Saturday, November 27, 2010

Babies on Planes

I'm on a flight from Salt Lake City to Detroit, headed home to my family and willing the plane to fly faster and the jet stream to blow harder.  After over an hour of flight a baby across the aisle and one row up finally has quieted down, probably exhausted from crying and screaming on and off (more on than off) since I boarded the plane. 

Before I had children I was intolerant of the screams and frustrated to be stuck on in a small metal capsule thirty thousand feet up breathing the recirculated air people with who-knows-what strain of H1N1.  I would fume and turn my headphones as loud as I could bear so I wouldn't have to hear the child while I stewed and wondered why the parents didn't do more, including drugging the child.  I wondered why parents would even bring small children on planes.  Wasn't that what the proverbial family car trips were for?  That way the screaming would be confined to a much smaller metal capsule, zero feet in the air, and only the parents had to listen.

Now I am a parent and I have three small children.  I want them to know their grandparents and great grandmother in California so we fly across the country, carefully picking airline schedules to make the trip as manageable as possible (and paying for it).  I am fortunate that my boys travel well and we haven't had the infamous screaming child on a plane.  But I have been humbled by flying with my children as well.  I understand that there are reasons parents take their children on planes that are beyond going to the Happiest Place on Earth. I know how hard it is for parents, and having seen my own children cry from pain, I understand how difficult it is for everyone.  I no longer seethe, wondering why the parents don't do more.  I no longer wish the child would just shut up.  I feel bad for his pain, hoping his ear pressure isn't unbearable or he isn't so exhausted it physically hurts.  I cringe at my having wished parents would simply drug their children for my comfort. 

We don't make it easy for family to fly.  Airlines don't.  The TSA doesn't.  And fellow passengers don't.  I could write the equivalent of a short novella about our experiences flying and the generosity of others as well as others' inconsideration.  But this really isn't about me and my kids.  

The boy is still quiet and I am happy. 

For him.


  1. I've had the screaming kid on a plane before. A couple of times, I've had two at once--by myself! It stinks. And you are right, airlines do not make it easy. And there are some people that will never understand how hard it is for a 2 year old to sit in a teeny tiny seat for 4 hours. Thankfully, there have been the good flights where nobody cried. Thankfully there have been those people that help you get your bags off the plane, or make faces at your kids to make them laugh, or the baggage guy that pops your double stroller open for you so you don't have to wrangle with it while holding a baby and the hand of a 3 year old so they don't run off. I did a lot of head nodding on this post. Hope your flight ended happy!

  2. @ Judaloo: Yes the flight ended relatively well. Thanks. He eventually woke and wasn't thrilled, but he wasn't as upset as he was.

    We've been on flight where the kids go seats away from ours and we almost didn't get any together. Of course who is going to sit next to a 2 year old who will scream and cry for 3 hours because he can't sit with his parents. No one. So we've always had our seats together.

    And I have to say we've had some great TSA people help with strollers and car seats, etc. Of course it takes an extraordinary person because the system isn't family friendly, which is too bad.