Kids on a plane

By Joanne Peterson | Jul 26, 2012

My son-in-law Eric recently rode in the Seattle-to-Portland bicycle event, spending seven hours on his bike for each of two days, sleeping in his smallest tent (as a mountain climber, he has several tents) at an event-sponsored campground along the way.

Photos show Eric’s smiling face in Portland as he crossed the finish line, where his wife Lisa and children Adam and Abby had driven to meet him.

They all then spent the night in a downtown Portland hotel, making the bike event into a pleasant family trip.  They do lots of family trips.

When my grandson Adam was small—not yet two— the bulletin board outside his daycare “classroom” featured a different child every week.

When it was his turn, one of the comments on Adam’s bulletin board said that already he had flown on seven planes. Little kids these days seem to get around a lot, at a very young age.

Lately, I’ve been reading and hearing about increasing complaints of airline passengers who bitterly defend their expectation that no child will ruin their flight by misbehaving or crying. Indeed, they seem to think that families either have no business flying or that they should be confined to a certain section of the plane, presumably soundproofed.

I’ve been on planes with infants crying nearby.  I’ve invariably felt sorry for the parents, as well as for their unhappy children.

I’ve never actually gotten up and gone to offer aid to the parent, but I’ve wished that I would.  What’s up with people who so readily criticize both the kids and the parents for whatever disturbance happens on a flight, when little ones are often over-tired and over-excited, and the parents are coping as well as they can?

After all, families can’t conveniently drive from Oregon to Virginia to visit grandparents, can they? So they fly.

This means the children left their beds at the same un-godly hour their parents did, rode to the airport, waited in the same lines everyone else waited in, went through security and then waited some more at the gate for their plane. Poor little guys.

No matter how many snacks and toys and puzzles a parent can stuff in her carry-on, traveling with a little child is daunting enough without someone two rows behind hissing, “Can’t they get that kid to shut up?” (No, they can’t. Not right that moment.)

Last weekend, I met daughter Lisa and 18-month-old granddaughter Abby for lunch at a popular restaurant.  Abby, it turned out, was not in the mood to go out for lunch.  She did not want the food her mother ordered for her.  She did not want milk.  She did not want toys.  She did not want a cuddle.

Eventually— out of Cheerios and no longer concerned about nutrition-- Lisa ripped open a single serving of strawberry jam,  picked up a spoon, and we took turns feeding Abby jam—probably 90 percent sugar—while we wolfed down our salads.

Fortunately, we didn’t have a plane to catch.


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