Should families and adults flying without children be segregated on airplanes? Recently an inflammatory article appeared on the Huffington Post labelling those who oppose airlines selling premium seats away from children as “bad parents”.
First of all, I found it hard to believe there were very many parents opposing the ban. Who are these “bad parents” and why have I never met them? In the forums I read, I encounter hundreds of parents who are excessively concerned about the comfort of those around them when they have to take their kids on a plane.
Before we fly the not-so-child-friendly skies, we comb the web, post questions to forums and survey our friends, endlessly researching ways to keep our babies and children silent and motionless in three square feet of space for several hours. Most of the advice breaks down to snacks, screens and Slinky’s (or other toys). We pack elaborate kits for each child. We pass out little gift bags to you all essentially apologizing for populating the planet with these little noise makers. We purchase and wrap new toys. We suspend every diet and screen rule in the name of mollification. Some of us even drug our kids. Flying is like Vegas: What happens on the plane stays of the plane. We will go to any lengths to accommodate our seatmates, and deal with the consequences to our parenting order later. We are electrified from the moment we get on the plane with acute and painful awareness of every sound and motion of our children. We are trying, oh how we are trying, not to disturb you.
In the cat fight comments to the article, I encountered a few people who did oppose the kid-free zones on the grounds that segregation is a form of age discrimination. I do see their reasoning, and frankly, the reflexive urge to question “Is this practice discriminatory?” I believe speaks well of how far we’ve come in the past 60 years. On the other hand, I think we can draw a distinction between the subjective disturbance of sitting beside someone whose presence makes you uncomfortable because of your own prejudices and the objective disturbance of a baby crying or a child kicking your seat. Babies have evolved to make the most irksome sound possible so that their parents would have to address their needs. The sound of a baby crying is used in enhanced interrogation techniques specifically because it has been proven to be one of the most universally annoying noises known to man! And a kid kicking your seat? Come on. That’s going to disturb even the most tolerant of peaceniks.
Most of the commenters are willing to stipulate to the fact that Loud Kids Are Disturbing. Most of them are willing to agree that everyone’s blood pressure would drop if the kids sat in a kid zone. Parents might be able to take deeper breaths while still managing their kids knowing that the majority of the ears on the plane are farther away.
The vitriol and argument that gets traded after we’ve agreed that loud kids are annoying is more about deciding who is the bigger jerk, the person who has the gall to bring their child on a plane or the person who has the gall to admit they don’t want to sit by your kid–and who should, therefore, pay extra to sit in a kid-free zone or a kid-zone.
Sorry airlines, but I think we should make it a policy to offer parents seats in the back of the plane near the bathrooms without creating any new paid zones. To do so would be both logical and practical, though far less deliciously inflammatory than an article that begins by labelling half its readership “bad”.
Now, to all those “good parents” who occasionally have to fly, I’m working on a little series called “Flying With Kids” that will include all the little things I’ve picked up in the
torture chamber airplane.