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Flying with Kids: The first or final frontier?
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Flying with Kids: The first or final frontier?

Inside of an Airplane


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Before kids, my tolerance for tykes was zero. Yet I don't recall a single flight in which a child made a trip miserable. And for nearly 20 years I flew at least twice a week! Yes, I've had my seat kicked and listened to more than one child whine. But I've just as often experienced poor service, had the back of my seat pulled by an overweight or elderly individual unable to rise unassisted and been seated next to passengers that talked nonstop. After a long day, week or month on the road all are equally frustrating. But there are no calls for the rude, overweight or elderly to stop flying or talk of relegating them to the back of the plane.

The spate of articles and incidents involving children and airplanes that come to our attention each summer can be attributed to two unfortunate trends, a lack of tolerance and bad manners. Both are attributable to adults, not the kids. Unless we want air travel with kids to our first and final frontier suggesting the blame lay elsewhere is unlikely to get us very far. But what can we do?

As parents, we can instill a sense of propriety in our children, even at the age of two. We can pack our hand luggage with the kids in mind and include their favorite books, toys, games and snacks. We can teach them that coloring on the tray is a no-no. We don't let them color on the walls of our homes after all. We can praise them for counting their cheerios yet suggest that squishing them into the seat is just as yucky as squishing them into the couch in our living room. And we can put aside the book or magazine we've been dying to read and play with the tykes for the duration of the flight.

As adults, we can practice patience. Instead of scowling at the infant suffering from ear pain during takeoff or landing we can kindly suggest to the parent that sucking a bottle or pacifier might ease the child's discomfort. And we can pack our carry-on with our interests in mind, i.e. enough books, games and CDs to ensure we are entertained for the duration. After an hour of staring at the bulkhead, we are as bored and frustrated as toddlers. What's more we are easily irritated.

A word of warning to those that think kids and planes don't mix. European regulators have recently authorized cell phone usage on airplanes. The ringing and chatting could become deafening. And this time we won't have the kids to blame.

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