This week, US Airways removed a woman and her children from a flight because the children were crying. You can read the story here on Consumerist.
It goes without saying that the company should have been prepared for the young children before the flight, rather than force the caregiver to change seats with little to no help. As Consumerist asked, “US Airways states that the plane was being held up because these kids wouldn’t stop crying. What threat or concern do a couple of crying kids pose to the plane?”
We’re talking about children crying.
I’ve cried on a few planes in my time— Once between two very hairy men on an 11-hour flight from Istanbul to Toronto, and once sitting beside two brothers from Texas, who took turns spitting chew into a shared can of Dr Pepper. I probably cried on planes as a baby, too.
And so did you.
You also cried at the grocery store. Trust me, it happened. My oldest son cried every time he even saw a car seat. He stopped crying when we was old enough to complain the entire car ride instead.
Because my son, you, and I are all humans. And when we are small, without the talent for words that make up everything from PhD dissertations to Adele lyrics to YouTube comments, we all cry. Because that’s the best we’ve got at the time.
Scott shared the story on the UnMarketing Facebook page, and we had some interesting comments come our way, as usual.
The story and the comments had me in a state. At first, I suggested we award comments with prizes of free transatlantic flights with babies. To thank commenters and perhaps give them a glimpse of what this mother would have been going through. For research…
Bur instead, I wrote this.
A healthy human response in 2013 to a baby crying on a plane, in three easy steps.
1. Empathy for small human. When I see or hear a baby or child upset, my first response is to feel empathy for him or her. Being a baby is hard work. Without words, and a varied way to express herself, a young baby has only on and off. The same volume for “holy crap, you just cut my toenail off with that clipper!” as “ya know, I could really go for a lighter sleeper. I’m a wee bit warm.”
This child didn’t book the flight. They were not part of the decision making process that had them being lugged around by a grumpy parent, who’s flying around the world to hear about how thin their sister has gotten, or how amazing their cousin’s new job on Wall Street is. Their mom is usually a nice person, so who is this over-caffeinated woman in heels?
If you cannot empathize with a crying child, with sore ears on landing, cramped into a car seat, surrounded by grumpy, dehydrated adults on a plane, does that mean that the environment, animal welfare, and the plight of starving children around the world are things you take personally, too?
2. Empathy for caregiver. No one ever wants my children to be quiet more than I do. Ever. No adult dreams of carrying two children, their over-laden purse filled with tiny snacks, drinks, money, and probably tampons. No one in their right mind doesn’t want the baby to sleep through the flight, and I promise, no one wants it more than that parent. The very least anyone else can do is just ignore her. The next to least thing to do would be to show a little humanity and smile, say a kind word, ask to help. I once had a man sitting across from me and my young children get my carry on down for us at the end of the flight— and I kid you not, I would have given him a kidney to thank him.
3. Be happy it’s not you. When I see young children crying or complaining, or just being children, as I watch their caregivers fish diapers out of over stuffed diaper bags and cut grapes gently in half, you know what I feel? Happy. Happy it’s not my responsibility. I don’t have to lactate and deal with the judgement and eyes of people who’ve decided it’s their business where one feeds their child. I don’t have to find, prepare, give a bottle, and then deal with the other people who’ve decided that choice is their business either. I don’t have to pull bribery candy out of my purse, and a private stash of Swedish berries, to manage the judgement of others who never spoiled their kids (never mind the ensuing sugar rush). I don’t have to yell, growl, snap, or hit either. Which happens. And inevitably get caught in my worst parenting face ever (no doubt the cause of expensive therapy to come).
In a world where we think our own comfort is so important that being unkind to a young child and struggling parent is ok, we all lose. I don’t care how much your ticket cost (and by they way, if you can afford first class, I’m pretty sure you can manage the coin for noise canceling head phones). I don’t care how the child inconvenienced your day in line for a 6 dollar half-caf mocha. This is a human child. And you are meant to be a human adult. Act like one.
And that’s how I fly off the handle.
What do you think? We’d love to hear from you. We’ll even take our headphones off and listen.