We’ve all seen the feel-good posts about parents handing out goodie bags on crowded planes while traveling with their little ones.
It’s a genuinely kind gesture. They’re acknowledging that babies can be noisy and want to show their fellow passengers a bit of kindness.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with passing out a treat.
However, as this trend has gone viral, it can feel as if we owe our fellow passengers an apology that our young children are also part of society.
Are our children less deserving of travel simply because they act age appropriately?
One mother says absolutely not.
‘You Don't Owe Strangers Candy For Sitting Next To Your Babies’
Cassie Murdoch took to Mashable to share her strong feelings on the matter saying:
“The thing about these goody bags that has rubbed many parents the wrong way from the start is that they send the message we should feel bad for having babies who act like babies. We shouldn’t.”
She acknowledges that crying on a plane can be irritating, however, babies aren’t the only ‘inconvenience’ you might find while flying.
She goes on to say, “If my child screams, it may annoy you. But there are a million ways adults can be equally annoying — and they should know better. I once spent a flight trapped next to a man who packed and consumed not one but three intensely smelly tuna sandwiches during the course of the trip. I did not receive a single goody bag for my suffering.”
I completely agree with her sentiments and here’s why:
Babies Are Naturally Part Of Society
For some reason, it can feel as if western society has readopted the, ‘children should be seen and not heard’ culture. Sure, we’re not as rigid as some previous generations when it comes to child-rearing, but somehow we seem to have little grace for babies acting like babies.
As cliché as it sounds, children really are our future. They have an equal right to be involved in society, even an equal right to be on a plane without being seen as little more than an inconvenience.
As a postnatal doula, I quite frequently have clients that have never been around an infant. Ever. Their only impression of an infant is what they’ve seen on TV or heard in a book. Now this doesn’t mean they won’t rock parenthood, but it can mean a much rockier start.
What if we all entered parenthood with realistic expectations? What if we didn’t feel guilt and stress every time our baby cried outside the house? I can’t speak for mothers everywhere, but I would have had a lot less unnecessary stress if I had realised sooner that babies simply cry sometimes and I needn’t feel guilty about it.
Parents Deserve Respect Too
A parent on a flight to visit family cross country deserves just as much respect as the CEO in first class. Your career or parental status doesn’t define you as more or less deserving of general respect and common courtesy.
I can assure you, any parent that has flown has taken every possible measure to ensure their baby is as calm as possible.
Parents shouldn’t have to feel like they’re walking on eggshells every time they take their baby out. They shouldn’t have to worry about their baby acting developmentally appropriate because someone might find it irritating.
The reality is, babies exist. Our society would not be made better by expecting parents to keep their babies home and never travel until their child can act like an adult. How do we expect children to act socially appropriate if they’re never given the opportunity to learn?
Parents shouldn’t be given sighs or stares because their baby acts like a baby.
Not All Travel Is Luxury
In the early glory days of air travel, one expected lush seats, superior and well-staffed service, and a delicious hot meal. Sure, that is still the norm for some, should they have the means to pay for it.
However, the reality is, air travel isn’t pure luxury these days. It’s evolved into an economical form of travel. It keeps cross country families together. It aids in our global economy, including international employees’ families. It helps military families as they spend years away from their extended relatives.
And even if you have 6 month old twins, you’re no less deserving of that Hawaiian vacation.
As Murdoch realistically put it, “At this late date, we all know the pains of travels — tiny seats, no frills, selfish idiots and, yes, screaming babies. If you choose to fly without noise cancelling headphones, you've earned whatever aural suffering comes your way.”
The parents with a crying baby paid just as much for their ticket as you, as did the guy with the tuna sandwich, and the person in row 3 with the questionable cough.
We Can All Use More Compassion
For most of us, the days of a collective village are gone. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t all help and care about one another, even strangers on a plane. A little human compassion goes a long way. And our society is made better by small acts of kindness and understanding.
A parent didn’t choose to be on your plane just to annoy you. Murdoch ends her viral post with words that contain so much truth: “Let's all just be as kind as we can and remember that no matter how annoying an excited toddler is to you, he or she is almost certainly 150% more irritating to his or her parents. If you want to become a real viral hero, buy that parent a drink and offer to hold their baby while they drink it.”
And perhaps the reason that toddler feels irritating to the parents, is they’re carrying that extra stress of worrying about how others feel about their child. Our society is making parenting far harder than it needs to be. Be a person that makes it just a bit easier, not a person contributing to making everyday life as a parent a never-ending battle with stress.