Oh Stewardess? There’s a Baby in my Plane!

In The New York Times’s Metropolitan Diary feature, one reader shares the following story:

While waiting on the business class boarding line at J.F.K., I spied parents with their 3-month-old daughter.

This American Airlines flight to Barbados was going to be long, and the thought of a crying baby near me in business class did not make me smile.

What did make me smile was watching her mom, after we were all seated comfortably, distribute little goody bags filled with Advil, tea bags and ear plugs, complete with a photo of Ms. Baby to passengers in her vicinity, just in case.

The conscientious mother in the story seems to be required to apologize for taking her baby out in public.  And I have no idea why it would be treated as an unnatural imposition to be around a baby in public. Being on a plane is not unlike being on a subway or a city street.  Other people should treat you with respect and politeness, but that doesn’t quite crossover to library-like silence.

How can a parent be tied into a community if a baby is seen as the equivalent of an unmuted cellphone?  There are plenty of possible distractions and interruptions that we accept as the price of travel (seatmates having a conversation, smelly tuna sandwiches, etc).  But a baby is treated as abberational because infants are out of the ordinary for many people.

Whereas previous ages spoke of a pregnancy as the period of a woman’s “confinement” because it was a bit gauche to be pregnant in public, we find it a little much to bring something as unpredictable as an infant or a toddler out in polite society.  Would it really be so much more difficult to accommodate a somewhat colicky child than it is to tolerate a cell phone conversation?

The apologetic cringe of the parents in this story and the applause they receive from the storyteller reinforces the idea that parents (especially mothers of young children) need to withdraw from the public square.  And given the suburban-y, nuclear family kind of culture we live in, that can mean a retreat from adult company.

Bless you google for suggesting this when I searched ‘baby on plane’

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

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  • anon

    I think there are a number of things wrong with your analysis, so I will take them in order.

    “Being on a plane is not unlike being on a subway or a city street.” Except it is. I can leave the subway. I can walk away from people on the street. I cannot leave a plane until it reaches its destination, which may take hours. And it’s not as if I can just get on a different plane like I could a different subway car. The comparison is entirely flawed.

    “library-like silence”: No one is asking for library-like silence. I expect a cafeteria to be louder than a library, but I would still object to anyone sitting next to me and beginning to scream.

    “There are plenty of possible distractions and interruptions that we accept as the price of travel (seatmates having a conversation, smelly tuna sandwiches, etc).” Yes, but I can tell my seatmate to leave me alone and be fairly confident that they will. As for the tuna, sure, you have a point, but there seems to be a fundamental difference between a slightly offensive (do people really find tuna that offensive?) odor and a screaming, kicking, child.

    “Would it really be so much more difficult to accommodate a somewhat colicky child than it is to tolerate a cell phone conversation?” Yes, for a few reasons. (1) As noted before, you can tell other people to be quite, you can’t do that with a child. The cell-phone talker might respect that and get off the phone, but if they don’t (2) you can always move away from them (because you aren’t on a plane). (3) Although one-sided phone conversations are annoying and distracting, they aren’t as fundamentally objectionable as an infant’s screams. I have never felt myself in pain because of a phone conversation, I have been brought to tears by babies.

    Parents’ withdrawal: No one is saying that the parent here should retreat from the public sphere and adult company. Perhaps that might be able to be argued, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that this mother knew that many people would be inconvenienced by her child and took action to rectify that. She still is in public, she still is getting on the plane, but she does so with empathy towards others. Empathy should be promoted, not discouraged.

    Retreat from adult company more generally: Perhaps parents should be expected to withdraw themselves from adult company (and yes, the gender dynamics that invariably follow are problematic). But it was your choice to have a child (well, again, assuming it was your choice to have the child), you should live with the consequences. People with the flu are expected to stay home, and they didn’t even chose that state of affairs about themselves. If you chose to be bound to a screaming and inconveniencing organism, you should also be choosing to sequester yourself until that organism stops being so inconveniencing. There are times and places for infants to be in public (like walks on the street, or parks, or day-care) and there are times and places where they shouldn’t be (the theatre, museums perhaps, and small enclosed areas that fellow human beings have no ability to remove themselves from without extreme economic hardship, and only then if they realize in time).

