To All You Plane Passengers Without Kids: You Have No Idea How Lucky You Are So Relax When My Kid Cries

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I want to start off by saying I hated, and I mean absolutely hated every single parent who had a child that cried on a plane.  And I’m not even talking kids that cried for hours on end.  Frankly, those are the people I wanted to murder.  I’m talking about even five minutes at a time.  The high-pitched moaning and wailing of a child was/is about the most irritating sound you can possibly hear on a plane other than the pilot saying, “we’re going down.”  So naturally after having a child I waited as long as I possibly could before bringing him on a plane.  I really didn’t want to be “that guy” who had a screaming child.  But alas, that time came.

This past weekend was the first time my two and half-year old son ever flew on a plane.  What amazed me going into the situation was that the first thing I thought of as I entered the plane was “I really hope this kid doesn’t scream the whole time.”  I couldn’t help but to remember being a single guy taking trips and how my excited mood while traveling in the air to get to my destination could be torn apart by the desperate screams of annoying children.  I always thought it was the parents fault so I clearly hated them too.  “No good parent would let their children cry,” I thought.   Talk about being wrong.   Oh so wrong.

So here I am, “that guy” carrying my son with my wife right behind me.  We get to the gate during “last call” and I just knew we were screwed.  The looks!  Oh the looks.  I remember being that passenger rolling my eyes when I saw a parent with a child hoping to God they would sleep or just shut up for the entire duration of the flight.  Now it was my turn to receive the glares.  Judging, hating, almost threatening me.  It was like “you’re entering MY plane so keep your kid quiet or I’m kicking you off.”  “Don’t even think of letting that little *&$# say a word or you’ll be ruining my trip.”  It was at this moment I was reminded of Louis C.K. harping about how lucky we even are to be in fact flying and yet we complain constantly about the planes we are in.  The very planes that have the ability to take us 2500 miles in 3 hours all while giving us the ability to watch television, surf the internet, eat food, do work, go to the bathroom, carry our luggage, and about 6000 other things that we should recognize are miraculous because we are in fact doing these things 6-7 miles up in the air in a tiny metal box.  We’re flying for Christ’s sake!  FLYING!  Isn’t that enough?  Clearly not.

So I finally get to our row of seats.  Row 18.  Oh did I mention my son is 29 lbs but he’s over 2 so I had to buy an extra ticket for him?  Yup, that’d be $1500 for the three of us to fly from New York to Austin and back for a trip that would last us under 48 hrs.   And did I mention that my wife spent about 8 hours packing the night before?  Yeah, you know, over a hundred toys, easily 25 things of snacks, 20 books, a diaper bag which is basically a mini pharmacy, a stroller, and damned if I forget his favorite toy which is the size of a peanut and will make him cry endlessly if I forget it.  And yes I brought a DVD player, iPhone with games, iPad, mini iPod for music and all the while I’m flying Jetblue which has live television.  This all for a 3 and a half hour flight in order to try to prevent my child from crying for even a second.  And why wouldn’t my son cry?  The kid is about to take off on a plane that has the ability to crush our lives in minutes, will make sounds louder than anything he’s ever heard, and can bump in the sky making movements far scarier than a roller coaster.  So yeah, why SHOULD my kid cry on his first flight?  He should definitely shut the hell up like the rest of the adults on the plane, right?

So here we are.  Take off.  My kid is actually pumped to be on this plane since we’ve spent an entire week psyching him up and mentally preparing him for the ride.  And here I am holding my wife’s hand with the knowledge that we can be incinerated upon take off but I’m sitting there smiling at my kid making it seem like going into the sky is the “best thing ever!”  We’re airborne.  The plane is ascending and my son is doing great.  No crying.  No nothing.  It’s awesome.  I feel great.   Does it last long?  Actually, the first hour was pretty decent.  And then the antsy kicked in.  There’s just no way any child wants to stay in their seat for hours on end unless they are sleeping.  My son is whining that he wants to go out.  And by whining I mean screaming hysterically.  Thankfully this only goes on for about 5 minutes.   We’re sitting there harping and hawing.  Remember, we’re doing every single thing imaginable to get this kid to stop.  I used to be annoyed at this sound.  I used to hate it.  Now I just felt horrible because if my son wanted to shoot me in the face, I’d have gladly taken a bullet to get him to stop crying.   We try TV.  Nope.  We try a DVD.  Nope.  Food.  Nope.  Books.  Nope.  All the kid wanted to do was to stand in the aisle.  So sure, I scooped him up and let him stand.  No crying.  I popped in a DVD on my laptop and he actually just stood there standing and watched Toy Story for almost an hour.

Things were very smooth after that right until we started our descent.  My son’s ears were acting up.  Oh yeah, for all you non parents out there.  The air pressure is really crappy for kids so obviously make sure they’re drinking something or chewing gum (if they’re old enough) on the takeoff and landing.   So anyway, the turbulence starts and the little drops in altitude that freak out your stomach start.  My son starts crying and screaming.  My wife tries everything imaginable until she finally just stretches over the seat and hugs him so tightly that his face is buried in her chest and he calms down.  She does this through the entire descent which was around 5-10 minutes.  All the while I felt the breathing and panting of other passengers when my son was screaming.  Them thinking “this little punk kid is ruining my mood.  We’re supposed to be landing.  I’m not to have my mind messed with as I mentally prepare for this landing.  How dare he?”

The total plane ride lasted a total of 3 hours and 30 minutes and my son had about 10 minutes of crying.  I felt it was a total success as he cried when he should have and really nothing more.  I’ll spare you the actual before the ride and after the ride details because why bother you with another 2-3 hours of working my tail off to parent my child?   Actually I felt way worse for the people who were two rows ahead of me who had a one-year-old who was crying for literally over 2 hours of the flight.   So when we got off the plane we definitely weren’t the “bad guys” even though we still got looks of disapproval.   Oddly enough as we were leaving,  I ran into the mother of the “screamer” at the airport.  I walked right up to her and asked if it was the first time her son had flown.  She said “unfortunately not” with this embarrassed look on her face.  I then told her that this was my son’s first flight.  I also mentioned to her that she had nothing to feel the least bit bad about.  Her son’s crying didn’t bother me in the slightest.  Understanding, because I’m a parent.

But tell that to the people rolling their eyes on the plane and the ones who are now telling their “horrific” story about the annoying crying kid who wouldn’t shut up.   To them I say, “seriously?”  The next time you fly a plane and hear a kid who is crying please remember all the endless crap a parent has to go through before, during, and after a flight that you never had or have to.  And as a parent I know 100% that this a choice, that it’s totally worth it, and that I’m not supposed to complain.  And to be honest, I’m not complaining because I’d do it all again.  But that also doesn’t mean that you selfish, entitled, unsympathetic pills on my plane ride couldn’t have just a bit of compassion for a fellow human being who, like you, is just trying to get from A to B with as little interruption and problems as possible.

Oh and by the way, my son didn’t make a peep on the way back.  Slept 2/3 of the way and was all smiles the whole way home.   But God forbid he cried just once, I’m sure I’d have gotten an eye roll or two from a person who didn’t have the slightest clue as to what it took to be on that plane, let alone to be a parent sometimes.

P.S. I have ONE kid.  For all you folks with more than one child?  God bless you.  It should be noted that when we got on an elevator at the airport (yeah, no stairs for you because of that stroller!) we saw a family with quadruplets.  Good Lord.

Any questions?  Tweet me @nathanielberman

Photo by Shaun Heasley/Getty Images



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