In my last blog, I wrote of the challenges and joys of traveling with young children. Culturemap, a trendy, online "mapazine," picked up my blog and pushed some hot buttons. Most responses were sympathetic, though several were critical.
Here a few of the comments:
"Here's a novel idea: leave your kids at home! If your child cannot sit still, then don't put him/her on an airplane. We don't want to see or hear your children. I would have my own if I wanted one. I pay good money to be on an airplane, and there is no reason for a screaming child that is out of control. Either control it or leave it. Don't travel with it!" ["It"?]
"Oh my gosh, I so feel for you!!!! I thought having one child under 5 was difficult enough on flights, but managing two is a stellar accomplishment. Your last paragraph really sums it up well: I too find myself far more compassionate for parents of young kids who are desperately trying to keep them under control."
"You are not required to travel by air with your children. Of course, it is more convenient and less time consuming for you. You ask for compassion -- how about compassion for your fellow passengers who didn't bargain for being harassed by small children during most of their flight or subjected to screaming for three hours. You don't enjoy it, other passengers don't enjoy it. Simply don't travel by air until your children are old enough to behave properly in a confined setting of an aircraft. Easy."
"This is your problem, not mine. There is no reason why I should suffer through the hell of flying with screaming children all around me. However, since children can't be relegated to the hold like dogs why not have a family section in the back of the plane like they used to have smoking sections?"
"Love it! Love it! Love it! I can completely relate to every aspect of your article. We just traveled with 3 kids under the age of 4 AND I was 20 weeks pregnant! Imagine the looks that we got!"
I was surprised by the intolerance expressed in some of the comments. I have sat next to many a fellow passenger who could not fit between the armrests, or reeked of body odor, or were rude, loud, intoxicated, obnoxious or otherwise unpleasant to sit beside for five minutes, much less five hours. I would gladly exchange seats with those passengers who do not want to be seated around children. I believe that children have equal right to travel at any age (they are paying passengers) and it is not a show of lack of consideration, form, or etiquette for an adult to fly with children.
That said, it is the parents' responsibility to plan ahead and prepare before boarding a flight to keep their child from disturbing the passengers around them. A recent poll by USA Today, revealed that over half of fliers would limit where children can sit on an aircraft or would be in favor of designating "family only sections".
The following suggestions have worked for us when flying with our two young sons:
1) Plan ahead. Bring a DVD player with headphones, your child's favorite toy(s), crayons, paper. If you are going to be on a three hour flight, plan to comfort, soothe, and entertain your children for three hours. This is a chore and my wife and I are usually more exhausted after three hours than we are after a transatlantic flight without the kids. But, it is not fair to force your children or your fellow passengers to endure a flight where the children have nothing to do.
2) Pack snacks and food, chewing gum, and buy water or juice after passing through security. I don't like first class airline food and I wouldn't feed coach food to a prisoner. My children, like most, do not deal well when they are hungry and, conversely, are very happy with a full stomach.
3) At all costs, be considerate of the comfort of your fellow passengers seated in front of your children. Correct or redirect your child if he or she is kicking the seat in front of him/her or banging on the table (as mine did in the last article). Like you, most passengers also paid several hundred if not thousands of dollars to be on the flight. When my son was an infant, my wife and I took him to the galley and bounced him in our arms to get him to stop screaming and go to sleep.
4) When the above fails and all hell breaks loose...smile. The plane will land. If you are seated next to me, I will buy you a drink and say "I am sorry."
For those of you who do not have children, see number four above. Most parents do their utmost to pacify their children while flying and the suggestions above are no-brainers. The next time you are seated next to children on a flight, remember that most parents are doing their best and those who are not, are not likely going to change, just as the obnoxious drunk on my last flight didn't sober up.