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

      I agree with you that a baby screaming in your ear can approach the point of being physically painful—obviously it can—but I’d be inclined to take issue with the description of it as “fundamentally objectionable.” A baby, unlike the flu, is not simply an inconvenience that infects us occasionally and from which we rightly flee when possible. It is (1) a thing which we ourselves were at one point in our lives and (2) a fundamental state necessary to the continuation of human life on the planet. Even crying, as painful as it can be, is fundamental to life: it is the organism struggling to survive by voicing and asserting its needs, albeit in an uncivilized way. That fact seems to get lost in painting the screams of child simply as “fundamentally objectionable.” Thus, I’m a little unsettled at the characterization of the presence of children (a necessary presence in the world, even if not on airplanes) as a mere inconvenience—though I’m certainly willing to concede that it can sometimes create inconveniences. That, however, is not the sum total of what it can create.

      • anon

        I was not meaning to say that ALL children are inconveniences or that that is ALL that they are. Yes, obviously children are a necessity (although in far fewer numbers than we produce them at), and the infant stage is a necessity as well. What I meant by the term “fundamentally objectionable” is that the screams themselves (not the child) are things that absolutely no one wants. Yes, crying is an evolutionary mechanism to get what the child needs, but if we could predict the needs and preempt the crying I think everyone would agree that would be better.

        The presence of children is NOT a “mere inconvenience”, their presence in places like airplanes is fundamentally inconveniencing. Yes, they are more than an inconvenience. But at a very base level their screams are inconveniencing.

        And while infants may have value to the species as a whole and the parents in particular, I am not sure why I should feel that someone else’s child is any different than someone else’s flu. A baby, to me, is an inconvenience that infects (bothers) me occasionally and form which I flee when possible. I cannot flee in a plane, however, and so unless you have a good reason to bring a baby onto that plane (like the poster below seems to), you shouldn’t. And even if you do, you should recognize the inconvenience you are causing others, just as you should if you were sneezing on them. That doesn’t mean you need to hand out goodie-bags, but you should still recognize it and react however you would to any other inconvenience you are inflicting on others.

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

          But at a very base level their screams are inconveniencing.

          In fact, they were designed to be inconveniencing (or rather, inconvenienceing screams would be selected for by evolution). Babies are crying because they want your attention

          • anon

            Yes, that ^^
            And I didn’t sign up to have something wanting my attention. So screams that inconvenience the parents are one thing, because they bought into the whole having-a-child thing. But when the screams inconvenience me, it is something which I am opposed to.

            Jake: I think you were agreeing with me, I was just following up, not trying to disagree with your post in any way.

        • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

          I agree with you totally that crying babies can be “inconveniencing.” My issue was more with your rhetoric than with the point you were making—I think that the language we use to talk about these issues is important. I also certainly agree that you shouldn’t bring screaming children into museums or to the opera, etc., where nothing is accomplished for anyone (them, their parents, the other patrons) by their being present. I suspect, however, that few parents bring their children onto planes unless they have a good reason—obviously traveling with a young child can be trying for the parents (and for those in the nearby vicinity)—so I doubt many parents would undertake it without needing to.

          I don’t think that Leah’s post suggests that we shouldn’t feel inconvenienced by the presence of a crying child (can we really help how we feel anyway?). However, I do think that it contains an implicit plea that we don’t blame parents with screaming children for the inconvenience that they’re causing in the same way that we can blame folks talking on cellphones or seat mates insistently striking up unwanted conversation with us—nor should they be obligated to perform some mea culpa that we might rightly ask of a person who is simply being rude. The rude person can stop their behavior and they might even do so if we roll our eyes, loudly sigh, cast disparaging looks in their direction or simply tell them to shut up (as you note). However, a parent with a crying child—already in an awkward spot—is not helped by rolled eyes, loud sighs, or cutting stares, all of which they can sometimes be subjected to in spite of their totally helpless position.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

            Post above was meant to be in response to Anon, not Jake. My bad.

          • deiseach

            Yes, babies cry and young children complain. And that’s natural. It’s also natural to be irritated, but I doubt parents would bring a baby on a long flight unless they had to do so.

            There are a lot of things in the world that are inconvenient or that discommode us. When a car or house alarm goes off and is left shrieking and unattended, that drills right through my ears, but I have no right to throw a brick through a window to register my displeasure.

            Babies and children and sulky teenagers and grumpy elders and ugly people, not as smart as us people, fat people, painfully modish people and (my own personal bug-bear) public displays of affection are all part of life, and if we are only prepared to tolerate the optimum environment where all is to our liking and preference, then how will we tolerate real pain and suffering and misfortune when we have to undergo them (because, unless we are very, very lucky, at some time in our lives we will have to undergo pain and suffering)?

            Think of a crying baby as endurance training toughening you up for the struggles of existence.

          • Micha_Elyi

            “When a car or house alarm goes off and is left shrieking and unattended, that drills right through my ears, but I have no right to throw a brick through a window to register my displeasure.”

            deiseach

            Obviously your theory of rights is deficient.

