Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DINKs gotta stop living up to their name

(For honest and true, I began putting this together before M. Blowhard posted his series (great, as usual) on breeders vs. DINKs.)

In case you haven't heard, a mother, Kate Penland, and her baby (19 months) were kicked off a Continental flight this week because the baby kept saying "Bye-bye plane."

A baby repeating a phrase, which they do because they're LEARNING THE LANGUAGE, got them kicked off a flight.

A lot of hyperbole gets tossed around about indicators of the impending fall of the nation - we're Rome, we're gonna be forced to join a North American Union, gay marriage, etc. - but when the entire crew of an aircraft thinks that cute baby babble is a threat, you wonder if the horses of the apocalypse are stepping up to the chute.

Pilots are a pragmatic bunch by nature. (Coaxing tons of metal into the sky and back down safely again will do that to you.) So I'm surprised the conversation in the cockpit didn't go something like this:

Flight Attendant: "Captain, there's a child out there who keeps saying "bye bye plane" and the mother refuses to drug the child with benadryl, so we need to return to the gate."

The Captain tosses a look at the copilot, takes a quite breath and says: "Do you feel this behavior is endangering the flight?"

Flight Attendant: "It's driving me nuts!"

(After another pause) The Captain: "Why don't you borrow a dose of benadryl from the mother and strap into your little seat for a while?"

Now, we parents have an obligation not to subject folks to the extreme behaviors of our kids, but this kid wasn't really doing anything all that bad.

A recent article about this on Salon relates another horror story (edited to avoid getting in trouble):

Flying the child-unfriendly skies
Carol Lloyd

Jul. 13, 2007 |

[snip - this was the story I related above]

Bring on the child haters, the airline critics, the lazy parenting theorists! If you think this story sounds like an urban legend designed to foment sippy-cup culture wars, I don't blame you. I too would have found it difficult to swallow had I not experienced a similar treatment on an airline just last month. The details are tedious -- they involve me tapping the flight attendant on the shoulder trying to pass along some trash, him informing me he didn't appreciate "being touched," and me asking why he was being so rude. He then snarled at me: "Your children are totally out of control! If you'd just discipline them, you'd be much better off."

Granted, my kids often give an unfortunate impression given that they both look two years older than they are, but definitely act their age. In public situations, I've been known to whisper, hiss, threaten, cover a screaming mouth, and take away beloved privileges until I'm literally dripping with sweat. But this wasn't one of those occassions. When the flight attendant -- a young man who I assumed had no children -- told me off, both children were sitting absolutely silent, enraptured by a Hello Kitty DVD. [snip]

Once we switched flights to Lufthansa and a number of smiling, toy-bearing German flight attendants charmed the socks off my kids, I couldn't help thinking that it wasn't air travel but an American cultural divide about the place of children in society. The recent story about a woman who was kicked off a Delta flight for not covering her toddler's head with a blanket while breast-feeding offers more evidence of some weird attitudes toward children. The experience of Kate Penland vindicates this hunch. [snip] But for a certain child-free percentage of the population, ordinary kid behavior is so reprehensible as to warrant turning around flights and creating child-free restaurants.

Some anti-kid stuff you just gotta deal with, because those that don't have them can't be blamed for not understanding what it's like. Everyone who has them can remember how they felt before kids and after. (Fun factoid: if you didn't like other people's kids before you had children, you still don't after you do.) The change is phenomenal - one of the seminal ones in life, right up there with sex and (reportedly) combat. Therefore, we parents know that we've got the curb the little monsters when appropriate.

However, sometimes I'm kinda flustered by people who think they have a right to a childless environment. Every summer there are free concerts up at the park by my house. It is a perfect kid-friendly event. Most of the crowd is happy families grooving and throwing a Frisbee. But there's always a minority of childless couples who sit there with a scowl that intensifies if a kid wanders near their claimed territory. Again, I have sympathy, but these folks have got to get a grip and quit having their fun ruined because a kid might be too loud or, heaven forbid, spill some juice on their precious blanket.

I've always thought this sign displayed the best attitude:

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