Babies on a plane

Posted at 3:57 PM Nov 02, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

Last year, I flew from Dallas to London--11 hours or so--sitting an aisle away from a baby that cried for the entire flight. I exaggerate you not. I mean this kid did not stop crying. Seriously. The whole time. Did. Not. Stop. Crying. For. Eleven Hours. How do I know? Because I spent the entire flight not sleeping thanks to the heinous yowling. (I also couldn't hear the in-flight films because of this kid's vocalizations. It was that bad. I'm surprised there wasn't a riot. Honestly.) Its mother dealt with the kid the entire time (Dad was, amazingly, asleep most of the time--not a dick move at all) by jiggling it and walking or whatever it is you do to babies to soothe them that is not putting them under general anesthesia or setting them out on the wing.

So, it's too bad I was on American instead of Southwest, which is apparently now happy to chuck screaming babies and accompanying parents off planes (while they're still on the ground). Mom Pamela Root and her 2-year-old were kicked off the plane before takeoff because they kid wouldn't quit yelling "Go, plane, go!" and "I want Daddy!" Root insisted her kid would quiet down after takeoff, but the flight crew did not take her word for it. And they shouldn't have.

Broadsheet's Kate Harding takes on the issue and is surprisingly punch-pulling, hemming and hawing about who was in the wrong, wondering about bad parents and bad childless people and good versions of same. I will do no such hemming: by all means, kick a screaming baby off the plane or, better yet, don't let them on in the first place.
Writes Harding:

So, fellow childless people, please try to remember that the kid crying behind you on a plane might be terrified or in pain, and his parents are probably trying really hard to soothe him. And parents, please try to remember that those of us who complain about crappy parenting we've witnessed are probably not talking about people like you -- unless you actually are one of the ones who would completely ignore your kid throwing herself into a display case or kicking a fellow passenger's seat for two hours.
In speculating about crappy parenting, Harding illustrates why it's completely pointless to do so: a common trait in children is that that they don't shut up if they are terrified or in pain. Or are alive. And therefore they do not belong on airplanes. It's not the parents' fault. It's not even the kids' fault. Blame it on nature if you have to. Even the best parents can't control their kids all the time. Which means children have no business being crammed into an enclosed space from which others cannot escape.

I've heard folks propose a family section on airplanes, and I am totally behind this idea. That way, parents could pool resources--maybe you're out of milk, don't have a coloring book, whatever--and avoid confrontations with adult passengers who value their sanity.


lauren said:

i can't believe no one has said it yet...i'm tired of all these mother f'n babies on this mother f'n plane!

Adam Drew said:

I was on a plane from Frankfurt to Calgary about 10 hours if you go direct) and it was the same thing: this little kid screaming "MAMA!" every few minutes and then crying whenever dad held her, and then when she was passed over to mother, snuffling and making this awful snorting sound. 10 hours of utter insanity, and only the ruthless (yet friendly) efficiency of the Lufthansa flight crew made it at all bearable.

Surprised by your Gall said:

So, let me get this right.

You're saying that women that choose to have children, as is their right to decide to do with their body, should be segregated from the rest of adult society and their movements restricted, because it's an inconvenience for you?

Wow... just wow. Way to fight for the rights of all women there...

Andrea said:

Gall -

I didn't say that only mothers and babies should be put in the family section. I say that anyone traveling with babies (men, dinosaurs, robots) should be put in the family section. It has nothing to do with the rights of "women." It has everything to do with ensuring the general comfort of everyone.

Andrea said:

And moreover, if you're suggesting that children and related issues are solely women's issues, I would suggest that you have some gall to look at, yourself.

theholyfx said:

Because i am sure you were a model child when you were growing up and never cried out in public once...

Red said:

I think this idea should be extended to movie theaters ("family" showings and over, say, 13 showings) and amusement parks. Can you imagine how nice it would be to visit Disneyland or Six Flags and not have to deal with strollers? Heaven.

