airplane

In defense of kids on airplanes

I know, this one is a tough sell. But people like this who write about charging a tax for parents who can’t make their children behave make me feel all hulk style angry. Or maybe not angry, but a little hopeless.

Look, I get it. I have been there with a screaming two year old in my lap squashed into the window seat wishing we were seated in the emergency exit row so we could jump out end all of our suffering at thirty thousand feet. And I have twins so people are extra mad to see us on the plane. I have purchased drinks for strangers and closed my eyes and prayed to every god I could invoke for the screaming to stop. It’s useless; once a child is screaming that shit is happening and there is nothing you can do about it. Around the second hour in, most parents I know are in tears too and mentally calculating how much a one way rental from Montreal to Vancouver is going to be. Or how to build a raft to get back from Hawaii. Or whether their destination should just be their new permanent home. Stress begets stress, so the horribly embarrassed (and by now almost deaf) parent is worried about how to make a living as a hula dancer and whether you can actually live in a sand castle, the child is becoming increasingly distraught because they sense that when they get out of that horrible tin can Mommy is not even going to be able to keep up with their lego habit anymore. It’s a vicious cycle.

Traveling with kids sucks. If you’ve never tried it, go get a friend of yours drunk to the point of belligerence and try to get them from bed in the morning to a plane without incident. You are in charge of all the luggage, the transportation, food and drink, bodily functions, and everyone around you is holding you directly responsible for keeping the mood light. Sound difficult? Now imagine that your friend is not only drunk but only has a mild grasp of the english language and a seriously underdeveloped awareness that their actions have an impact on others. Basically, you’re fucked.

But I continue to travel with my kids anyway. Through the magic of airplanes my kids have been able to meet their great grandma and spend time with their grandparents, aunties, and uncles. In a world of limited vacation time where four day drives separate us from our loved ones, the airplane is the only way. Airplanes are the way kids get to experience the ocean and know that Europe is a real thing, not just some place that gets built when we arrive (am I the only kid who suffered from this delusion?). They expand kids’ worlds and there is so much value in that. The pain of traveling is well worth the experiences that it brings, which is something I always found before kids. Now it is just amplified.

I’ll tell you what separates the bad experiences from the good ones; a good seat mate. On our most disastrous flight I had an uncooperative seatmate who refused to even share the armrest and radiated hate lasers from his eyes at us for four hours. The flight was turbulent and our tv wasn’t working so there was no escape. Cue four solid hours of screaming. On our next flight I sat next to a very kind lady who engaged my kid when he started to get antsy beyond my control, whipped out her iPad and let him play Plants vs. Zombies for nearly two hours. I was so grateful I offered to buy her a house, but she felt that would be an inappropriate gesture.

You don’t have to like children. You don’t have to like my children. But the social contract requires you to be respectful and trust that I am going to do my best to keep them calm. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Instead of worrying about how we are ruining your day, rolling your eyes at me, shoving your seat back violently to show how put out you are, and writing hateful blogs about how all parents are terrible and children should be raised in cages like at large scale factory chicken farms, try shooting me a sympathetic look. Or ignore me for all I care. Just don’t build a voodoo doll in the airplane bathroom and concentrate on my untimely demise for the entire flight because I can sense it. If you want to try some advanced humanity, maybe struggle with the overhead bin for those parents who are busy trying to get their kid comfortable and under control (it’s a rare parent who won’t).

I am the first to admit that children don’t belong everywhere, but they do belong on planes with their families going the places families go. And maybe there should be family sections. But if they’re going to charge extra for that maybe it should be all you can drink too. With babysitters. And limo service with car seats already installed.