Along for the ride

It doesn't take much for a parent to get thrown off an airplane these days. Just recently, an Atlanta mom and tot got booted from an Oklahoma bound flight because her three-year-old son insisted on repeating "Bye-bye plane!" before take off. He wasn’t having a meltdown or anything, he just wouldn’t stop talking. Is it her fault the kid is precocious? You’d think there’d be a warning on the
Brainy Baby DVDs.

Whatever the case, if that's how airlines roll (fly?) these days, I’m definitely in trouble. Each of my kids has the gift of gab and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. My oldest came out of the womb reciting Langston Hughes poetry. Her younger siblings, while currently only fluent in toddlerspeak (or pigeon English, Farsi or Mandarin, depending on the day) are quickly working their way up the precocious scale as well. I’ll admit it’s (mostly) adorable, but I can totally see how someone sitting near us on a plane might be tempted to reach for their stun gun.

My kids aren’t the only little ones that won’t stop talking, Manhattan’s got thousands just like them (they’re thick on the Upper West Side but you really can find them all over). So maybe it's time that airlines try and make flights more kid friendly (not banning sippy cups might be a start ) and begin thinking of ways to keep every passenger — including parents — sane.

Instead of glaring at children while the plane taxis before takeoff, flight attendants could give out crayons. And would it kill them to provide some stickers? At the very least, the latest B-movie — that no one under seventy is interested in seeing anyway — could be replaced by pixar hits that both parents and their offspring can enjoy (there’s only so much Sandra Bullock one can take).

In my mythical friendly skies, there'd be a "kiddie class"— sectioned off by a curtain (that’s preferably sound proof). Nursing moms could feed without wondering if Barbara Walters is going to lean over and say something she could have saved for The View. Chatty toddlers could chat, fussy babies could fuss and whiny children whine while we enjoy some chardonnay. All moms would get complimentary neck and shoulder massages as the kids watch Dan Zanes videos. And let’s not forget the free juice boxes.

But alas, genteel breeders, the entire world does not cater to the needs of the sophisticated, young family . We should probably just shut up and be thankful for Baby Loves Disco and Ikea. Of course we could complain, but it would be pointless (and besides, if everything was designed for the 21st century family…what would be left to complain about?). By the time the airlines give us a break, our kids will be way past the pull-up stage, anyway. At that point, we’ll be back to our old jet-setting ways, skipping off to the south of France while the tweens are off at summer camp.

Yeah, as it turns out there’s not only life before the kids, but after them, too. Unfortunately, we can’t get there with frequent flier miles…but I’ve heard it’s worth the trip.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column is called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.


Teendoc said...

Girl, please don't get me started on this topic. As a business traveler, I immediately begin the prayer of "don't let them sit near me" whenever I see a family with children. Especially since so many parents are so laissez-faire in their parenting styles. The kid is kicking the seat in front of them? So what. My god, it is awful.

What I've proposed a million times is a kid-free airline that caters to the business traveler. Something like the quiet car on Amtrak's Acela. No howling, no whining. No kicking and screaming. You should see how people fight to get into the quiet car. We know it is the only place we can get rest or get work done in peace.

The planes are barely cleaned as it is these days. Generally we passengers are asked to check the pockets and give trash to the attendant. Can you imagine what it would look like if some wild children went loco with stickers, crayons and animal crackers? I don't even want to think about it.

And yes, I know that as a parent now myself I seem to be talking out the other side of my face. But let me tell you, during next month's trip to Hawaii with Zizi, we will use a very tried and true remedy for the 10 hour flight: Benadryl. :-)

Pebbles Flintstone said...

This didn't rise to the level of the usual horror show, and sadly I think the airline and the flight attendant will attempt to use the usual child-out-of-control scenario to escape blame for what they did.

Aly Cat 121 said...

Well dayum I'm glad I didn't read any of this before my family and I relocated via airplane from Cali to Washington. The girls had no problems taking their Elmo sippy cups past the security check points, and 2 airline attendants (one male and one female) were absolutely wonderful. Maybe because they both confided in me that they have 4 children apiece. I almost felt bad for the other passengers because the one lady was overly attentive to me and the babies (maybe because I was like 8 months pregnant too).

I think all that super security stuff really depends on each individual. Some folks really enjoy their job and it shows. And other mo'fos just get off on their "perceived" power/control over another human. May ol' girl was jealous cuz her azz don't have any children. (that does happen you know)

Shelli said...

I think the idea of a "kiddie class" is BRILLIANT!

Malka LOVES flying, we would NEVER EVER EVER consider giving her drugs to "quiet her down," and even though we have a firm parenting hand, toddlers are, well, toddlers. Each time we board a plane, we apologize in advance to the folks around us.

We do our best to keep her quiet, entertained, and happy, but there's never a guarantee.

We usually end up in our own "kiddie zone" anyway- the back of the plane with the other parents.

(I sure hope that teendoc was kidding - either that, or she's never traveled with a kid before!) ;)

Liz said...

On my flight from Minneapolis yesterday, there was a woman who volunteered to walk a young toddler up and down the aisle. The mom she was sitting across from was traveling with the toddler and an infant, and clearly needed someone to give her a hand. It was one of the nicest things ever to see someone not complaining about a child being chatty, but instead, helping entertain.

I wish airlines would have a reduced fare for kids. If they did, I'd definitely take mine on more trips.

Christopher Chambers said...

Perhaps that is the key. Air travel when my old ass was a child was a luxury, and you dressed up and behaved. As expensive as it is now, it's degenerated to a Trailways with wings, with all the nasty hassles and drama you usually saw on the bus from Tupelo to Chicago hahaha. I blame ourselves and our whack culture, but the airlines too. When to stress already stressed folks, sh*t happens. They already have the fare in their pockets...

Teendoc said...

Shelli: not kidding at all. As an experienced pediatrician, I've prescribed benadryl for parents flying with small children for long distances. It is approved for children and does the trick, just as it does for freaked out adults. You just have to make sure that they don't have the opposite reaction and get more hyper. You make it sound like I was giving kids seconal or something!

I plan to give my daughter Benadryl on her trips to Hawaii from the east coast and to China. Sleep is not a pathological state for a child. :-)

And yes, I would, as a parent and frequent business traveler truly enjoy a kid-free airline! Absolutely!

When there is a toddler around me and I have to get work done (ergo the business trip), I ask to be reseated, especially if the parent just repeats the "kids will be kids" mantra while the kid kicks the hell out of my seat.

Anonymous said...

Why should it be the job of the flight attendant to keep your child entertained? They have a few hundred other people on the airplane to look after, and ensure make it to their final destination in one piece.

There is a difference when a parent actually parents their children and when they merely use DVDs and McDonald's to do the job.

Kids will be kids, and will cry and laugh, scream and giggle and be kids, but there comes a point where you have to take responsibility for the actions of your children. I support anyone who makes the choice to have children. Those who do, should also respect the choices of those of us who have chosen not to be parents, and not assume that we will pick up your pieces because you are TOO overwhelmed as a parent.