        • Theodore Seeber

          On us producing more children than we should, I think you need to do more research. Here’s a place to start:
          http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/04/our-demographic-decline.html

          • Anna

            I think the author makes an error in assuming that this is a good/inevitable thing: “Our whole economy and social system are designed for a growing economy, and a growing population.” That’s not the only way to do things, nor is it sustainable. We can chose how we design our economy and social systems. We can make choices that leave something behind for the generations to follow.

          • Micha_Elyi

            Ancient tribes who shunned fire in order to preserve the flints – a limited resource – for future generations left no future generations.

          • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

            What generations to follow? The very first step in leaving something behind for the generations that follow is having the generations that follow. Something you and other boboise commenters are hostile to.

          • Theodore Seeber

            It is understandable leaving something for generations that follow- a huge part of Catholic Social Justice is exactly this. But first, you’ve got to have a generation to follow- which not having babies, has a tendency not to do.

          • Anna

            I can have one child instead of eight (or eighteen). I can have no kids and instead support my sister or neighbor in raising their kids. I don’t have to have as many kids as possible or any at all for there to be a generation that follows me. It can be a smaller generation and still exist, perhaps better than an overly large one, unless you insist on an economic system that requires more and more consumers forever. Which is more “biblical” a.) having as many of your own kids as you can, focusing your resources on them, with the idea that some day they will be materialistic and keep the economy going or b.) having a small number of children or none, focusing your resources on them as well as other people’s children, raising a society focused on community and relationships instead of buying things. Which includes more “loving your neighbor”? Which is more selfless?

          • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

            All the evidence is that the people having more kids are the less materialist–the people having the fewest kids are the most materialist. The only defect with your argument is that it is 180 degrees off from reality.

          • Micha_Elyi

            The people of the None or Few persuasions are tightwads who expect to live their senior years drawing checks paid for by taxes on other people’s kids. And they expect to live in an economy based on the effort and resources of other people’s kids. And rely for their medical treatment from – wait for it – other people’s kids.

            And that, Adam G., illustrates why you’re so right about “the people having the fewest kids are the most materialist.”

            The secular intentional child-avoidant are so intensely materialist that their materialist greed far outweighs any counterbalancing generosity of religious celibates and those who have few children but never intended so.

    • Pseudonym

      I’m going to agree in part and disagree in part.

      The part that I agree with is that a plane is very different from a street or subway. My commute is something like 45 minutes. I can always wait it out, or if it’s too bad, I can move to another carriage, or wait 10-20 minutes for the next service.

      Plane trips are typically longer. Sometimes much, much longer. JFK to LAX is 5 hours which is bad enough, but pity people who live in Australia and rely on long-haul flights to get anywhere. It’s 16 hours from MEL to LAX and 22 hours from SYD to LHR (admittedly you do get a stopover). You are confined to your assigned seat for most of the trip.

      Long-haul flights are a fundamentally unreasonable scenario for everyone concerned, including any babies flying. I don’t have any reasonable suggestions as to what to do about it.

      • Marty Luther

        I do.
        Airlines should advertise flights as “Children under 12 allowed” or “Children under 12 banned”.
        Thus, those of us who can’t stand the wailing and stench of the “wee ones” can take the civilized flight. Those who must cart their young ‘ens via air can ride the cattle car in the sky and suffer for it.
        FYI, childless and lovin’ it!

        • Alan

          They already do – no one is hiding that children under 12 are allowed on all flights so you can keep your poor suffering ears at home and suffer for it.

    • Jennifer B

      I enjoy the fact that I can take my well-behaved children in public. They learn how to behave in public by observing others and guidelines I set. There are times when their behavior becomes unacceptable to me, as a parent, regardless of our surroundings, and we leave. I’ve even left a cart full of unpaid groceries at the store.
      I also enjoy the fact that we travel as a family. On a plane. Together. My youngest child, 6 months old, has a problem with her ear pressure on a plane. She cried for two hours during a 5 hour flight, and I received one look from a fellow passenger, but it was a look asking if she was okay. Not a look implying, “Please shut your baby up now, or I will call the flight attendant and let them in on my personal annoyance towards your family.” Babies cry, children can be noisy, and most likely we won’t see each other on another flight. You were a child once, and your parents probably had the same cringing feeling as they prepared to travel with you. I’m sure they’ll tell you a story or two if you ask. Parents do as much as they can to try and quiet the situation, but sometimes a child is inconsolable. If a screaming child bothers you that much, request ear plugs and a glass of wine, or better yet, just take the subway.