Nicki E. said:

I totally agree with Andrea. I think there should definitely be a families-only section (for not only flights, but movie theaters and amusement parks like Red suggests, too.) The same goes for restaurants. I don't understand why people would bring babies anywhere, actually, since the babies will never remember what's going on. If you want to show off your baby, send pictures. Then hire a baby-sitter when you go out in public.

enlightened_male said:

I wish there was a family section on flights also... my wife and I had to fly to attend my dad's funeral with one of our children (who has special needs, autism and Down Syndrome- at the time, he was two years old) and even though we both did all we could to soothe him (talk to him, hold him, cradle him, entertain him, give him his bottle, pacifier etc), he cried loudly the entire flight. Everyone around us gave us dirty looks, and all I could do was smile apologetically and whisper "I'm sorry" to those that I see for four hours. We felt terrible for putting everyone in such an uncomfortable situation, and we just could not get him to rest or sleep. Whne the plane landed, we waited in our seats to not get in anyone's way as they left the plane, and just about everyone glared at us.

I can totally see how our situation would anger those who do not have to travel with children.

Adri said:

I think I would like to see annoying men and women kicked out of family restaurants if they use non child-friendly language. I would also like to see all single people tossed to the back of the line while waiting to get into movies or restaurants so as to let the kids in before they become irritating. And then there's the little matter of singles who have the nerve to take up seating at TABLES in restaurants. Get thee to a bar, and keep your solitary ass PLANTED there.
This smug attitude that families should be separated from the rest of society so as to not inconvenience the rest of you is really starting to grate on my last nerve. If I have to tolerate the drunken stupidity of people in their 30s and 40s who don't have families to go home to and thusly think that they can relive their 20s forEVER, then you can put up with a baby crying or being annoying. Because you were that baby once and some day, long off in the not so distant future, that baby is going to be grown up and taking your temperature in the emergency room, or cleaning your bedpan, or dealing with your self-indulgent complaints.
Oh, and to the special folk who think that DISNEYLAND and other amusement parks should be segregated: are you out of your bloody minds? Amusement parks are geared towards families and children; perhaps you guys should just open your own and keep families out, and we will keep y'all out of regular parks.
Now, in terms of nice restaurants and movie theatres: I completely agree that unless they are geared towards families there is no reason why a baby or child should make everyone else miserable. I have never in my life taken a baby or small child to a theatre or adult restaurant and never intend to.

Mr. Gall said:


No, I was not projecting that babies were solely women's issues, but as I live in the real world, one has to admit that most babies are with women, weather single or married. The instances of single fathers compared to the other two in this country are almost an outlier number.

The fact that you assumed I was being sexist in dealing with factual data says a lot here.

The real world dos not guarantee any level of comfort. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. To suggest that you segregate a group because they make you uncomfortable is wrong, regardless of the reasons.

Replace the word 'family' in your family section argument with say, black, gay, Islam, Jew, Latino, etc and see how far you get.

But of course, these days you can't hate anyone except white families and Christians...

Andrea said:

Gall -

If you're implying that gays, Jews, black folks or any other group besides children is interchangeable with the actual group that is children, you're doing most everyone a disservice. I've said specifically why kids and families would benefit from a family section--and those reasons don't and couldn't possibly apply to any other group of people. If you think they do, again, that's your issue.


BorgQueen said:

When I was a young'n, if my family and I were in a public place (restaurant, mall, airplane, etc), I knew I damn well better behave or there would be consequences. Nowadays, everyone wants to coddle their kid and let him or her run wild and free because, "oh my baby is special and since I chose to have an offspring I MUST be given special privileges above everyone else." No, not everyone is like this but work in a retail environment for oh, maybe a week and it will change your thinking.

