Thank you Economist for a sensible response on the crying babies in planes issue. Thank you, because you are written and read by more than a few conservative men and when I saw that you were looking at this issue, well, there was a little trepidation in me, and then I read your piece and thank you for getting it.
Using persuasion on crying children is something that non-parents are convinced will work — until the moment they become parents themselves and realize their own utter stupidity. No, if a child is bawling uncontrollably during a flight, it’s not because the parent is derelict in their parenting — it’s because they’ve already exhausted the first four policy options and have no recourse but acceptance.
I’m an economist, too, as it happens. And I also travel on planes occasionally with children. The other morning (a very, very early morning) we were all on a flight and I got chewed out by a guy for my children making noise on the plane because he wanted to sleep. I was pissed because the flight was an international one that had left at 4 in the morning, so yeah, of course he was tired, so was I and so were my young children and that’s why when they started squabbling towards the end of the flight it was more difficult than normal to resolve. (We had long since used up distractions of food and colouring-in books and looking out the window). I was also pissed because after a brief crying bout during take-off I had actually managed to get my toddler to sleep for the next two hours and he’d been heavy in my arms and it had meant I couldn’t move in my seat the whole time to go to the toilet or get a book or have something to eat lest I risk disturbing him and having him awake and crying again.
And yes, looking after my own kid is my job, bully for me, but I still felt like I had made something of a gesture to everyone’s peace already on the flight. I was also pissed because I wondered if whether Bill had been sitting there instead of me this guy would have felt so comfortable chewing a parent out. Finally, I felt pissed because this is life, kids are life, and I am sick of people getting shirty about this non-issue and taking it out on mothers, especially when I am frickin’ tired myself, thank you very much. It tells me something about how segregated our lives are, about how contained children and their mothers are, that the sounds of a baby crying on an aeroplane can cause such a fuss. That some people are not tolerant of these sounds the way they are of the sounds of a noisy city – that tells me something about the way it happens that women’s lives are not included.
People travel, people travel on cramped, budget aeroplanes; some of those people will inconvenience you and sometimes you will inconvenience them. Try to be nice about it, whomever you are, the wronged or wrong-doing. And Get Over It.