Mommie Dearest: Quit Bitching About Kids On Airplanes

Facebook. Where pictures of food, kids and vacations intermingle with memes, political rants and birthday wishes galore. Facebook also has the distinction of taking a status update and turning it into the debate of the century, as I experienced a few days ago. A friend of mine, who recently returned from a long flight, posted to his wall:

Parents who refuse to give a mild sedative (like Benadryl*) on long flights to young children who do not fly well deserve a special place in hell. It’s torture for other passengers. It’s torture for the parents. And it sure does sound like it’s torture for the child as well.

Ah, the age-old “kids on planes” chestnut. The comments below the status update were mild to start, but they quickly escalated to scathing as it became a child-free vs. parent back and forth. Most parents were quick to defend kids, and explain that they’re still human beings who shouldn’t need to be drugged for somebody else’s comfort. Then, one charming person suggested that kids shouldn’t even really have the privilege of flying until they’re 18. You can only imagine how well that went over. Of course, as a parent who has flown numerous times with my child both on multiple cross-country trips and a 12+ hour international flight, I had thoughts, but I managed to stay rather neutral in the Facebook thread, making only one joke about horse tranquilizers.

I think it’s safe to say that air travel in general can be a draining, horrible experience. From delays to over chatty seatmates to being trapped in a hovering metal tube for hours, it’s all pretty trying. Add in some crying kids and it’s certainly a recipe for disaster. I understand that, parent or not.

Pre-kids I probably was a bit less tolerant of what I perceived as misbehaving kids on planes. Once I had my own child? My perspective changed. Plane travel is hard, and it gets just a smidge harder when traveling with kids. That said, I’ve also always done my best to ensure our travel time is as uneventful as possible. I bring special snacks and toys. I let my kid get a bit more screen time than usual. I remind him that somebody is sitting in front of him, so try not to accidentally (or purposefully!) kick the seat. And, it’s been pretty much smooth sailing flying. But, even with the utmost preparation, shit happens, and you just have to do your best.

I’m not one of those parents who brings goody bags to hand out around me to fellow passengers in hopes that some candy or a sappy note will help them tolerate my kid. What I do do, however, is ensure my kid behaves as best as he can in the situation and hope my fellow passengers understand that traveling with a child isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, but that I will do whatever I can to limit any sort of annoyances.

I know I’m not alone in this. Many parents stress about traveling with kids. Very few parents want to be seen as the problem, and want to have as relaxed a flight experience as you do. Of course, there’s always a bad apple in the bunch, like the parent who ignores their kid, but seriously, don’t paint an entire demographic based on a few assholes. Because here’s what I’ve learned: everyone, regard of age, has the potential to be an asshole, including if not especially on an airplane. I’ve had people who smell like they’ve been mucking barns sit next to me with no regard for how that will go over with fellow passengers. I’ve sat next to snorers, Chatty Cathys, the person that insists on hogging both armrests, the passenger that leans their chair all the way back into my lap, the adults who somehow continuously jostle the back of my seat, and the loud talker. Annoying behavior is not solely limited to kids, and at least they have the excuse of being young and not fully understanding social mores.

I heard about an airline that proposed offering kid-free flights. I say go for it. Offer that premium so all the people who are so fed up about seeing and hearing from kids in public can be together and bitch and moan about something else and I won’t have to hear about it.

* It should be noted that once a doctor stepped in to the Facebook thread and noted that there are no safe sedatives to give children in these circumstances for the sole purpose of knocking them out (and that a good chunk of children respond to Benedryl by getting more hyper), the original poster clarified his position:

“I don’t hate kids and have no issues with them flying, assuming the parents actually parent them on the flight and not make them other passengers’ problems.”