Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kids on Planes

So, I came across an online discussion today about how people feel about babies on planes.  Of course you have two camps of people in this issue.  You have those who think everyone should suck it up and deal with their screeching monster-spawn and those who think children should be locked in a closet until they are 25 and out of college.  Well, that's what they are calling each other anyway.  It's really a little more gray than that.  But only a little.

I am a parent, so clearly I am going to say that it's unreasonable to ask families to create their own private airline for families (some people seriously suggested this on the thread I read) or to have their own section of the plane (putting kids in groups is just going to make them louder-trust anyone who has spent 5 minutes in a kindergarten classroom). It's also not reasonable for families to never fly at all.  That said, I fly alone more often than with my family.  Especially since my sister and I established twice a year birthday weekends together.  I totally understand how annoying other people's kids can be on a plane.  I would also be willing to bet that in any public situation on the planet, I'm far more annoyed by my own kids than you are when they misbehave, get loud or break dance in the middle of a plane.

Here's the problem with this whole stupid debate about babies and kids on planes, though.  Nobody is thinking about anyone else.  Everyone is concerned only with how kids being on planes or not being on planes affects them.  What ever happened to common courtesy and consideration of the people around us? Yes, parents should try (and I say try because sometimes, it really is just impossible) to keep their children calm, collected and within acceptable decibel levels in public, but the public should understand that they were children once as well and kids are kids, no matter how much anyone wishes them to be tiny, boring little adults.

Here is where I share a narrative about a flight I took a year ago to go visit my baby sister in Orlando for my birthday.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd gone away without the family.  As a stay at home mom, the opportunities to be a grown up are often few and far between.  This was going to be a whole entire weekend with my sister!  Just us grown up girls out on the town!  As I sat in my seat, waiting for the other passengers to take their places, I sighed with relief when a single rider, a woman just a few years older than me, sat down in the seat next to me.  This would be a quiet flight and I was going to get plenty of knitting done while I listened to my audiobook. There was another flight connecting to our flight from Philly and we were delayed waiting for it.  As the harried passengers from that flight took their seats, a group of five brought up the rear.

The last people to board were a couple with two children.  One was a chubby little boy of about 8 or 9 years, the other was a toddler who clearly had severe physical and probably mental disabilities.  The baby was clearly sick. With the family was a young woman- the small child's nurse. They were all wearing Make a Wish T-shirts.  You could tell from the context that the family was taking a MAWF trip to Disneyworld before the smaller child died.  I felt appropriately sad for them and went back to my book, glad that the little kids weren't sitting next to me. I have enough little kids in my life.

The stewardess made an announcement asking if there were any passengers willing to move so that the whole family could sit together.  To my horror, the woman next to me raised her hand.  The mother, nurse and toddler slipped into the row in front of me and next to me plopped the older boy, with his dad beside him.  "Please, dear Lord. . . let this be a really really shy child and make me look very, very scary today."  I thought as I tried to smile at the father and son in greeting.

The Lord stabbed me through the heart with immediate understanding of exactly how I sounded at that moment.  Really?  My quiet knitting time was more important than this family getting to take one last vacation together to the happiest place on earth before they had to walk through one of the saddest places on earth?  What was wrong with me?  It's not like I'd raised my hand to offer up my seat.  I'd been trying to hold onto my quiet spot by the other woman so hard that I'd gotten the exact opposite.

The boy was chatty.  Oh, he was a talkative child.  I imagine most 9 year olds are pretty chatty on the plane on the way to Orlando, but this one had to break some kind of record.  I knew everything about him before that flight was over.  I didn't get any knitting done.  Every time I tried to, he was sticking his head in the way trying to watch.  His poor, sleep deprived and exasperated father tried to keep him preoccupied and out of my business, but he was just a curious 9 year old.  So I sucked up my pride, put my shawl in my bag, got out a crochet hook and taught the kid to crochet and make pompoms.

Here's the kicker. . . I will never ever forget that flight.  I will never forget the moment in which God convicted me that it was pretty awful of me to be so annoyed to be put there by that family.  That flight wasn't about me.   It was so much more important for that family to sit by someone understanding and caring than for me to get any reading or knitting done.  Had I gotten my quiet seat, I'd have promptly forgotten anything about that flight at all.  Instead, I was able to help ease up some of the pressure on this clearly harried and crisis-stricken family and I was given a beautiful memory and a lifelong lesson.

Think about that the next time you are next to someone annoying on a plane.  And remember. . . everyone's the annoying person at some point in their life.

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