People Should Stop Expecting Flights To Be Silent And Childfree
Another day, another story of someone annoyed by a child on a plane. The latest comes from self-described “advice goddess,” Amy Alkon. Alkon took a morning flight that a loud child happened to be on. She then wrote an entire column complaining about it. No, the child wasn’t crying or having a tantrum; she was singing. This inspired Alkon to describe her as “underparented.” Oh, boy.
Here’s part of her Op-Ed for The New York Observer:
The cute blonde 3-year-old seated in front of me wasn’t a screamer. She was a talker — in a tone and volume appropriate for auditioning for the lead in “Annie.”
I figured she would quiet down after takeoff. She did not. And, sadly, even $300 worth of Bose technology was no match for this kid’s pipes. After about 20 sleep-free, “SUN’LL COME OUT TOMORROW!!” minutes into the flight, I leaned forward and whispered to the child’s mother, “Excuse me, could you please ask your little girl to be a little quieter?”
“No,” the woman said.
It’s amazing that people constantly need to be reminded of this fact, but no one is entitled to complete silence in a public space. It just doesn’t work that way. I already don’t believe a word this woman is saying, because I own a pair of those sound-canceling headphones. They work. No way could this woman hear the singing of a three-year-old if she had the volume turned up on her headphones enough. Alkon makes a living dispensing advice, one of her favorite topics being unruly children. She loves judging mothers for what she deems to be parenting fails.
This three-year-old girl wasn’t throwing a tantrum, she wasn’t kicking her seat, she wasn’t crying. She was singing. Big deal. If it was that loud and distracting, I’m sure the flight attendants would have asked the mother to do something about it. Alkon launches into a speech about how parents are unwilling to teach their children the importance of empathy:
“…too few parents seem to be preparing their children to be successful as human beings. An essential element of this is instilling empathy. The word derives from the German word einfühlung—“feeling into”—and it’s at the root of good manners. It involves caring about how another person is feeling and being motivated to help them feel better, which often requires compromising on your own needs and desires.”
Ha. Perfect. So Alkon doesn’t need to practice empathy for a mother traveling with a small child, but the mother has clearly failed because she has not taught her three-year-old an empathy that this 50-year-old woman refuses to practice herself. That makes sense. Alkon is pissed because she had to wake at 4am to make her flight, and expected to be able to nap. Maybe she should have gone to bed earlier.
I wouldn’t have found a three-year-old endlessly singing “cute” either. But I would understand the delicate balance of trying to stave off a mid-air tantrum. Singing is better than screaming; three-year-olds are not easy travel companions. The mom was probably just choosing to roll with the lesser evil. And yes, flights are stressful enough without some asshole commenting on your parenting.
I realize there are two distinctly different sides to this argument. I’m team “traveling mom,” simply because I don’t believe the sounds of a singing child could be that distracting through sound-canceling headphones. And I think it’s unbelievably hypocritical to preach the importance of empathy when you are not willing to practice it yourself.
(photo: Dundanim/ Shutterstock)