Credit Vivienne Flesher
An article by Dr. Perri Klass about flying with small children, “Fear of Crying: The Problem of Babies and Airplanes,” touched a nerve with Well readers. More than 600 readers weighed in, with responses ranging from compassion to indignation. Here is an edited selection.
Keep Baby at Home
Why don’t they ban children on most flights and assign special flights for those traveling with babies? Airlines should cater to both sides of society — those who don’t mind traveling with babies and those who do. As consumers we should be given a choice and not be castigated for choosing peace and quiet on a flight.
How about a soundproof baby box one can put into the overhead or check at the gate? Really, there is no reason to travel with babies on an airplane unless it is for medical reasons (to get the child medical care not available locally) or moving overseas. Most people travel with children to go on vacation or visit relatives and friends. This can be put off until the children are old enough to behave when traveling. Otherwise, just stay home or go by car. Air travel is annoying enough without self-centered parents making it even more so.
One of the kindest things grandparents can do is to offer to do the flying. Come and visit the baby and family, and if you want to be a superhero, offer to stay a few days and let the parents go off together, even if it’s just to a hotel in town.
Let Babies Be Babies
Actually, I never mind crying babies on an airplane. Babies cry, that’s what they’re supposed to do. And if you want to live in society, you’re going to encounter crying babies. I usually tune it out, and if I can’t, well, that’s one reason for earphones.
These are mobility-challenged little people, who deserve to travel to see their grandparents. Cut them some slack, for God’s sake. This is life. If you cannot deal with it, stay at home.
As the parent of three children, I am amazed at how little a screaming kid bothers me. A loudly crying baby can be two seats over, but as long as the child is not mine, I do not care and will continue with whatever I am doing, including sleep. On the other hand, it seems that adults who have never had children are the ones that react very excessively to the child in vocal agony.
I’ll never forget the flight where my normally lovely toddler screamed bloody murder during the entire descent because she didn’t want to wear her seat belt. For 20 minutes I had to hold her seat belt so she couldn’t unbuckle it while she screamed directly in my ear. No amount of M&Ms, offered stories or soothing words made a difference. And I couldn’t turn on a video or remove the seat belt (oh, those FAA rules!).
She fell asleep from exhaustion just as we landed. I left her asleep until we were the last to exit the plane. As soon as I unbuckled her to pick her up, she promptly kicked me in the face. Ah, the joys of flying with small children.
There Are Worse Things
I’m from England and have traveled back and forth between the U.K. and L.A. for nearly 30 years. I can think of many passengers who are worse than a crying baby. I find that mostly babies cry on takeoff and landing while their ears are adapting to the pressure changes. There are babies who cry more than that, and I can only feel sorry for the parents who not only don’t have a break for the entire time, but suffer all the filthy looks from entitled people who have forgotten that they too were babies once.
I look at it this way: I consider myself very fortunate if listening to a crying baby for three hours is the worst inconvenience I face. I can guarantee there are millions of people who would gladly trade places with me.
A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way
Several years ago, I was traveling with my teenage son with autism. A family with a baby was seated in front of us. The baby was crying inconsolably. My son, who often reports on everything going on around him, said in his loud and matter-of-fact voice: “Mom, that baby is screaming! That mother should do something.” I replied with an equally loud voice so at least two rows of people could hear: “I remember when you were a baby traveling on an airplane, and you were the screaming baby. You were bothering everyone. And people were very understanding and kind to me then. Do you think you can be understanding and kind?” The mother turned around in her seat, tears rolling down her cheeks, with a smile of gratitude.