I took my son on his first flight when he was eight months old. I didn’t sleep for about a month and a half before it. That’s how much anxiety it caused me. I’ve read the stories. I know people dread being on flights with children and also complain extensively about it online.
The flight went off without a hitch. As soon as the jet engines hummed louder for takeoff – he fell asleep. He slept nearly the whole flight. When he awoke, it was as if waking up in mid-air was the most normal thing in the world. He looked out the windows, saw the clouds, and was totally unimpressed.
I was amazed.
Of course, it didn’t stop me from freaking out about the next flight we scheduled. He was now a year and a half. He was walking. He was much more vocal. I just knew it was going to be a nightmare. I armed myself with toys, pacifiers, movies – anything and everything to prevent him from disturbing anyone around us. Again – he was perfect.
The guy sitting behind me, however, was not. He was very fidgety and tall, and kept kicking my seat – hard – the entire flight. He was also listening to some country music on his iPod. I’m pretty sure he was hard of hearing, because that damn thing was so loud, I could hear every twang. Holy crap it was annoying. Then there was the woman across the aisle that pulled an egg salad sandwich out of her purse mid-flight and slowly nibbled it for an hour and a half.
Two things hit me at that moment. Adults can be just as annoying as kids. Also, being child-free does not entitle you to a life of peace. It just doesn’t.
Sorry to call out the child-free sect on this, but they are usually the ones complaining about how horrible it is to have kids on flights. People with kids can generally empathize with a loud toddler or stressed out parent on a plane because they have been in their shoes. Also, they are probably used to the annoying hum of a child’s whine. It’s called self preservation – all parents have to get used to that. Or go insane. I prefer the former coping strategy, as do most parents I know.
But back to the people who think planes are not a place for children. You are wrong. You are also being a little ridiculous. To even imply that a family should be grounded until their kids are old enough to understand consequences or not spontaneously burst into tears – is crazy. Trust me, I’m with you on a lot of the other places that you think are inappropriate for kids. I promise I will never saunter up to the bar, grab the stool next to yours, hoist my child up onto my lap, and order a beer. I also won’t be the parent strolling my child into a Saturday matinee. Unless Yo Gabba Gabba makes a feature film – then all bets are off.
The difference with these scenarios is that air travel is necessary. It also sucks for everyone, unless you are rich enough to fly first class. And then it still kind of sucks. There is just a little more space for it to suck in. It’s not a Sandals all inclusive resort for adults — it’s a plane.
Now that my child is approaching the terrible twos, he may very well be difficult on his next flight. But I really don’t care. When people stop kicking my chair, farting, listening to loud music, eating egg salad sandwiches, high-fiving members of their bachelor party, and generally being clueless about how to behave in small spaces — I’ll start worrying about my child again. Until then, put your headphones on, have a few cocktails, sit back, and enjoy the ride.