I have learned I have to stop reading the comments on articles or blog posts about families traveling. Inevitably there are comments that run the gamut of ‘suggestions’ to families who are flying but almost always include the fact that they think babies, toddlers and kids shouldn’t fly, period. And it irritates me. I have complained about this for years, and after a particularly long trip back from Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few years ago, with just me and my son, I wrote an impassioned letter to fellow fliers in the world on my personal blog. After reading a comment in the same vein as above on this piece (which is a discussion in itself) I think it is a good time to repost my letter. Sometimes traveling with kids is difficult. Sometimes it makes you weary. And sometimes you just want a little compassion from those around you.
Hi! Remember me? The frazzled mom with a toddler hanging off my front, a backpack carrier on my back, and a stroller full of bags in front of me? No? Well my face isn’t actually important. In fact, substitute backpack carrier with baby bag and stroller with car seat and I could be any of thousands of parents who travel with their kids by air. You know us. The ones you grimace at and silently plead to whichever God you believe in that we don’t, gasp, have seats next to you. The ones who you seldom, if ever, offer to help, as you are all cosily tucked into your seat and all you really care about is that my son doesn’t spit up on you, shriek too loudly or that you don’t get hit with one of our many, many items that we are forced to carry on board. I realize you probably wonder why we have so many things? Well for that I blame you, since us parents feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep our children occupied and quiet so as not to disturb you, and if that means bags of snacks, toys and books, then so be it.
See, what baffles me is that you can sit and watch and even discuss amongst your friends how you can’t believe how much stuff I have, and you wonder how I do it. How do I know you do this? Well besides the fact that you aren’t always quiet, well, as a mom I now have eyes in the back of my head and can see you doing it. I may have a toddler but that doesn’t make me blind, deaf or dumb. I see you standing up in the Gate and moving to another seat, as far away from little toddler hands as you can go. I see you looking me up and down and shaking your head out of disbelief. I see it. We all see it. What you don’t see is that it makes you look like a first class jerk.
But here’s the thing. Most of you probably have kids. Or grandkids. Or nieces and nephews. But even if you don’t, well, for Gods sake, you were a child once too. And while your family may not have traveled by air with you, times, well, they are a changing. We travel. We have family that live in another country. We want to see the world. We want to expose our child to the world and teach him not to be such a stick in the mud so that when he grows up he won’t think that all kids are loud and germy and dirty. And guess what? Kids over 2 don’t fly for free. And parents never fly for free. So while you sit and enjoy your cocktail remember that we too have paid our own way and have just as much right to be sitting next to you, in Coach or First Class.
Enjoy your flight, and we will talk when we land, because you know what? You will be the ones saying to me how good my son was on the plane, how you didn’t hear him at all, and what a good traveler he is. I will be standing there, trying to hoist him up in his ergo, while subsequently grabbing 1,657 cars from the ground and zipping up the car seat. Quite frankly I don’t need your praise. I needed your understanding about, oh, 3 hours ago. Once we land I really don’t care.
And to the select few who sympathize, who ask if they can help, who smile and say ‘I know, I have kids’, well, Bless you. Bless you. Bless you. Cause you have no idea how simply offering to help or letting me know I am not alone can change my mood.
Finally, at the end of this rant, let’s all remember that all those faceless parents you see flying most definitely have way more apprehension about their flight than you do about sitting next to them. So put on your Bose headphones, sip your wine, and dodge the Cheerios. Because, at least for this family, we are going to continue to fly, and I refuse to be bullied into feeling bad about it anymore.