I saw a news segment last month that made me laugh (derisively, but it still counts) out loud. Apparently there is a movement to create "Family Sections" on airplanes and even in restaurants. These sections would corral families with babies and young children who have the potential to disturb other diners/fliers. This story was led with the story of a woman who claimed to have gone deaf on a plane before takeoff (she de-boarded) because of a three-year-old's screaming tantrum behind her. To this woman, and others (recently a price-comparison site called Skyscanner polled 2,000 people and found that about 60% of them would love to see Family Flying sections on airplanes) who hope to see this asinine plan come to fruition by making segregated sections in restaurants and airplanes like children are the equivalent to cigarettes or lepers, I say You have got to be kidding me.
First of all, let's just get this out there right now. You were once a child. Yes, even you. No, not you (well, yes, you too), that crotchety old lady with the professional-grade dirty looks making the disgusted "eccchhhh" noises behind you. Ma'am, you were once a child. A baby, even. And I'd stake my life on the fact that at least once (a day) you embarrassed and annoyed your mother with tantrums, crying fits or smelly diapers in public places. I know, it's really hard to believe. Especially now that you never would leave home without your snazzy old lady suit (Shoulder pads? Check. Elastic banded pants? Check. Sensible shoes? Check Check.) and your neatly done (and weekly-dyed) hair. That's fine. Thank you for being an upstanding citizen. I just need to put out there that you did start out as a sweet, smiling infant. And, for your sake and hers, I really hope that your mother took you out of the house every once in a while despite your tendency to cry.
Now, I am not arguing with the fact that it is awful to listen to someone cry and scream. I have been annoyed by someone else's children before, to say nothing of my own two kids. It is just not fun to listen to crying. Ever. I am a rational being, however, and I absolutely cannot imagine the lack of maturity and compassion of those who are offended by the noise that accompanies having little children. I have flown many (many many many) times with my kids, including a cross-country and cross-Atlantic flight from Salt Lake City to Paris, France with my then-one-and-a-half year old daughter. And while I have tried my very best to parent my children well and to be cognizant of those around me, I have had some bad moments with screeching kids on airplanes. And I have been on the receiving end of more than one dirty look from the woman (and her husband, and her 30-something year old daughter with a her power suit and holier-than-thou stare and ice-cold ovaries) described above. At times I have shrugged it off, at others I have panicked and absolutely sweated and scrambled my way through making a bottle/changing a diaper/finding the right toy. Once I even had the nerve to shout, "What are you looking at?!!" ...Not my finest moment, I'll admit. Truly, though, I cannot fathom these people's lack of empathy. If nothing else, I don't think it takes that much effort to put in your earbuds and tune out the noise. Put on your Big Girl pants and deal with it (yeah, that's right. I said it. Someone had to).
Having kids from diapers to adulthood wasn't an eighteen-year sentence to a life stuck at home doing laundry and picking them up from soccer practice! It should not make you a social pariah. It is absolutely ridiculous for an adult of sound mind to let a child's cries ruin their day (*caveat: this really only applies in situations where there is no where else to go. There is just no excuse for parents who think that others should suffer while their children scream when they could easily remove them from the room). In my most desperate moments, I have so appreciated kind words and looks from strangers that say "I know what you're going through" at the airport. I have appreciated even more those who have put aside feelings of anger and annoyance to reach out a helping hand. One kind fifty-something woman on a plane once even offered to hold my infant so I could make her a bottle, and then took that bottle from me (I am pretty sure that after traversing airport security alone with a baby, two carry-ons, a car seat, and a stroller I must have looked about one spit-up away from landing myself in a mental health facility), fed and burped her. Did it make her day to help out a struggling mother and hold a sweet little baby? Maybe. Did it make mine? Absolutely. I have no patience for people who only think of themselves.
The most ridiculous thing about this idea is that it won't work. Have you ever been in an enclosed space with a smoker? Even if they were 25 feet away from you, were you not eventually surrounded by a noxious cloud of smoke? Sound travels similarly. This is not the Splash Zone at Sea World. What about the people who buy their tickets last minute and get stuck in the very last row before the Kiddie Corral? What if they run out of seats in the Family Section? Will families be bumped because of their lower-class status to have the nerve to travel with children? It is just plain old insanity. But, then again, when I think of the struggling airline industry with its $25 carry-on baggage charges and Postal Service-worthy flight attendants, perhaps this is just the thing they need to get business booming.