If you’ve ever boarded a plane with your children, you’ll know that feeling of dread that walks on with you. The sweaty anticipation that your baby might start crying on take off and not stop until touch down. In fact, it’s now a thing for parents to hand out goody bags to fellow passengers as a sort of pre-emptive strike. But should we be apologising for kids being kids, bribing others to forgive them?
Mum and writer Madeleine Somerville says no. She says parents shouldn’t feel the need to placate other passengers for the mere presence of their children. Basically, she says parents shouldn’t feel any shame in their plane game.
The goody bags are a cute idea in themselves, with adorable notes apologising in case the children get frightened or cry during the flight – and of course, they contain lollies as a sweetener.
“But as dozens of other parents have followed suit and the practice of handing out goodie bags in order to preemptively apologise for the inconvenience of a child crying has gained in popularity and become a thing, it’s also become unsettling,” says Madeleine. “No parent should feel it necessary to bribe others to accept the presence of their children in public spaces.”
That’s because there’s something deeper at play here. It’s not just the concept of your child upsetting fellow passengers, it’s the notion that you will be judged for this behaviour.
“When we choose to emerge into the public realm we agree to encounter all manner of people we wouldn’t necessarily choose to spend time with otherwise. And on the scale of undesirable public behaviours, is a baby crying really so terrible? For the deliberately childfree, a crying baby can serve as an affirmation of your life choices,” says Madeleine.
"As I was boarding a flight from EWR to Orlando today, I noticed most people pass up two rows of seats about half way…
She says parenthood is full of moments that will try your patience, make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable – and being on a plane with a crying child is just one of them.
“A few months ago in the changing room of our local pool, my three-year-old daughter asked in her unnaturally loud toddler voice why “that lady has so much hair on her bagina”. I tried to answer her quietly and she didn’t hear me so she repeated herself. Louder this time. While pointing. Every parent has these stories. Feeling embarrassed at child’s behaviour is a basic component of parenting. Children are wildly imaginative, endlessly entertaining and capable of the purest love I’ve ever known, but any parent will tell you that they are also thoroughly unsocialised and mostly uncivilised.”
Madeleine continues that it’s our job as parents to instil the values we hold high into our children, and it’s their job to learn – but it all takes time.
“Parents can’t, and shouldn’t need to, go around handing treat bags to anyone their child might possibly offend with their age-appropriate behaviour. We simply have to get on with the business of parenting: correct the behaviour when you can, remove your misbehaving child when possible, apologise sincerely when appropriate, and trust that your efforts will result in a child who grows up to be a fully functioning member of society, capable of exhibiting kindness, consideration and empathy.”
What do you think, Babyologists? Should we be apologising in advance for the possibility our children will misbehave, or act inappropriately?
Oh, and if you’re about to embark on a flight with your offspring and are now feeling even more nervous, take a look our tips for plane travel with kids.
(via The Guardian)