All too often, E-hell is chockful of stories of terribly behaved children and their even more ill-mannered parents who pay them no mind while their special snowflakes wreak havoc on unsuspecting and innocent bystanders. This is the opposite of this, a story of traveling with 2 very young children who behaved well and providing them with ample supervision and adults behaving badly.
A few weeks ago, our small family (2 parents and 2 young children, aged 4.5 and 16 months) traveled across the country on a vacation. My DH and I put a lot of thought into planning the trip and our stay to maximize not only our children’s comfort and our own but to be of least nuisance possible to others around us. We booked a direct flight to avoid the hassle of boarding and deplaning multiple times with young kids, and we timed the flight around lunchtime on a weekday to maximize the chance of our kids taking a nice long nap mid-air (they typically nap right after lunch) and to minimize the annoyance factor for busy business travelers who typically fly early in the morning or other vacationers who typically travel on the weekend. We talked to our preschooler and our toddler about the trip, packed ample snacks, books and toys and even put together small packages of toys from the dollar store that they would be surprised with on the plane. A tablet was charged up and prepared for viewing cartoons, and all of our supplies packed according to FAA guidelines and those of our airline. We arrived at the airport early, checked our luggage curbside, went smoothly through the security lanes (it helps to be over prepared to not slow down what is already a cumbersome process), and arrived at our gates. The airline that we traveled (Southwest) does not assign seating; it assigns boarding groups. In the past, families with young children or those requiring additional assistance were allowed to pre-board; however, presently, you have to rely on your boarding position. Fortunately, by nature of arriving fairly early, we had one of the first boarding positions. When boarding was announced, we went to stand next to a sign for our numbered boarding position, and found multiple middle-aged and older adults, boarding passes in hand jostling for position in front of us. Several of their boarding passes were visible, and their boarding positions were after ours. However, they would still jostle to get ahead of us as a family. We did not say anything to them and waited for airline personnel to intervene, which they, thankfully, did. These travelers looked visibly annoyed to be told to get back in line behind a family. In fact, one gentleman, who looked to be in his 60’s or thereabouts, shoved between my DH who was pushing our young daughter in the stroller, and me who was walking hand-fast with our son, shoved my hand out of the way (I was holding out all of our boarding passes to the gate agent) and pushed his boarding pass in front of the gate agent. He made it to the gate 2 whole feet in front of us.
Once we were on board the plane and seated, another middle-aged gentleman in the row in front of us, turned to me and said, “Your kid had better not kick my seat!” He was still in the process of sitting down and stowing away his carry-on, but he just assumed that a preschooler was going to kick his seat. I said, “Don’t worry, we’ll keep our eye on him”, thinking that this would be the end of that conversation, when the gentleman said, “You better”. (Really, was that necessary?) My son turned to me and said, “Mommy, why is that man yelling at me?” I said, “You did not do anything wrong. He is making a bad choice. You don’t have to worry about why he made a bad one, as long as you make good choices”.
The kids did wonderfully well on the plane. They ate lunch and fell asleep soon after take-off (no kicking the seat, either). Our son was in the window seat, I held our daughter in the middle, and my DH was in the aisle seat. The kids napped for most of the trip, and when they woke up, they watched videos, and we read books, ate snacks and played with toys. No screaming, no running around hollering, no disturbing other passengers. Same story on the way back, when we were returning from vacation. Again, the middle-aged adults jostling for position to avoid being stuck boarding a plane behind the family (different adults this time). Then, nice long naps and good behavior. However, when the plane began to land, our daughter began to cry (she had been sipping water consistently at take-off and landing, but I guess, she was not sipping at that particular moment, so her ears popped). As soon as she started to cry (and I was holding, rocking and shushing her), a woman another row over said, “Shut that damn kid up”. Neither my DH nor I reacted (frankly, at that point, we had very low expectations for the adults around us). Fortunately, another passenger did. She told the woman, “The baby can’t help crying. You can help acting like a jerk”.
While our trip for the most part was lovely, and we enjoyed our family vacation, traveling left a bad taste in my DH’s mouth and in my mouth due to the outrageous entitlement from the Baby Boomer travelers we encountered along the way. We understand that people our parents’ age have long ago finished child-rearing and may have forgotten that babies cry on occasion, or that lugging kids, bags and a stroller across the terminal will make for slower moving than walking with a light carry-on, we went through the work of minding our children well and modeling appropriate behavior. It was disappointing to encounter entitled, spoiled and downright boorish behavior from the adults around us who we had expected to behave reasonably politely.
One final point, yes, there are rules of appropriate behavior that are important to teach to children and adhere to as adults. We abided by those rules. However, it seems that some adults not only believe that they are above or beyond those rules, but also that rules of politeness do not apply to children, or that children are not also, people who deserve respect, integrity and polite treatment. 1124-15