We took off just after her bed time. She slept the whole flight except for when the captain turned on the seat belt sign and we had to remove her from the child seat we were given.
On the return she was up much of the flight, napped for part of it, but she did wonderfully. My wife and I took turns looking after her though let’s be honest, it was mostly my wife who is like a ninja with the baby accoutrements packed into a backpack.
When we first boarded our return flight at London Heathrow there was an older man in the cabin giving us glares. He was traveling with a very young girl whom I do not think was his daughter. It turns out he was the second most annoying passenger on the flight — everyone in the cabin wanted to sleep, he kept his window shades open the entire time.
The most annoying passenger? Fortunately it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t my daughter, it was the guy sitting behind the old glaring man in row 3. He changed into his pajamas in the cabin, he didn’t go into the lavatory to do it. He changed back into his street clothes in the cabin, too.
Quite reasonably at the start of the flight people might have guessed that if a passenger was going to cause a problem it would be my daughter. But it wasn’t.
So I read with interest the open letter from a mom blogger to a passenger on her flight that was rolling his eyes and offering “dramatic huffs and puffs” when he saw her board with her little one.
She says “in a momentary lapse of judgement, we sat behind you. It was the nearest set of seats, and I couldn’t wait to put my child and our heavy bags down.” That tells me she was flying Southwest, and she mentions flight 1451. She says it’s a cross country flight so I think we’re talking about Tampa – Las Vegas on Sunday, the only time in the past two weeks that flight 1451 was flew cross country.
She shared what she had done to prepare for her first flight with her child, one segment of which she’d be flying without her husband,
For weeks, I researched tips for flying with kids. I packed toys and games and books and downloaded movies.
I dosed up my child with Benadryl, to make sure any leftover traces of sinus infection didn’t make her ears hurt and to help her rest, but it didn’t work. She only slept 20 minutes on a cross country flight.
I did everything in my power to keep her calm and quiet. I shushed her, and made sure her little feet didn’t kick your seat.
Her child hadn’t eaten much, was over tired, and hadn’t been feeling well. So the “kicking and the screaming tantrums came on fast.”
The passenger was visibly annoyed throughout. The mother apologized to everyone around her. She felt “shame and guilt” until a flight attendant offered help in the form of “a cup and straw to play with.” That pacified her child.
The kind attendant told us, “It’s ok! Flying is tough on everyone, and you are both doing great!”
Somehow, her kindness calmed my baby.
Somehow, her simple words made me feel better.
She was right. We were doing great! We were doing our best, and that’s as great as it gets.
Here’s the thing. It’s tough all around. The mother, knowing her child was tired and unwell, boarding a cross country flight when they hadn’t eaten much. It’s probably the case that mistakes were made.
Still, it was a day time domestic flight, not prime sleeping hours. If only there were things that helped to keep out noise around you.
And yet I think the mother goes off the rails a bit throwing around accusations: “The problem wasn’t with us, it was with you.”
What you need to know, is that while children can be terribly inconvenient now, they will run the world when you are old and grey.
Kids can be annoying and downright obnoxious, but they are also innovative and brilliant.
These kids might one day discover the cure for the type of cancer that runs in your family.
They can be selfish and loud, but they can also be precious and loving.
They might grow up to build systems and make laws that benefit us all.
They may grow up to serve others in a way that makes us wish we could go in time back and do it all over again.
They are the future.
I am quite confident that when her child cures cancer her fellow passengers will be thrilled. They weren’t unhappy with her child’s science, they were unhappy with the screams.
Ironically the mother tells this passenger – who did not speak to her – to shut up: “If you can’t muster up a smile and a hello, then simple silence will do just fine.” He would have felt the same, no doubt!
My point is this, and it’s not just about lap infants or small children: flying is an incredibly small-d democratic endeavor. In the post-deregulation era flying is accessible to people of all backgrounds and a variety of income levels. It’s no longer reserved for business(mostly men) or the wealthy.
And that means we all come together with different experiences. We also have bad days. And we’re packed tightly together in an era where load factors are high. Most of the time there’s no empty seat between us. As a result flying takes patience for other passengers, and it requires that we each do our best to minimize the disturbance we cause.
On a short domestic flight we’ll get through it soon enough. If it were that United flight to nowhere that flew all its passengers back to Newark after a 16 hour diversion and no one to clear them through customs, I perfectly well admit I might become like one of those passengers who cycled through sitting next to Ted Striker in Airplane! as he told his relationship story to one after another.
So which is it? Should passengers shut up and show compassion for a parent traveling with their child, or shouldn’t a child that’s crying be on the plane in the first place? Or should we all just do the best we can to get through it?