My husband and I used to cringe at the sound of a crying baby near us on an airplane. After all, we had no children yet and weren’t used to that sound. There was no story behind that sound for us. It was just an unpleasant noise that we were inconvenienced by on our way to Las Vegas (or wherever). But even though we weren’t fond of sitting near a crying baby on an airplane, we would have never ever dreamed of being rude to that baby’s parent as a response. We wouldn’t have glared. We wouldn’t have said crappy things (out loud, anyway). And we surely wouldn’t have expected that parent to provide us with a goodie bag or free drink as some sort of apology.
Fast forward years later and we are parents to two super cool kiddos and found ourselves moving 1,000 miles from home temporarily for my husband’s job. Airplanes have been a big part of our lives the past year. Our family traveled by airplane back home many times throughout 2015. And, yes, that includes a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. I’m a polite pleaser. Manners are super important to me, and so is consideration for others and generally keeping the peace. All of that basically means that the thought of flying with both of our little ones stressed me the hell out at first. I didn’t want to be “that family” on the plane with the screaming baby. I didn’t want to inconvenience the other travelers or the flight crew. Being anyone’s problem is not a cool feeling to me. I didn’t go so far as to apologize ahead of time or buy the folks around us a round of drinks, but I did work hard to keep things peaceful. I had drinks and snacks and pacifiers and books and toys and movies on every plane. I never expected to be able to relax or, gasp, READ. Yeah, right. There was no time for that shit. My job for 2.5 hours each way was to keep the peace the best I could. But no matter how many tricks I had in my hat, I wasn’t actually magic. Not many times, but sometimes my baby still cried and my big boy still whined. And when that happened I cringed worse than I ever did as a non-parent.
I have heard it said that babies and little kids shouldn’t be allowed on planes. I’ve heard the complaints, seen the eye rolls and felt the tension. And while I totally don’t blame anyone for not wanting to sit near a baby on a plane, I still have some advice for those of you that are inconvenienced by it. Know that those parents want a peaceful flight too. They don’t want to sit by a crying baby either. They most likely were already worried about your feelings before they even stepped on the plane. They have probably spent extra time and effort preparing to keep the little ones happy on the flight. Oh, and they saw you glaring and heard you sighing, and it made them feel even worse. And most importantly, you don’t know their story or why they’re flying. They have a right to ride on an airplane for any reason, happy or sad, just like you do.
While I remember the bad experiences with strangers on planes this past year, I also remember the good ones. I was relieved that so many people were surprisingly kind in both our calm and stressful moments. There were plenty of smiles and laughs from fellow passengers and flight crew, as well as offers to help. And I actually decreased my traveling stress level toward the end of the year. I realized that worrying over it wasn’t going to help. So I would just handle our business, smile and sometimes, have some wine.
The bottom line is that kindness goes a long way, y’all, especially when you’re trapped on an airplane with 2 kids under the age of 5. And if anyone deserves a free drink, it’s the parent.