I've always been one to travel. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, flying was "normal," as it's usually the only way you can visit family. Unless we wanted to be in a car for at least a week, flying was a necessity. The same applies for my own family, now. My partner, myself and our son live in New York City, while our extended family lives on the West Coast or the Midwest. That means every flight, without fail, there are a few things I want people to know when they see me boarding an airplane with my kid. Having done this a few times, I know what most people are thinking (especially the people that whisper and roll their eyes and let out a bunch of exacerbated sighs) so, I think it's only fair they know what I'm thinking, too.
I get it; no one likes to be stuck in a tiny tube, flying 30,000 feet in the air while a kid cries or screams for what seems like hours on end. The sound of a baby crying or a toddler throwing a fit isn't exactly what I could consider "pleasant." However, I am not going to apologize to people for my kid acting like a kid, just like the drunk frat guy a few rows back on his way to Vegas clearly isn't going to apologize for being a drunk frat guy. Human beings aren't always pleasant, and traveling with a bunch of human beings stuck together isn't always going to be the joyful, quiet experience we all hope for. My choice to become a mother shouldn't keep me from traveling to see family for friends or any other reason I feel like traveling, just because my son might act out and just because other people might not appreciate children the way I have learned to appreciate my son (yes, even when he is throwing a fit).
So yes, I get that flying with a kid that doesn't want to sit still for an extended period of time can be somewhat of a pain, but I guarantee you it's a bigger pain for the parent (or parents) of that kid, than it is the other passengers. Just know that those parents are doing everything within their power to keep their child "behaved," so that you're not inconvenienced. They're also hoping you realize the following things, because that would really help make the entire flight more pleasant for everyone involved.
She's Just As Unsure As You Are...
I get that when you see me boarding a plane with my kid, you're calculating the chances that you'll be spending the rest of your flight listening to my kid scream. Trust me, I'm doing the same. I'm figuring out hours before and/or after a nap, and if said hours will end with an inevitable tantrum. I'm wondering if one iPad combined with two juice boxes and my kid's favorite stuffed animal will equal an easy flight for all involved. In the end, I have no idea how this is going to turn out either, buddy. However, unlike you, I'm going to try my freakin' hardest to make it a pleasant experience.
Maybe kids terrify you or you have no idea how to behave around them. I get it. Hey, not too long ago, I was you. However, you and I are nervous for very different reasons. I'm going to assume you're nervous that my crying and/or screaming child will drive you to order a few in-flight beverages, depleting necessary funds from your bank account. Fair.
I'm worried that my kid will be screaming in my ear for hours on end and everyone will hate us and I'll be on the receiving end of judgmental stares and whispers and there won't be a thing I can do about it so I'll just crying because that's all I can do in a situation like this. I'm worried that my kid will have a blowout (or three) and I will have to figure out how to change him (and his diaper and his clothes) in a tiny little bathroom a grown human being can barely fit in. I'm afraid that he'll throw his pacifier somewhere I can't find, and I'll have to do without my safety net for the remainder of the trip.
In other words, we're all nervous here, pal.
...And Probably Miserable
I have no idea how far you've been traveling, or for how long. I like to assume anyone in an airport, or boarding an airplane, is relatively exhausted and not having the best time. Still, you only have to worry about yourself. You get to sit in your own misery, yes, but you're also only responsible for your own misery.
Apparently, because I've made the life choice to procreate and travel with said offspring, I am responsible not only for my misery, but for my kid's and yours and everyone else that is on a tin can squished up next to a freakin' stranger, breathing recycled air and being offered over-priced mush some underpaid flight attendant is trying to pass off as food. No one is having a good time, whether there's a kid in the mix, or not.
If She Has To Deal With Rude (Or Drunk People), You Can Deal With A Kid
In the end, I guess I just don't get the argument against kids on airplanes in the first place. In so many instances (I've traveled with my child at least seven times and he's only two years old), my kid has behaved better than most adults.
Does he get restless? Sure. Does he, for a moment, scream or yell when he can't express that restlessness or he can't have something he wants? You bet, but I usually handle it, and so does he. I can't say the same for some of those drunk businessmen or frat bros traveling to Vegas for a long weekend. I can't say the same for some ridiculously rude man who has a problem sitting next to a fat person. I can't say the same to some people who don't understand the concept of a line, or think they're too good to wait in one. I mean, most people suck when they fly. My kid, in many respects, handles it better than most.
