This space is meant for sharing advice and information, and motivating parents of babies, toddlers, and young children to travel with their families. I don’t post about politics, and the only opinion that I share here is the one that everyone should travel with their kids and then I try to explain how to do it with the least amount of stress possible.
But today I got stressed out.
My lower back is in spasm and I’ve already exceeded the recommended daily dosage of extra strength Ibuprofen. And? I’m flying solo with both kids next week. My daughter is a champ on travel days, but she is just-turned-5. My son is a big and boisterous and busy 20-month-old, who has done really well on our flights thus far.
I’m as prepared a traveling parent as there ever was. I’m infinitely mocked for my over-the-top baby packing list and carry-on packing list. But my children are children, and truthfully? I’m tired of being judged before either of my kids utter a peep.
Over the past few months there has been no shortage of articles and blog posts about flying with children, and promoting the idea of child-free flights, or the notion of family sections on planes. There have been articles in The New York Times, USA Today, my friend Emma Waverman at MSN.ca wrote about it, and recently I was interviewed by CBC’s The National for a piece that aired New Year’s Eve. I avoid reading comments on those articles, because typically they’re nasty and mean-spirited and inspired my initial fear of flying with a toddler in the first place. But it was the affable Matt of Landlopers who got me a little riled up today by his post titled “Traveling With Terrible Children“.
As a non-parent, Matt expects all traveling parents to be “brand ambassadors” for parents traveling with children. I find this unfair. Matt’s description of family sections on planes first piqued my ire:
A hot topic in the past year has been whether or not airlines should institute so called child only zones. Just as with the seemingly impossible smoking areas of flights long gone, parents traveling with children of a certain age would be forced to sit with their own kind in what would become a veritable nursery school at 32,000 feet.
I think substituting any ethnicity or sexual orientation for “parents traveling with children of a certain age” would deem the quote offensive. If you substituted with “overweight people”, you might find yourself taken to task by director Kevin Smith.
I built Have Baby Will Travel because traveling with a baby is stressful, and meeting a young child’s needs while you’re at cruising altitude can often be a challenge. The traveling parents and grandparents that Matt describes sound like unpleasant fellow passengers. But so was a woman on our most recent flight. And that guy who took his shoes off the flight before that. And then there was the time that a mom thought that manicures were an appropriate in-flight activity for two toddler girls.
And so on. And so on.
The list of complaints against past, present and future fellow passengers is endless; but lumping everyone together according to their gender, ethnicity, religion, weight, sexual orientation, marital or parental status is offensive.
I don’t mean to pick on Matt. A few weeks back I (rightfully) had my hand slapped by the lovely Christine at Almost Fearless for labeling judgmental parents as “sancti-mommies” and “smug daddies” in a piece I wrote for Nomadic Matt called “Can You Travel With A Baby?” But I’m tired of parents and children being the new acceptable group to judge and complain about. *You* will criticize me for the amount of luggage I have, yet be the first to gripe if I don’t have anything to entertain my kids with. *You* will be pissed if my son screams and writhes to be free, yet shoot me the stink eye if I walk him up and down the aisle. I can’t win.
I loved Faiqa Khan’s post at Aiming Low about ignoring the people around you and just focusing on surviving the flight. Maybe if more air travelers worried about their own behaviour, we’d all have a more peaceful co-existence in that cramped, metal tube.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming!
***Edited to add:
Matt has edited his post to change some of the language that I took offense to, including the quote that I used here.