I originally wrote this post last year involving parents being pressured by society to give out “airplane goodie bags” to placate other passengers on their flights. The idea has come back in the news thanks to an op-ed in the New York Times, so I have updated the post and thought it was worth re-running.
Awhile ago, I read a story that involved a family preparing to take a flight with a small infant. Knowing the unpredictability of flying with a very young infant, and wanting to make a good impression on nearby passengers, the mom made an airplane goodie bag to give out.
I first saw the story on Facebook, but then a few months later I also saw it make its way to various travel blogs as well, and people’s comments were generally in favor of the idea.
Are airplane goodie bags a good idea?
Okay I hate to be “that guy”, but is this really what we’ve come to? I totally understand the sentiment and I can’t fault this mom for doing what she could to try and make their family’s flight as comfortable and pleasant as possible, but I don’t think making up airplane goody bags is something that we should encourage parents to do.
I’ve also been on flights with young kids, and I know that it is not pleasant to listen to an infant cry and/or scream for what seems like forever on a plane. I’ve been on both sides of that. When it’s not your kid, it is annoying, yes – I totally get that. When it IS your kid, it’s JUST as annoying, PLUS you feel the added stress of trying to do everything you can to fix the problem.
When my oldest daughter was about 2 years old, we flew on an evening flight from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City via Houston. We left Houston about 10pm, and for much of the flight to SLC, my (by this time quite over-tired) daughter cried and screamed off and on, and literally nothing we tried to do to console her seemed to work. Finally, about an hour before we landed, she finally drifted off to sleep.
As we landed at about midnight (2 a.m. our time), the combination of the change in cabin pressure, the jolt of the actual landing, and the lights going on as we taxied woke her up and this time she had REALLY had it. Her loud wails seemed to fill the cabin and again, NOTHING we tried seemed to work. Naturally, we were in literally the last row of the airplane, and so we had to wait for everyone else to get up, get their carry-ons, and exit the aircraft before we could leave. And of course, the whole time, my daughter was wailing and obviously uncomfortable.
What to do about it?
Why do I bring this story up? Just to mention that this is life! This is part of living in a society! I totally agree with Rebecca Dube’s take on the matter on Today.com. She mentions the fact that dealing with kids crying (or any other unpleasantness) is just part of the social contract.
Some of my favorite quotes from that article:
…a dangerous trend: People apologizing, or being made to feel they should apologize, for having children.
…parents have a responsibility here. I’ll do everything I can to stop my baby from crying on a plane. Trust me, I hate that sound even more than you do — plus it’s four inches from my ears. When all my tricks fail, I will walk him up and down the aisles, bouncing and humming. If you make eye contact with me, I’ll give you the “So sorry, what can you do?” apologetic smile, and you give me the “It’s OK, hang in there” sympathetic look. It’s called a social contract, people. If instead you roll your eyes or give me a nasty glare, then you are breaking the contract.
To the child-free: I fully understand that not everyone finds my little rugrats as delightful as I do. You don’t have to love us. But you do have to tolerate us and treat us with basic human respect, even if I don’t give you candy.
Heather Havrilesky had a good rebuttal to the NY Times op-ed on airplane goodie bags in the New York Magazine as well.
But it’s NICE!
Well, yes, it is NICE. It would also be NICE if I got M&Ms every time I used the bathroom, but I don’t EXPECT it! I worry about a dangerous precedent we start, when we ask young mothers (almost by definition the people on the earth with the LEAST amount of free time) to start catering to the needs of random strangers!
Airplane travel is inherently stressful. Some people are nervous or fearful, there’s all the waiting, the unknowns from those not doing it very often, and that’s not to mention the fact that all the while, you’re trapped in a metal tube with strangers, with no way to escape!
Let’s all try to remember to be extra kind to others, and give other passengers the benefit of the doubt, even when they tell you that “you’re the type of person that shouldn’t have children”
What do you think? What should parents flying with young children do?