She's Going To Do Her Best To Help Her Kid Behave...
Don't think that I don't come prepared to handle the task at hand, because I do. In fact, because I have you, fellow traveler, in mind, I've weighed myself down with a bunch of toys and books and changes of clothes and back-up snacks and bottles and blankets and stuffed animals and anything else that could potentially get my kid to "behave." I literally make it a point to carry around a backpack weighing half my freakin' weight, so that I can do my best to make this flight an enjoyable experience for all involved.
...But Kids Are Kids
However, kids cry. They cry and complain and they get anxious and restless. They're kids, and I really don't have the time or energy to explain to you that children are children and they're going to act accordingly.
The Flight Won't Last Forever
At the end of the day, this is just a few hours out of our lives, people. Be patient, OK? I mean, this plane will land and you will be away from my kid and whatever behavior they may be exuding that you find so offensive. Your life will go one direction and ours will go another and the few hours you spent next to a kid that didn't sit stoically for hours on end, will be a distant memory.
You've Been Dreading This Flight For Two Seconds. She's Been Dreading This Flight For Two Months.
Maybe you hate flying, and this statement doesn't really hold any water. If you've been dreading the flight for quit some time because it's taking you somewhere you don't want to go or because you're afraid of flying, I apologize. I mean, that just sucks.
Even so, if seeing my kid makes this experience (in your mind) exponentially more dread-worthy, know that I've been dreading this flight the moment I booked it. I know that people like you exist and I have to work my ass off to keep my kid from acting like a kid. I really, and truly, don't want to be strapped into this tiny seat with my kid on my lap; sweating my ass off while simultaneously afraid that I may be bothering anyone around me. None of this is fun for me, and I have been afraid of this very moment far longer than the two seconds you've been processing the fact that there's a kid on this flight.
Your Sighs And Condescending Looks Don't Help
I'm not sure what makes any individual think that loudly disapproving of something, or giving someone judgmental stares or shameful glances, is in anyway helpful. You're not alerting me to the fact that my kid is being annoying right now. Trust me, I know. If you aren't going to offer some assistance (and honestly, there's not a whole lot you can really do anyway, besides actively not be rude), then just grit your teeth with the rest of us.
Having A Kid Doesn't (And Shouldn't) Automatically Exclude Her From Ever Traveling
I know, I know. I've heard the, "Well, if you wanted to travel you shouldn't have had a kid," thing. I've also heard, "Why would you want to put yourself through that," and, "Why don't you just wait to travel until your kid is older?"
Here's the thing, person-trying-to-tell-me-what-to-do-without-having-an-ounce-of-knowledge-about-my-life: I don't live close to family. Like, at all. If I want my kid to see his grandparents, we have to fly. So, because I'm not going to make my mother or my partner's parents fly to us every single time they want to see their grandchild, we travel. Furthermore, having a kid doesn't mean that I am forever stuck inside my home or within whatever vicinity you have randomly decided is appropriate. I enjoy taking my son to different places so he can experience different things. You don't get to take that way from me, or tell me that I am doing something "wrong," just because you can't handle a few hours around a child.
She Doesn't Owe You Anything
I try my best to be a respectful, kind and thoughtful traveler. I say "sorry" if I accidentally bump into someone and I say "excuse me" when I'm trying to get past someone and to my seat. I'm patient when the line through security is ridiculously long, and I don't take my frustrations out on the flight attendants or workers behind the counter of whatever airline I've selected to fly with. When you decide to travel with a bunch of strangers, you enter into an agreement that you're going to do your best not to infringe on someone else's experience, while simultaneously acknowledging that we're going to be bumping elbows and sharing space for a few (or even many) hours so, in a way, our experiences are linked.
So, while I will do my best to make this a pleasant experience for you, I don't necessarily owe you anything. Am I going to just let my kid kick the seat in front of him or scream or throw things? Of course not, but I wouldn't allow my child to behave that way in damn near any setting. So, really, let's just all take a collective deep breath and cool our jets, because we're all just trying to get from point A to point B as painless and quickly as possible. I don't owe you any extra effort, just because you don't like children.