As I sat in the Orlando International terminal today, an older gentleman looked over at me and muttered, “That little snot better not be on my flight.” ‘That little snot’ was a two-year-old boy who was clearly not feeling good. I knew the look on the parents’ faces well, as much as they hated having him scream in the terminal, the ends justified the means and that kid would be fast asleep on the plane after a few snacks and snuggles (or at least that’s what one would hope). I smiled back at the guy and said, “I’ve been that mom, and if it comes to it, I’ll sit by him so you don’t have to.”
Flying with kids is the pits whether you’re responsible for them or not, but it SHOCKS me how rude some passengers can be to parents who are oftentimes doing the best they can in a terrible situation. I travel A LOT, and a lot of that travel has been with kids. Sick kids, cranky kids, well-behaved kids, and kids who have been overtaken by the devil himself. I’m all about the benefit of the doubt and even when you head into a flight totally prepared, life can laugh in your face and land you with a lap full of vomit. Whether you’re a child-free passenger or the parent in the trenches, here’s some worst case scenarios from both sides of the seat, and maybe a few ways we can come to peace with the necessary evil that is traveling with kids on airplanes.
Poop: Parent 1 of 10
Poop and children on an airplane is never a good combination because it means A) everyone else can smell it too B) airplane changing tables (HA!) or C) you are shoved in a tiny airplane bathroom convincing a toddler that the shiny silver vacuum sealed hole covered with smelly blue liquid that looms inches below their butt will not suck them out of the plane and into space. Worst possible scenario? Poonami blowout. All over the baby's clothes, all over your clothes (which you do not have extra sets of) during a portion of the flight where the FAA will smite you if you so much as even think about unbuckling your seat belt. Also? You're out of wipes, there's no changing table, and you're in the middle seat between two sleeping people. And you're flying alone.
Photo Credit: DP Styles
Poop: Passenger 2 of 10
OMG WHY WITH THE RECYCLED AIR!? Now, to be fair, I've sat by my share of gassy 18+ passengers and their egg salad sandwiches (WHILE PREGNANT. THE HUMANITY.) So, when it comes to stinking up airplanes, we're all guilty at one time or another. Be gracious to the parent dealing with poo; everyone poops and as much as you don't want to smell it, I can promise you that parent wants to deal with it even less.
Photo Credit: Surat Lozowick
Vomit: Parents 3 of 10
Vomit is in my opinion worse than poop because it's completely unpredictable how it will come out in regards to force, texture, odor, velocity and timing. Most babies and little kids can't quite articulate "IMMA GONNA BARF," which means it will probably end up in your hands, lap, or cleavage. The smell stays forever and only gets mustier as the flight goes on. Worst case scenario? Same as poop except you have no extra clothes for either of you and your kid had a stomach full of milk which has managed to curdle during its temporary stay in your child's stomach. Oh, and let's have this one happen at the beginning of a 6 hour flight from LGA >LAX.
Photo Credit: Wildhaber
Vomit: Passenger 4 of 10
Barf is never cool, and no one really knows when or where it may happen. Stomach bugs can hit kids just as easily as they can hit adults, but kids just don't know what to do with the cold palm, lightheaded, watery mouth feeling. If a kid barfs by you? I can swear to you on all that is good and wonderful that the parent feels terrible for you, for themselves, and for their kid. If they seem a little "tunnel vision" when something goes wrong? It's because parents usually get tunnel vision when something goes wrong. Most people do. Sorry barf happened by you, but from experience I'd rather have a kid barf next to me and have his parent responsible for cleaning everything up rather than having a drunk travel agent barf ON ME. (True story.)
Photo Credit: Puddy73
No Headphones: Parent 5 of 10
Your kid won't wear headphones and refuses to play their game or watch their movie on silent, so clearly the answer is to turn the sound up so they can hear it because hey, listening to Dora and Boots is better than listening to your kid scream, right? WRONG. No one wants to listen to Dora or Boots which means my kids know it's headphones or silence. I actually found a pillow speaker that Addie could hold up to her ear or wrap in her blanket and lay on back when I was flying with her a lot. My strong opinion on this is you need to find a solution that will work for audio on games and movies before your flight, and make sure your kids understand the rules while in flight. I would never tell your kid to shut off their movie/game/whatever, but if you had the foresight to bring a movie, you need to have the foresight to figure out an audio solution.
Photo Credit: ShyB
No Headphones: Passenger 6 of 10
I stick to what I said in my parents section, but add that there are ALWAYS exceptions which is why I never say anything. It could be a special needs situation, or maybe the parent is flying back from burying their spouse and cannot possibly handle the thought of arguing with a toddler about the importance of headphones. You just never know, so while Dora and Boots makes me want to stuff my ears with peanuts too, I reserve judgement (and dirty looks.)
Photo Credit: Vox EFX
Seat Kicker: Parent 7 of 10
There are few things that burn more than the eyes of the passenger in front of your kid, turning around to give you the silent stare of "IF YOU DON'T GET YOUR KID TO STOP SO HELP ME." The seat kicker phase is a short one if handled properly, and usually takes three or four VERY LOUD corrections to get your kid to stop and to be sure the guy in front of you knows you're doing SOMETHING.
Photo Credit: Toby Simkin
Seat Kicker: Passenger 8 of 10
I will admit the one thing that makes me stabby on flights with kids is sitting in front of a seat kicker. To me, it means the kid is old enough to reach the seat with their feet which should also mean they are old enough to understand seats are not for kicking. Still, I give the parent behind me the benefit of the doubt and assume that they hate that their kid is kicking my seat just as much as I do and hope it will resolve itself before we reach 10,000 feet. (Which is also to say save the dirty stares for a little bit later, WE KNOW AND WE'RE TRYING.)
Photo Credit: Romancing the Road
Screaming the ENTIRE TIME: Parent 9 of 10
Um. It's kind of the worst, not only because your kid is screaming and there is barely anything you can do for them and like hell if you can explain, "Hey baby, we're 35,000 feet in the air right now with all these other people for the next two hours and I'm doing the best I can, so if you could quit screaming because I can't do anything more than what I'm doing right now that would be great," but also because EVERYONE ELSE can hear your baby and is wondering why you're such a terrible parent. If you gave me the choice of catching a shark with my bare hands or flying across the country with a screaming baby? Bring on the shark.
Screaming the ENTIRE TIME: Passenger 10 of 10
It's terrible, right? You start to wonder why they don't do child-free flights because this is awful. Well guess what? You were once a baby and chances are, you screamed your motherthumping head off at a very inopportune time, leaving strangers to give your caregivers terrible looks and snide remarks. No one wants their baby to scream through an entire flight, BELIEVE ME. But it happens sometimes. Babies deserve to visit their grandparents on the West Coast just as much as you deserve to go to your business meeting. It's one flight and when you get off, you'll get in your nice quiet car and go to your nice quiet hotel. The parent with the screaming baby? That's not optional baggage, my friend. NOTHING frazzles my nerves more than my baby crying on a plane, which means I have extra super compassion for parents dealing with the same situation. We know our babies are crying, we're sorry. I'd be happy to hand over some earplugs and a shot of vodka for keeping your mean comments to yourself.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.