I didn’t travel with the triplets on a plane until they were three years old. Not because I was worried that they would be ill-mannered and disturb the other passengers, but because my husband and I didn’t want to. It was too much for us to handle, being outnumbered by tiny people and their accompanying truck full of baby needs. For the parents who are willing to brave the stormy seas of traveling with very young children, I have just one thing to say: you are awesome.
In the past few years, a new trend has appeared to emerge – filling our news feeds and leaving me to wonder why. Most recently, the parents of 18-month old twin girls traveling on a flight passed out goodie bags to passengers within earshot of them. The goodie bag contained chocolates, earplugs, and a note. This went viral on Facebook, garnering kudos among people everywhere who appreciated the gesture.
However, it was all for naught. The twins did not make a peep and the earplugs never had to be removed from their plastic wrapping (although I am quite sure the chocolates suffered a different fate).
The gesture was indeed sweet. Toddlers can certainly be loud, and have the tendency to cry or have outbursts (like all toddlers!). But here is my problem with the concept: handing out treats and notes to passengers on flights conveys an admission of guilt; an issuing of an apology before the crime is even committed. Is there a decent chance that taking your baby or toddler on a plane can result in fussing and crying at some point in the journey? Sure. Is it true that when our children are loud in an enclosed space, it’s embarrassing for the parents? Absolutely. But people have been raising children for centuries now, and if we can’t endure the cries of a baby who is tired of being held captive on a smelly plane with strange sounds and people; then we have lost some sense of community.
Don’t you remember having to manage your children when they weren’t at their best in a public place? Perhaps you are there now, gearing up for your first plane ride with your babies. I assure you it won’t be the most pleasurable moment in your life, but we can at least hope that our fellow passengers will have some patience and empathy for our situation.
Or is our solution just handing out treats on flights to apologize in advance for being imperfect human beings?
I’m sorry for being old, and a little bit slow moving: here is some chocolate.
I’m sorry for forgetting to wear deodorant: here is a piece of gum to stifle the smell.
Recently, I took a flight to Cabo San Lucas from California with my four children. My husband had priority seating and took my 11-year-old daughter onto the plane with him to get us all seats together, leaving me alone with my 8-year-old triplets while we waited to board last. I feel that I have raised my children with manners and respect for others, but they need to work on their invasion of personal space which stems from always being so close to each other. They began to play with each other a little too aggressively and I feared that they would bump into someone. I closed my eyes for a brief moment to pretend I was on a deserted island and that the triplets were someone else’s children, but five seconds in, I was jolted to reality by a screaming baby. I looked over and saw a woman holding her baby in a front pack, jostling her around trying to soothe her.
“She is just hungry,” she said.
“You are probably really worried about boarding the plane with us right now.”
“Not at all.”
“She will calm down when we get on the plane, and I can feed her. She is just really hungry.”
“Ahhh, it’s OK.”
Meanwhile, the triplets were about ready to take over Terminal 12.
“Come here kids,” I shouted over 50 people. They came to my side, and I wrapped my arms around them like a momma penguin enveloping them tightly against my body and stretching my arms as far around all three of them as I could.
The baby was still screaming next to us.
“I promise she won’t cry the entire time we are on the plane,” the mom said.
“I’m totally not worried about it, Look at these three wild children? I think we’ve all been there. Everyone will understand.”
I didn’t hear her baby make a single sound during the flight. It was considerate and human of her to worry about other passengers, but perhaps she shouldn’t have had to.
Let’s not make a big thing of bringing our kids onto a plane. Let’s not set a precedent of handing out goodie bags to passengers like they are guests at a surprise birthday party they didn’t want to go to. The goodie bag phenomenon is really about moms and dads not having to feel guilty and uncomfortable if their kids make noise on a flight. We should let go of that guilt. If your kids fuss and passengers give you the stink eye or make a rude comment, then that is on them; perhaps they need to pass out goodie bags apologizing for being rude, grumpy and forgetting their humanity.
Bring your crying babies and come sit near me. Please don’t apologize or worry about what I think. Please don’t offer me chocolates or notes of apology. Just know that I am a mom, too, and I have been there. I see you, Mommy and Daddy, and I know how hard it is to be in these situations. I know you will do everything to soothe your child and make it a comfortable ride for everyone on that plane, but if you don’t succeed, that’s OK too. We are all imperfect human beings trying to travel through this world together.
Megan Woolsey is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated, writer, and publisher living in Northern California with a very supportive husband and a wild bunch of red-headed children – a set of triplets and their big sister. Megan has been published in The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Bonbon Break, Mamalode, In The Powder Room and is an essayist in two anthologies. When Megan needs a break from the kids, you can find her perusing her social media pages,Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.