Living a couple of thousand miles from my immediate family means that I fly every year—with kids—on tiring flights. On multiple occasions, I’ve flown solo with kids. This summer, I flew alone with four kids aged 2, 4, 6, and 8. Last summer, I did it alone with each of those kids being a year younger. I’ve flown with sleeping newborns, squirmy nine-month-olds, and impossible eighteen-month-olds. On some flights, my kids have been surprisingly angelic. On others, I’ve fought with a loud, kicking toddler for four exhausting hours. Believe me, it’s not fun.
I’ve experienced the anxious, dreading sideline glances of passengers when they see young kids approaching their seats. I’ve witnessed the “huffing, puffing and mumbling.” Honestly, some people seem to be annoyed by the mere presence of kids, even when their behavior is just fine. Unfortunately, only on a small handful of occasions in the last decade of plane travel with kids has someone offered to help, and it’s usually been a kind-hearted passenger.
I know it’s annoying to listen to a young child whine or cry. I know it’s annoying when they talk loudly or get excited and yell (or in my two-year-old’s case, sing their heart out). I know there are a lot of business travelers on flights these days who expect to read, work or sleep the entire flight. But, fellow passengers, try to understand.
The planes my family travel on are public transportation just like buses or ferries or trains. I’m allowed to board them with my kids, and these flights are not designated silent zones. They are not even “adult-only” zones. I promise to do my best to get my kids to behave well during the flight. But I can’t promise you a silent flight, and you are not entitled to one.
If I see one of my kids kick your seat, I’ll get them to stop, but they might sneak one in anyway. My toddler sometimes gets excited and (like a normal child with exceptionally healthy lungs) screams out of joy, fear, excitement, whatever. If that happens, I’ll promptly remind her to use her “inside voice,” but she’s likely to forget at some point during the flight.
If my four-year-old drops a crayon or fruit snack and it somehow finds its way under your seat, let’s not treat it like a criminal offense, ok? If—heaven forbid—my toddler has ear pain because of the changes in air pressure, there might be some loud crying. They are kids, after all, and as hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to get our two-year-old to act 21.
The human family we are all a part of consists of people of all ages. We need to bear with one another a little more. Children seem to have been largely pushed out of many public places, but they have every right to be there. Please don’t treat my kids like they don’t belong on your flight. I know you have important places to go. So do we. My kids need to see their grandparents.
So dear fellow passenger: as long as you’re not hiring private jets and we find ourselves on the same flight, let’s make a deal. I’ll do my very best—I promise—to have my kids behave well on our shared flight. I’m prepared. I have snacks, activities, iPads, patience, and stamina. But my best efforts can’t 100 percent ensure total serenity.
You do your very best to welcome them on the flight and overlook minor outbursts in their otherwise-good behavior. Oh, and if you see me struggling under the weight of a toddler, diaper bag, purse, carry-on case, and stroller, feel free to be an everyday hero and offer to help with a smile. See you on our next flight.