The first time I flew with my baby I was a first time mother and my son was just five months old. He was a pretty happy baby in our normal lives and I wrongly assumed he’d behave on the flight as he always behaved.
Calm. Affable. Cooperative. Cute. Giggly. Gurgly. Playful.
He started off well on that flight, delighting in playing on my lap…until it was time to strap him onto my seatbelt with his special baby extention seatbelt. He started to grizzle and I tensed up, preparing myself for a rough few minutes. But that was nothing compared to what would happen next.
When the plane headed for the runway and then sped up for takeoff, the engine roared and he lost it.
What followed was 45 minutes of him crying, me eventually joining in as any and all attempts to shut him up failed miserably and he fed off my tension and I off his.
Olympic skiier and gold medalist Lydia Lassila talks about how to travel with a baby on Mamamia podcast I Don’t Know How She Does It.
I could feel the disapproval of other passengers on that flight, not daring to make eye contact in case I properly registered their judgement. I did think I’d try to never fly with a baby again. It took another couple of flights, two more children, and the wisdom that comes with getting older for me to realise I had nothing to apologise for and neither does any other mother.
That’s why, like many parents, I am uncomfortable with this new trend of mums with babies handing out apology notes, lollies and ear plugs on flights. As Cassie Murdoch from Mashable writes, “The cumulative effect, though, of these goody bags sweeping the feel-good internet is to build in the unrealistic expectation that the next time you board a plane and see someone holding a baby that person owes you a preemptive apology in the form of Tootsie Rolls.”
The post she was refering to in particular was this one, posted by Reddit user Fe Mike, shared with the caption, “Lady on the airplane just handed this to all of the rows around us. She now has an entire team of passengers ready to help.”
That's why so many parents who are coming across posts like this are getting their backs up. Many of us don't believe we should have to apologise for babies acting like babies, and children acting like children. Many of us expect that part of living in a civil society means being treated with respect at all times, and our babies and children being treated with respect.
As an air hostess told me, "It's good for babies to cry during the descent because it unblocks their ears." And it did. My baby cried, sucked on her bottle, cried and then we landed.
No harm done.
No ear drums burst.
No lolly bags or apology notes required.
Comments on the Reddit post considered both sides of the issue, although it shouldn't be an issue at all.
Even though parents aren't required to purchase a plane ticket for their child until they reach age two, they are still entitled to take that flight. They have as much right to be there as any other passenger. But like Murdoch I too am uncomfortable with the idea of the preemptive apology and worry at the message it sends not only to society at large, but to other mothers who may now feel the expectation to make a similar gesture.
Here's the thing people who dread flights with babies need to keep in mind.
My baby is a baby, and you are a grown up. They are throwing a tantrum (on a plane, not ideal but hey?) because they are a baby who cannot yet properly communicate or control their feelings. You are a grown up and therefore do have the ability to properly communicate and control your feelings.
What do you do if your kid swears in public?
If you choose to travel on a plane, on a bus or on a train you are going to encounter all sorts of people. If you don't like it, please feel free to buy your own plane.
You won't be getting lolly bags from me, of that you can be sure. What you will get though, is preemptive glares from me daring you to say even one word about my crying child. Babies act like babies and children act like children.
You are a grown up, so behave like one.
And to the mums handing out these packages, I know you're trying to do the right thing and it's really quite a lovely gesture. Do it if you must, but remember, you have nothing to apologise for.
You're already doing the hardest job in the world so focus on that. It's not your job to regulate the moods and behaviour of every single person on that flight.
Here are eight of the best road trip movies for you and your family to watch in preparation for your own family holiday road trip.