. I was traveling alone with him because my husband had to work. The first flight went pretty well and was really short. Our second flight would be about 3 hours long. I brought food and toys and games and anything else I could to occupy my son on the plane. He just wasn’t having it. He was tired, his ears hurt, we were crammed in a window seat on a completely booked flight. My poor little guy cried for a solid 2 1/2 hours of this 3 hour flight. The flight attendants would not let me get up to walk him up and down the aisles to help him get rid of some excess energy because it isn’t considered safe and they had to deliver beverages to other passengers. So we were stuck.
As he sat their crying, I kept looking up, tears in my eyes, apologizing to my neighbors. They simply smiled and said, “We know how this goes. Our 2-year old is at home.” They were so patient and gracious to me. They understood how hard it can be to travel with children. They understood that it was embarrassing, difficult, painful…Traveling with children is not for the faint of heart.
After about 2 hours of his crying, which is, I understand, a long time, a woman a few rows ahead of me had had enough. She pushed the button for the flight attendant and very loudly asked him to have “that crying baby move” because his crying was just “ridiculous” and I needed to “get him under control.” What she didn’t realize is that I had also had enough after 2 hours of painstakingly trying to appease him with everything I could possibly do to get him to quiet down. What she didn’t know is that my exhausted, embarrassed, burned-out self really did not need to hear her words in that moment. I didn’t need her opinion. I quickly, and probably to the surprise of my gracious neighbors, tossed my son into the lap of the woman next to me, jumped up and marched the couple rows up to that woman and gave her a piece of my mind. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it included something like, “Either you’ve never traveled with children or you’re too old to remember what it’s like” and “you know what? I’ve gotten to listen to his crying for 2 hours too! Now I have to deal with people like you on top of it” and it definitely ended with, “It is a full flight! I have nowhere to go. If you don’t like his crying then go jump off the plane!” Seriously, I’m so thankful that I didn’t get arrested or something after getting off the plane…
I burst into tears and went back to my seat. The nasty lady huffed and puffed in disbelief and the neighbors around me gave me looks of pity and told me that it was OK and she had no right to do that. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one on the plane thinking that, though. I’m sure that she had silent supporters who just didn’t want to be chewed out by the tired, young mom on the plane. I had more support than I knew, though, as I received apologies from people on my flight all the way back to the parking garage at LAX. Random people would keep stopping me to tell me how sorry they were and that I was doing the best I could and that his ears probably hurt or that he was tired…etc. They had all kinds of reasons for why he was in such a bad mood. And, while it wasn’t fun, they knew I was doing what I could and I didn’t like it anymore than they did.
You may be wondering why I am sharing this story. The short answer is that I’ve had just about enough of people and their comments about children and their behavior in public places, but especially planes. I recently saw someone on Facebook post something to the effect of, “Dear people in the seats next to me, thanks for not letting your kids be complete a$$holes on the plane!” I had a friend come to visit me with her 15 month old son about a week ago and she had some incredibly rude people on the plane next to her…even though her son was being a perfect angel and slept most of the flight! She seriously looked at his sweet, smiling face when he offered her a toy and said, “I’m not taking that from you.” What the heck is wrong with people?!
OK. I get it. You’re on a plane. Traveling is stressful…or can be. You want to take this time to relax and talk to your traveling companions, listen to your iPod, watch a movie, read a book…and BAM! You see you’re stuck next to a snot-nosed brat on the plane! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! The next 5 hours of your life are officially ruined! Your whole entire vacation/business trip/flight home is completely ruined! Ok, so I’m being a bit dramatic. But that’s what you look like to us moms/dads who had to get up 5 hours before our early morning flight, were up late last night packing up our children’s things, had to somehow manage to get through security by breaking down our strollers, carseats, emptying our luggage and diaper bags onto a conveyer belt, and somehow get it all put back together only to get to the plane and have to disassemble everything again…all while holding the baby! Then we get seated next to baby-hating people like you and get to enjoy your dirty looks, sassy remarks, super fun Facebook statuses and Tweets about the #crabbybaby #ruiningyourflight #horriblemom #neverhavingkids #mykidswillbeamazing #nextalberteinstien #imseriouslythesonofgodhimself. Not helpful.
You have no clue what that family is going through. You don’t know why they’re on that plane. They may be traveling to the funeral of a loved one. They may be making a painful move across the country. They may be a military family who has been flying across the world for 2 days straight without any breaks or sleep. They may have had cancelled flights, long delays, sick children, or just a string of bad luck. My son had always been an awesome little traveler. This was the one time he went ballistic. It came out of nowhere and I didn’t like it anymore than the people sitting next to me…probably less since I was the one getting the blame for the noise.
So, the next time you’re on a flight and see a mom who is beaming up at you, eyes full of hope and a child full of energy, know that we understand that this isn’t how you planned your flight. We want to listen to our iPods, watch movies, and read books and the in-flight Sky Mall magazine too. We would love nothing more than a relaxing, quiet flight. Our odds of having that happen are much higher if you can cooperate with us. We didn’t have babies to ruin your lives. If you didn’t want to fly with babies then you should have paid for a 1st Class ticket or early boarding so you could select your seat. Hey, I’m all for adult-only flights! I support that completely! Maybe you’re not a “kid person” but if we can endure you politely for the next few hours of our lives, then you can politely endure our children for the next few hours of your life. I promise you that it won’t make you pregnant just by looking at them or by entertaining their desire to give you their toy phone. It isn’t going to kill you and baby drool is not made of acid, promise! I promise that my child won’t poop, pee or puke all over you…but if he happens to do that, I will pay for you to get new clothes. To add, our children aren’t “a$$holes.” They’re tired. They’re CHILDREN. We are on a plane with little space to move and run, which is what children do. Deal with it and keep your feelings to yourself.
To moms who travel with kids–I get it. It can be so hard. Even when your child(ren) is a perfect angel you still get dirty looks. It is tough. You can do this, though! Try not to let those other negative people get you down! Just take a deep breath and get through the next few hours. For the families who travel around the world and go for 48 hours without sleep with your kids, I am so sorry. I have no clue what that is like. I imagine it is so hard. Of course your babies are tired! You’re exhausted too! You’re doing your best!
And, finally, to all the people who are so awesome with our kids: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! You bring your puppies on board and let our kids pet them. You share your little snacks. You offer to hold them so we can take naps (yes! I HAVE HAD THAT HAPPEN–sweet angel in the first row you are so precious to me!). The middle-aged men who always seem to be the ones to offer to help carry my luggage, fold up my stroller, get me to my seat: I don’t care if you do it just so you can board early with the families…it is beyond helpful! There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to express our gratitude for your willingness to inconvenience yourself to help when you see that it is tough. We need people like you. You lift our spirits and make our day just that much easier!