Post 5.8 - Motherf*ckin Kids on a Plane

Recently, a reviewer of timeshare properties talked about locations that specifically did not have provisions for "family activities", as he and his wife were childless. He was accused of hating children and being an inappropriate reviewer. Nothing could be more inaccurate, and it was a knee-jerk response.

I have a lot of friends with small children. All your kids are great, I'm sure. But there are some places that kids are not supposed to be. It's not about not liking kids; it's about not being obligated to safeguard your kids, tolerate their tantrums, or play peek-a-boo against my will. I can count on one hand the number of children I have encountered in my travels who behaved appropriately. I can count on one finger the number of parents who have made a point of apologizing to me when their children did not (and I thanked him very sincerely for making that effort, as I'd never encountered it before or since).

And it's everywhere. Restaurants. Hotels. Planes. Trains. Supermarkets.

Too often, I encounter parents who absolve themselves of any responsibility for controlling their child in a public situation, and clearly, of making any effort to teach their children proper behavior before going out. If the child is too young to be taught, then maybe it isn't a good idea to bring them along. There's a reason Tavern on the Green doesn't have a children's play area filled with colored balls and a slide.

And the bizarre thing is, if you try to say anything to a parent, you are seen as the person in the wrong.

As a waiter, I hated having children to serve. They might throw their food, dump their plates on the floor, or run around the restaurant, inviting injury for themselves as well as food servers carrying drinks or hot food. But hey, it's a night out for the parents, right? That trumps everything. And typically, they do nothing to control their child. NOTHING.

I was on an international flight from Europe returning to the US. The flight itself was about 10 hours. Once landing in the US, customs is always like a mile away from the arrival gate, then you wait in lines, then you get your bags after another long walk, then you go through a further screening to make sure you're not returning with drugs or a toxic plant or something. So I was on this particular flight with a 7-year-old blonde child who was seated six rows in front of me. She began screaming at about hour two or three of the 10 hour flight, and continued to do so for the remaining hours of the flight, the entire trip to customs, through the lines, through baggage claim, and through the final screening process.

Her mother did nothing. NOTHING.

And we all have stories like this one, for flights of much shorter duration and distance. This doesn't even address the adorable moppet who needs to burn off energy and is allowed to run up and down the aisle of the plane unattended, bothering any adult in an aisle seat who may just want to sleep, read, or watch the movie... which is what the child's parent is doing back in his or her seat.

And lest we forget the supermarket with its aisles ready-made for races, games of hiding behind displays, and games of tag. Meanwhile, the parent absently shops and ignores what the kids are doing.

It is neither practical nor possible to ban children from most of these places. And sequestering such unruly brats would not have been helpful in the screaming-child-on-a-plane scenario -- you don't get away from it any more than you would from smokers. But to me, it is common sense that children should be taught how to behave before being put into these situations.

I was first on a plane when I was 5. My brother had just turned 3, and we were on our way to Florida for my aunt's wedding with our mother. I was not permitted to run all over the plane, and somehow, we managed to handle the three hour flight.

I remember reading a story in recent years about a store cashier who would not checkout a customer until she got her child under control. I looked for the link and couldn't find it - if I do, I'll update this post accordingly. But this cashier, who finally said "enough is enough" was treated as the villain, and as the situation being none of her business.

But parents, when you don't control your children, you make it everybody's business -- and I am not paying for my plane ticket, my hotel room, my train fare, my groceries, or my dinner out in order to meet your child and have him or her infringe on my personal comfort and become the topic of my next blog post.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. I have children and I agree with what you wrote. I was about 4 when I took my first plane ride to Disney World and my parents would have killed me on the spot with witnesses if I had acted up. My children, while far from being perfect angels, do know better than to misbehave and act like monsters. On our recent trip to Disney, my son (9 at that time) was quite content to play his DS, read and do some school work for the flight while his sister and I played paper dolls, colored, watched some cartoons on his old Gameboy and napped. The only time my daughter got up was for a bathroom break and she was escorted by my husband. I packed appropriate snacks and new small toys to keep them amused for the flight. My children were complimented on their manners by the flight crew as well as by the wait staff at the various restaurants we ate at. As long as your children know what the consequences for misbehaving are (for my kids it is loss of privileges, loss of electronic games, etc.), they will behave appropriately.

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  2. I remember an article in the news a few years ago where some guy slipped a Xanax in a little kids juice because the kid was annoying him on the plane.

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