When it comes to toddlers and their infamous personalities, though, perhaps the biggest injustice is their reputation on airplanes. One airline has even announced a kid-free travel zone, essentially quarantining the little rascals to certain areas of the plane (this, by the way, is the same airline that has banned infants from first class).
It’s true: toddlers can be noisy. They occasionally throw toys and sometimes even throw temper tantrums. Having done more than my fair share of traveling with toddlers I’ll admit they can try my patience and test my coping skills.
There’s nothing worse than boarding a flight with a child, walking down the aisle and seeing an entire aircraft united in prayer that we won’t be sitting nearby. Sometimes a kind older woman gives me a knowing, empathic look but generally speaking the only “looks” I get are of the evil eye variety.
Most of the time it goes well. Thanks to laptops and iPads and brand new coloring books, my toddler typically does fine on flights. It can be stressful and there have been times I couldn’t get the crackers out of my carry-on bag fast enough, but in all my years of parenting we’ve never had a single incident that warranted the evil looks and eye rolls from our fellow travelers.
But when they do have those moments of not-so-angelic behavior, I’d ask for a little understanding from my fellow passengers. Traveling is stressful for kids– just as it is for adults. The days are long and usually come after nights of little sleep. Kids are out of their comfort zone on airplanes and often don’t fully understand what’s happening. Add to that the bonus of stern glances from all of the interesting people packed tightly into a confined space, and you can begin to get a sense for why children may communicate in “bad” behavior.
I’d also ask you to consider this: there are worse things than sitting next to a toddler on an airplane. Here are a few travel companions more disruptive, obnoxious, or just plain annoying than any toddler on his worst day.
And next time you see a stressed out, tired mama waking your direction on a flight to Schenectady, Kalamazoo or Topeka, give her a hand. And a juice box if you’ve got one.
The Nervous Traveler 1 of 5The Nervous Traveler is a joy to sit next to. From inquiring about that weird sound coming from the engine to listing recent crash statistics, he'll really make for a soothing experience.
Photo Credit: WhatleyDude/Flickr
The Nonstop Talker 2 of 5This gal has never met a stranger and doesn't mind spilling all her personal business to you on the flight. She asks for your phone number as the plane is landing so you two can, you know, keep in touch.
Photo Credit: StevenDamron/Flickr
The Drunk Guy 3 of 5What's worse than traveling with a toddler? Sitting next to the Drunk Guy. He's loud. He's obnoxious. He tells you all about how his ex wife won't let him see his kids. (You think she sounds pretty smart.)
Photo Credit: Richard Moross/Flickr
The Salesman 4 of 5The Salesman has a great idea and he can't wait to share it! Here, can he give you a business card?
Photo Credit: Buddawiggi/Flickr
The Mom on her Way to a Girls’ Trip 5 of 5You definitely don't want to sit next to her. She doesn't get out much and only sees her college girlfriends once a year. She forces you to listen to her stories of her days in the sorority house and tells you all about her little darlings back home.
Top Photo Credit: DoeppJakab/Flickr
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.