If I acted up as a child, I would be given a stern talking to, along with escalating consequences depending on the situation. Parents are afraid to punish their children now, thinking it will somehow "stunt" them. This is part of the problem with children causing a disturbance. No I don't think children should, in all cases, be seen and not heard but parents should teach their kids situation-appropriate behavior. Your kids want to run and scream and act crazy? Great! Take them to a park and let them loose! An enclosed space like an airplane is not the place to be acting like a fucking brat. I am all for family sections in planes; it will allow parents to interact with other parents and children to interact with other children, provided you teach your kid some manners. Friendly, cooperative human interaction can alleviate alot of stress (for parents and non-parents alike) and we all know how stressful flying can be. I have had the screaming monster kicking my seat on flights before; I have also been on flights where I didn't even realize a kid was behind me until they were standing in the aisle during exit. It can be done.

Bottom line people need to teach their kids how to act in different situations and we will all be a lot happier and nicer to one another.

e.b. said:

Oh hey guess what I never did cry in public as a child. My siblings and I were quiet, well behaved children and my parents did not got out to restaurants, movies, or on planes while we were babies...and there were FIVE of us. If we threatened to get rowdy one of them would scoop us up and take us to the car immediately. They would stay in the car with us until we got quiet again. My parents knew that was a sacrifice they made when they had children.

The point of a family section on a plane is that flying is sometimes not an option and taking kids out to the car is not an option on a plane. Flying is expensive and often stressful, sitting across a crying child (11 hours people come on that's awful regardless) makes it all that much worse. Maybe the planes could have a "crying room" type section. Parents could get up and move to that area of their kids were screaming. Maybe there could be seat with seat belts there in case of turbulence or non-stop crying.

The idea that kids cannot behave in public is as ridiculous as expecting a childfree public space.

Mishi said:

I'm all for a family section on flights, it would make flying a lot easier. I have two young children, my eldest has been on a plane and behaved perfectly. We took toys, snacks and drinks for her, as well as special earplugs so that her ears wouldn't hurt. Only the earplugs were needed as she slept the whole flight. It was just 3 hours though...
My kids behave well in public because they have been taught to. The times when I don't think they'll behave or when we're going out to a place that isn't child-friendly, they get babysat. They're not perfect, but we try to be considerate.

SJ said:

I'll go one step further and say that any one under 3 shouldn't be on a plane unless it's a medical emergency. How about driving people?

enlightened_male said:

sj- there were no roads to drive on from New York to Rome, Italy, in my case.

The whole world doesn't live in the continental USA, you know.

Happily-Childless said:

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! And please someone for the sake of mercy extend that family section idea to RESTAURANTS so that I can eat in peace without some brat screaming in my ear. And someone please explain why they are in grocery stores at all? I agree with Andrea - babies are not women's issues. The father, mother, sister, robot, etc, should go with them. When I was a kid, if I was loud or misbehaved, my mother yanked me out of the (fill in the blank: restaurant, store, etc.) faster than you can blink. These people that let their kids run rampantly in public places should be fined.

DaisyDeadhead said:

Ever heard of karma? You cried for 11 hours straight once. And now, you got it back.

It's very simple really. :)

e.b.--yes, as a baby, you cried, or you'd be dead, since your mama would not know when you were in distress otherwise.

crappy parenting

Is lack of empathy or patience a result of crappy parenting, too?

Take headphones next time, they are helpful in these situations. (Is lack of foresight or planning-abilities a result of crappy parenting?)

CorrinneL said:

You know what is funny to me? Some parents are getting incredibly offended while others agree that a "family" or "crying" section would be great. I don't know why it is so offensive to have people with small children in a seperate place. Babies will cry. It isn't fair for others to listen to it for hours on end. And Daisydeadhead- headphones do not really work. I was in a mini van once with a friend and a child and the child screamed the whole 2 hour ride, my headphones did not help.

A lot of the problem ( and I am NOT saying EVERYONE is this way, there are many great parents out there) is that a lot of parents feel entitled I think. I see so many people with kids who scream and cry and run around and push... they do nothing except scream back at them or some ignore them. Ignore them when you are at home. I am trying to do my job and it is hard to talk to my customers when there is a brat screaming, and I have a headache.

