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Sunday Night open thread – and the flight from hell

Miami International Airport (MIA) sucks big time. So disorganized. Crowd handling = zero. I learned after my last trip there for a conference that if at all possible, always carry on your bags. So I traveled light. I had my boarding pass and was dropped off at terminal A; didn’t learn what gate it was until I checked the monitor and it was Terminal E. Oh man, E was like a mile away. No transportation or moving walkway. I had time, so that wasn’t an issue, but man, the neuropathy was killing my feet, but I managed to make it with plenty of time.

Though the plane ride is only 90 minutes to RDU, it might as well have been a lifetime. I board, heading to my window seat (no one likes the middle seat; I detest the aisle because people hit you with bags and run into you constantly). I look and there is a family taking up the entire 3-seats of 19, dad, mom, a 3-ish child on the mom’s lap and a 5-ish one in my seat. The father says “they split us up; you can have either 20C or 21 (unintelligible). Not “could I switch,” but here’s my choice.

The five year old is kicking the back of the seat of the person in front of them, the 3 year old is screaming at the top of his lungs, pleased with the sound of his voice. Parents are doing zip. I take the aisle seat across from them and begin hoping that they will go silent and settle in.

It inevitably goes from bad to worse below the fold.Oh, no they don’t and the parents apparently haven’t a care in the world. When the person getting kicked turns around, the mother tells her child “if you were sitting there like this person, would you want someone to do that to you”? The child shakes her head no — and proceeds to continue kicking the seat for another 30 seconds or so. I just shook my head.

Meanwhile, Junior had escalated to jumping off and on mom’s lap still screeching. He was thankfully settled enough for takeoff, but even then, the yelping and cackling at a high decibel level continued. For the whole flight. That was interrupted intermittently by mom telling him to “shush” which clearly meant nothing.

Now I posted about this on Facebook with varying responses, most sharing my frustration at such passive parenting. We’re not talking about a colicky baby, we’re talking children old enough to take commands (or ignore them, apparently knowing there weren’t any consequences). But the apologists for bad public behavior by kids (and the blame lies with the parents) were there:

the world is made for everyone, including noisy children. sorry.


I’d like to see an end to parent bashing, personally. Having been the mother of two extremely mellow, well-behaved kids who will respond to direction and one who doesn’t care about any kind of punishments or rewards or threats or anything and will scream bloody murder about the slightest thing, like the seam of her socks being uneven- let me just say that sometimes there is just not much of anything a parent can do. By the time you see that kid screaming in public and it looks like the parent is doing nothing, they’ve actually decided to give up fighting for a moment to regain their sanity. Maybe we could just keep our kids knocked out on Nyquil so they don’t bother anybody?

Am I way off base in thinking that raising this issue to ask the question about whether parenting norms have changed for the worse? I’m not suggesting drugging kids. I’m opening the floor to ask whether the issue is lowered expectations of children’s behavior in public or less public tolerance of kids?

I’ve never been on a flight were passengers confronted the parents of misbehaving children. I have been on flights with well-behaved kids that were quite young, and poorly behaved older kids whose parents do little or nothing to stop the behavior, as well as parents who try and apologize for the difficult situation with a baby, young child or sick child.

This situation today was about bad parenting. There are kids that have not been told No, or followed through with consequences (and I’m not even talking about spanking) of any kind. Pointing it out is not an indictment of all parents, all kids or the rants of a person without patience for children.

As a child, I was expected to act appropriately in public, during travel, and when at a restaurant. We were told what to do beforehand, what was right, what was wrong, and if we did do something she disapproved of, she only had to give my brother and I “the eye.” You didn’t want to see that. You knew you f*cked up and there would be consequences. But the thing is, this rarely happened. We were easily quieted with a coloring book or picture book (no DVD players, Walkmans, etc). I have no idea why I see so many more fidgety kids in public.

My brother and sister in law have preferred to pack up the car and drive with my nephew (even several hundred miles) vs. flying. They’ve been fortunate on the few flights so far (because I ask), because Mr. E is generally quiet, and he has known what using “the inside voice” means for a long time. They are conscious of not making an already poor situation in coach worse – they remember all too well what it was like to be in the presence of under-parented kids on an airplane.

I think parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world; given the host of medical issues and the busy schedules Kate and I have we know it’s not for us. Being aunts is fine; there are enough too many people procreating already, and apparently too many parents not up to the challenge who think we all think their kids are as cute as they do while tired and flying in a tin can. I give kudos to the single dads and moms (including my mom for many years), and the two-parent families who know that raising healthy, happy, socially well-adjusted kids who are still able to behave in public is also part of the job.  

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding