I don’t have kids. I don’t particularly like kids. But I don’t blame them for existing. I’m starting to get sick of people who do. See, here’s a quick story:
I flew back to NY yesterday. Sitting next to me were a couple with their new eight-month old baby. I knew the kid’s age only because they told me. Specifically, the mother got there first, sat down, and started to wipe down the trays and various surfaces. She caught me wondering what the hell she was doing and explained she had a grabby eight-month old. Anyway.
So they get situated and the kid is happily burbling away. We take-off and the kid wails a bit. Ears popping and so on. The father held her for awhile and then passed her off to the mother was right next to me. I’m listening to music fairly softly, and reading and this kid is kicking me with a spare leg. I mean, her leg and my leg met. She wasn’t trying to kick me, she was just moving her leg. Occasionally she would make noises and reach and pluck at my shirt, or arm, if they were in reach.
New things! Close by! Explore! Explore!
Then she started to cry. And they soothed her. Later she cried more. Etc.
As we landed I said to the mother “Just so we’re clear, I’m not in a hurry, here. you have a small child. Take your time and don’t stress about it.”
And she looked at me, confused.
“Do you spend a lot of time with kids?”
“No. I don’t generally even like them.”
“Well you’re really good with them.”
“Naw. Hey, I don’t like flying and I understand what’s going on around me. If I could scream a few times myself it might help. So, you know…”
And they seemed confused. I wasn’t mad, I didn’t care or get annoyed with their child at any point. You know why? The kid was reacting like anyone would or should, given its age and grasp of events.
Babies have no idea what’s going on! You put them in a plane, keep them bundled and it is loud and feels funny and hurts when their ears pop and… of course they cry! They’re not comfortable, and are often scared.
Small kids? They’re huge bundles of energy. And worse they think flying is going to be the best thing ever. It’s flying! But then it’s being locked in a small metal tube for hours and not being allowed to get out of your seat and play and… that’s hell for a child.
Children cry. They scream. They don’t know better ways to express themselves, or at least more ways that are considered acceptable, and so they express themselves the best they can. they aren’t doing it to spite you or annoy you. They’re upset. and they are allowed to be! But getting mad at them, or worse, mad at the parents – what does that do, exactly?
It teaches parents they shouldn’t take their kids anywhere. Which is bullshit. Kids have a right to explore this planet too, it makes them better humans with wider perspectives. And if we have to put up with a bit of screaming for a few hours, poor us. We have headphones, we have coping techniques, we have experience.
If you, as an adult, can in no way cope with a small child being a small child for a few hours I strongly suggest that perhaps it isn’t the child who shouldn’t be out among people, but it is you.
And this comes from someone who doesn’t like kids. I don’t. but I don’t deny their right to exist and I understand their limitations and capacities. I’m not saying ignore a 10 year old who won’t stop kicking your seat. No, they are old enough to know, as frustrating as it is, that bored doesn’t mean upsetting other people. So, ask nicely. Nicely. I try to apologize to the parent, making it clear that, you know, little Joan is super-bored and I get it, but can she be bored without quite as much kicking? It’s all good, just… let’s try. And if it fails, yeah it annoys me, but so long as Joan and her dad made an effort to adapt behavior, hey, it’s a start.
Remember: You were a kid once too. And wouldn’t you have loved to not get yelled at for being a kid before you could understand what people wanted out of you and why? Spread the respect.
Don’t let kids run wild and unsupervised, but also let’s not put them in cages and berate them for being small humans who are, emotionally, unrestrained. We can teach them, and accept them or we can brow-beat them and make them resentful and, possibly, worse humans in the long run.
So next time you travel and there are six screaming kids on a flight (this has literally happened to me), laugh it off, read your book and pretend it’s a shitty auto-tuned song from some band you’ve never heard of. And then ask for a vodka and raise the bottle to the parents who are just trying to raise the best humans they can.