I am writing this post to give a counterpart to this one where a mother explains that parents should not have to apologise for having noisy children on the plane.
While I think it’s great that some mothers defend themselves for having children (it proves that we are having a societal debate) and I probably agree with 90% of what she says, I find that we are more and more at a risk of parents and non-parents not understanding each other. So now that I have read the point of view of a parent, I’d like to express mine as a counterpart. Because if we understand each other, we’ll be able to respect each other better.
To start with, a few statements about how I feel about the issue:
1- Nowadays, at least in the Western world, having children is not a fatality but a choice. You can choose not to have children, and you can choose to have some.
2- Whether you like to hear it or not, it is a fact that a noisy child on a plane is something that can ruin someone’s journey. But…
3- That being said, I know what nature is. I am not mad at you, parent of the noisy child, and I am not mad at your child. I know you are doing your best. I am just mad at the situation and my bad luck.
Then, a few reflections about irritating people on planes – and this is important, because actually, there are far more types of people far more irritating on planes than noisy children. Many examples:
– People who travel in large groups and cannot contain their excitement, believing that they are not on a plane but on a fun fair or so. My most exasperating experience was in a plane full of French teenagers travelling on a school trip (Easyjet flight Marseille-London), or with a bunch of posh Italians travelling to the Paris Fashion Week (Easyjet flight Milan-Paris), although the most noisy ever flight I have experience was certainly a KLM flight Amsterdam-Paramaribo and this lasted for hours – I arrived exhausted.
– People who stay long minutes on the plane’s toilet and ignore the desperate knocks on the door, despite we only have a few minutes between breakfast and landing (Lufthansa flight Frankfurt-Dubai), or despite a long queue of other people waiting (actually a friend of the one taking her time in the toilet insulted me for knocking on the door on that Brussels Airlines flight Moscow-Brussels where 7 people were queuing), or despite the presence of someone who obviously got a tropical diarrhea and is close to having an accident (observed many times, I was the one squirming on that Alitalia flight Mumbai-Milan).
– People who refuse to take their coats and small items out of the overhead lockers despite the flight being obviously cracked and others missing storage room. I took action on a recent LOT flight Warsaw-London and re-arranged everything myself because several people with suitcases were stuck and helpless and I felt we were going to stay there forever if none did anything.
– People who do not respect the security rules, like keeping your seatbelt fastened while the aircraft is still moving; and worse, those who want to oblige me to do the same, like this woman who insulted me on a Ryanair flight Brussels-Oslo where I refused to open my seatbelt and stand until we would reach the final position.
– People who watch a movie without headphones, as if they were alone on the plane. There are more and more people of this type, now that almost everyone has mobile screens – and there is one right next to me at this very moment in the Pegasus flight Istanbul-London where I am.
– People who cannot control their addiction and board the plane drunk and misbehaved (I didn’t feel so safe on that Ukraine Airline flight London-Kiev and asked the crew to keep a close eye on that drunk guy who boarded with a bag full of bottles of alcohol) or tobacco-infused with the cigarettes they quickly smoked just before (I was not very happy on that middle seat between two tobacco-stinking men on that Aeroflot flight Moscow-Tashkent).
You see, there are plenty of cases of irritating people on planes, and what is common amongst all these examples above, is that these people are completely selfish. In this list, I haven’t mentioned the people who sign themselves before or clap their hands after landing, as if a safe flight relied more on a miracle than on the competence of the airline staff, because that is not so irritating, just truly idiotic. And in this list, I also haven’t mentioned people with noisy children, because, again, what is irritating is not the people – it is the situation.
But, parent of a noisy child on a plane, you who gave birth and give love, please don’t act selfishly like all these irritating people who don’t give a fucking shit about others.
Someone distributed a goody bag to fellow passengers to compensate for the disturbance their new-born baby might cause, and this is simply wrong for two reasons
1- Because it is expressing that you are feeling guilty or ashamed, and you should not.
2- Because this type of behaviour can create expectations: airlines already distribute goodie bags to children on planes to keep them busy, will they have to distribute some also to people around children as well?
But this doesn’t mean that you should not give a fucking shit about ruining my flight. I don’t want you to feel guilty or ashamed, but I do appreciate when you show some empathy, by being a bit embarrassed or sorry. Because after all, it is your choice to have children and I would like you to acknowledge that you are exposing me to the consequences of your lifestyle choices.
Some parents indeed give a discrete, yet apologetic smile when their child is too noisy, and I really appreciate this gesture – I always return the smile. It shows me that they care. And a smile: it’s so easy and it costs nothing, but it makes us both feel good.
I always believe that smiling at each other is the best way to avoid conflict and to help us all live together in harmony despite our differences. But this works only if the smile goes both ways.
Now I apologise if my post is not the best ever, I wrote it during an exhausting 4,5 hour journey in a plane full of very noisy kids and I was using most of my energy and concentration to try and keep smiling… 😉