A toddler once punched my coworker in the stomach TWICE. What did the parents do? Laugh. Yeah... hilarious.

And, I was an obedient child. I knew if I acted up (at home or in public) that I would be in deep. I agree with others who are saying parents don't punish enough, worrying that it will harm their child. I am a Psychology major and all of my child psychology books mention nothing of this...

And whoever insulted people in their forties with no kids, claiming they want to relive their 20's forever because they don't have kids? shove it. Plenty of people don't want kids, and not because they are immature. It is better to not have kids if you don't want them than it is to have them anyway and be a poor parent. Sorry for the rant. I have just seen so many parents have no respect for other people in public.

Shannon said:

My mom likes to tell a story about when she and my dad took my brother and myself to a nicer restaurant for dinner. My brother and I were around 4 and 3 at the time. As soon as we sat down there was this older couple at the next table with very disgusted looks on their faces, thinking that they would now be forced to sit through their nice evening out listening to some loud, annoying children run around the place. My brother and I however, were well behaved. As that couple was leaving after their meal, they felt obligated to tell/praise my parents on how well behaved we were. They had even thought of asking to switch tables when we first arrived. I guess the point of this story is that sometimes kids are in fact well behaved, and banning kids outright from things is just silly, especially things which are a necessity.

However, I also know that kids are also loud obnoxious brats sometimes. Its the nature of being kids. And babies cry, its what they do. I don't have any kids myself, but having baby-sat all 5 of my younger cousins at the same time during family vacations, I have some idea of how frustrating it is at times. So yeah, if airlines can find a way to make a family-zone, or even just a small "crying baby" zone, that'd be great, but to outright exclude small children/babies just isn't right.

And parents also need to use their judgment when taking their kids places. If a kid is cranky and whiny and you were planning on going to a nicer dinner that evening, you might need to rethink your plans. But at the same time, other people need to realize that you just can't change your plans. They need to buy groceries, fly across country, run errands and just cannot leave the kids at home. A little understanding on all parts would be great.

e.b. said:

Daisy - I said I never cried in public as a child. My parents did not go out to restaurants, movies, or loud public places with us while we were babies. They took turns going to the grocery store and whatnot so they didn't have to take a new baby (and all the things required for a new baby) in public. Also she said she was trying to listen to the in flight movie which means she had headphones. Have you ever been near a crying child? Headphones don't cut it.

Happily-Childless - The grocery store?! You've got to be kidding me. Single parents, both parents work, last minute grocery trips. There are plenty of reason for kids to be in grocery stores. It is not always possible to keep kids at home.

SJ said:

To the apparently enlightened male I'm not from the US so don't assume so. I don't see why babies under 3 need to travel overseas. If they have family there then the family should travel to them or wait till they are older. When I buy my plane ticket I'm not purchasing a flight to endure loud obnoxious drunks nor I am buying a ticket to endure loud children. They are in the same category of annoyance.

Elena Perez said:

Making accommodations for families in restaurants, theaters, plans, etc., would be great. Segregating families would not. What happens when the "family" section fills up or sells out?

Expecting people who choose to be parents to give up on interacting in the public sphere unless they have an extra $10-20/hour to shell out for a babysitter is ludicrous.

Who says the world needs to be designed around the preferences of the childless adults, anyway? Sounds to me like the same voice that tells every marginalized group to stop annoying those with power:

enlightened_male said:

SJ said:

To the apparently enlightened male I'm not from the US so don't assume so. I don't see why babies under 3 need to travel overseas. If they have family there then the family should travel to them or wait till they are older.

Normally I would agree that this is not the best choice, unfortunately we were attending a funeral service for my parents and two sisters who passed away in a train accident. We had no one to leave the children with for an extended period of time, having no other family or close friends we could turn to.

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