Herded like cattle through long lines and subjected to fierce scrutiny. Strapped down. No fresh air. Packed in so tight you can barely move. No meals. Enduring incessant banging and shrieking for hours on end. What sort of torture is this? Just a routine flight on any commercial airline. And more specifically, a flight in which you are seated near an unruly child.
There has been lots of chatter about airlines beginning child-free flights. Recently, The New York Times ran this article on the subject. Apparently, a survey released in August found that a majority of travelers support the idea. Message boards and complaint forums have been active with the notion of kid-free flying, and there is even a Facebook group called “Airlines Should Have Kid-Free Flights.” Airlines aren’t talking about the idea. Given the logistics involved and the potential costs to the airlines, it’s no wonder.
This is a tough one for me. I have spent my share of hours giving the evil eye to the parent of kids on my flight after enduring screaming, banging, hair-pulling as they grab my seat from behind, and nosiness as they stare at you from the seat in front and interrupt conversation or sleep. Notice I said “the parent.” Because really, the fault lies with the parent. It’s the parent’s responsibility to pack enough distractions to keep the child from bothering others. The parent should know how much noise will freak the child out, how long the kid can go between meals, the length of the child’s attention span, etc. Isn’t that what being a parent is about: anticipating your child’s needs? And with all of the books, magazines, and websites full of information on easy traveling with children, there’s really no excuse for attempting to fly unprepared.
Now in some cases, travelers need to cut the parents some slack. Well, in only one case: flying with infants. Babies cry. That shouldn’t be news to anyone. Sometimes babies cry for no reason at all. And that magic thing you do that always gets the baby to stop crying will sometimes fail, probably once the place starts to taxi down the runway. There’s nothing the parent can do except keep trying and ride it out. Get over it, people.
A 3-year-old is an entirely different matter. I have little patience for the parent of a bratty toddler or school-aged child who apologizes and says, “I just can’t get little Mackenzie/Tyler to settle down.” That parent’s troubles started long ago, when she decided that discipline was an archaic style of parenting. I have no problem relegating those families to the back row with the seats that don’t recline, right by the restrooms.
I have been blessed with kids who are terrific travelers. They have flown over oceans and across the International Date Line. Now, they are certainly not angels. My carry-on bag was loaded down with pacifiers, bottles, juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, lollipops, crayons, Etch-a-Sketch-es, Barbies, Hot Wheels cars, portable tape/CD players, and so on for many trips. Now they’re old enough to carry their own junk. And when all else failed, I had no qualms about drugging them with gentle antihistamines that made them sleepy. Dimetapp, Bendryl… just call them Mommy’s Little Helpers.