I am not a parent, I don’t have nieces or nephews and I usually spend only a few hours a years around anyone under the age of 18. That’s not to say that I don’t like kids, on the contrary, I love them and one day would love to have some of my own. However, if I do become a parent I hope I’m better at it than the person I met on a recent flight.
I departed out of Baltimore, destined for the Midwest with an obligatory plane change in Charlotte. I have status with US Airways and was thrilled when I was upgraded for the brief, one hour flight. I was excited until I saw my seatmate, an infant and her obviously overwhelmed grandmother. Before I get hate mail, grandma was in her early 50s or so – I’m not picking on the elderly here.
A hot topic in the past year has been whether or not airlines should institute so called child only zones. Just as with the seemingly impossible smoking areas of flights long gone, parents traveling with children of a certain age would be forced to sit with other families in what would become a veritable nursery school at 32,000 feet.
I’ve only touched on this issue peripherally because, as a non-parent, I usually get a lot of flak from certain parents. But you know what, I’m a passenger too and therefore my opinion does count regardless of the fact of whether or not I have offspring.
Having flown countless times all over the world, I have witnessed a lot of bad behavior by all types of fliers, as I’ve detailed in How to Annoy Everyone on Your Next Flight. When it comes to small children though, every case of an impossible child has almost been entirely the fault of the parent.
Case in point, on a flight to Madrid last year, an eight hour overnight flight, there was a family with 3 young children sitting next to us. I was hoping for the best but of course we had unwittingly encountered one of the worst families I have ever seen. Over the course of a long, sleepless flight we were serenaded by almost constant yelling and screaming. Dirty looks and even remarks by flight attendants could do nothing to encourage the parents to actually start parenting and I was flabbergasted when, at the end of the flight, the mom and dad fawned over their kids telling them how well behaved they had been. My mouth fell open in shock. These parents were actually encouraging this behavior. And I’m sorry, anytime you have entire sections of a plane complaining, something is indeed wrong.
There sere scores of other young children on the flight, but you would never had known it. They shockingly comported themselves like humans and not wee devil-toddlers.
Fast forward to my recent flight with the exasperated grandma and her infant grandchild. I thought at first it would be fine. She’s obviously an experienced traveler or she wouldn’t have been upgraded. I could not have been more mistaken.
I won’t go into all of the details, but we had another devil baby on our hands and the grandmother did nothing to stop it, instead she kept laughing at how cute it all was. Enter the alcohol. Grandma decided she needed a couple of cocktails and a previously laissez-faire grandma turned into someone who couldn’t be bothered with the infant at all.
I don’t relate these stories to say how awful kids are and how they shouldn’t travel. On the contrary, I have traveled around kids many, many times and they have almost always been fine. I also think travel is great for kids, exposing them to new and exciting stimuli. No, the kids aren’t to blame, the parents are.
If you’re traveling with kids like it or not, you are going to be held to a different standard. People will look at you and judge your parenting skills based on only a few moments of interactions. That’s why, as the brand ambassador for parents everywhere, you not only have to parent, you have to do it well. I don’t think we need kid sections, we need sections for bad parents.