    • Kristen inDallas

      “But it was your choice to have a child (well, again, assuming it was your choice to have the child), you should live with the consequences. ”

      Couldn’t we also say that it was your choice to board a publicly accessible plane, rather than chartering a private jet, and you should live with the consequences? Seriously, a plane is a public place. Public means accessible by all types and ages of people who you may find annoying. You go into public, and you deal with what you find there.

      Also a note to everyone reffering to “screaming babies”… screaming is an adjective that only apllies when a specific action is being taken. No baby is a permanently “screaming baby.” Babies sometimes scream, and are othertimes quite pleasant. For the most part parents do not “decide” to take “screaming babies” onto a plane. They take babies onto a plane. The baby may later start screaming. Depending on the length of the flight and how heavily they’ve been doped with benadryl.

      • Kristen inDallas

        If someone reffered to me categorically as a “drunken German” without regard for whether or not I was actually drunk at the time…. I’d find it a little offensive.

      • Meg

        “Couldn’t we also say that it was your choice to board a publicly accessible plane, rather than chartering a private jet, and you should live with the consequences? Seriously, a plane is a public place. Public means accessible by all types and ages of people who you may find annoying. You go into public, and you deal with what you find there.”

        Amen

    • Meg

      I haven’t even finished reading your comment, but I am pretty sure that I would take 5 hours of screaming over five hours of tuna any day. At least the screaming doesn’t make me want to vomit.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      You are seriously analogizing having a kid to having the flu? Lovely. I’m sure you’re very grateful that your own mother and father bore you and raised you.

      The sense of entitlement and the contempt for the very basis function of a sustainable society, which is having the next generation, positively oozes from your words.

    • FM

      ““Being on a plane is not unlike being on a subway or a city street.” ”
      Except it is. I can leave the subway.”

      A thought to your safety: do not try to leave the subway/bus/trolley until it reaches its nearest destination either… or the baby won’t be the only person screaming :)

  • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

    How can a parent be tied into a community if a baby is seen as the equivalent of an unmuted cellphone? There are plenty of possible distractions and interruptions that we accept as the price of travel (seatmates having a conversation, smelly tuna sandwiches, etc). But a baby is treated as abberational because infants are out of the ordinary for many people.

    I love the (telling) comparison between the baby and the cellphone—both because it shows how much we want to treat children simply as manageable objects and because it reminds us how manageable objects (cellphones) are growing ubiquitous while unmanageable people (children) are increasingly absent.

    This reminds me of a lot of the discussion that’s gone on around the web about loud, unruly children at mass—surely the one place that children should be unquestionably welcomed. I read one blog post today from a mother who, at an Easter mass, had someone turn around to tell her that her children were “ruining it for everyone else.”

    I’ll confess that I sometimes have my patience tried by children being children in public, but I’ve come to recognize that the issue is usually mine not theirs or their parents (extreme cases of unsupervised Kids Gone Wild excepted, of course).

    • deiseach

      Yeah, that one annoys me when people complain about children at Mass. Now, if the parents are letting Junior run wild during the Consecration with no attempt to rein her or him in, then that’s just poor parenting.

      But how else do we become civilised except by learning how to behave by being exposed to what is expected? Everybody at some point was a child who didn’t pay attention in Mass. I did it, my sister did it, my brothers did it – climbing on, over and under the pews, asking questions loudly, standing up when everyone else was kneeling, looking around, fidgeting, etc. etc. etc. You grow out of it (in most cases).

      Time for a quote from the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien!

      “Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a Mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which Our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come).”

      • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

        I completely adore the Tolkien quote! Thanks for sharing it.

      • Micha_Elyi

        (It) annoys me when people complain about children at Mass. Now, if the parents are letting Junior run wild during the Consecration with no attempt to rein her or him in, then that’s just poor parenting.
        –deiseach

        People do their poor parenting at Mass in silence. The products of their poor parenting – barbarians that are politely referred to as “children” – annoy people at Mass.

        Just a question, why are children so much better behaved (well-parented, to adapt your nomenclature) at Masses said in the Extraordinary Form? And why are so many Vatican II style Masses Camp Runamuck? (Just asking.)

    • TerryC

      I have to simply disagree here. There is no excuse for children being unruly at Mass in most places. I have had the opportunity to visit multiple parishes around the country, and since my wife is Protestant, not Catholic, at various times non-Catholic services. What I have found is, though almost every parish I visit has a nursery for babies and toddlers, parents insist on bringing children who won’t behave into Mass. Children below the age of reason are not bound to attend Mass. If you need to bring a toy to occupy your child during Mass that child should probably not be there. Conversely I have seen very young children both at Catholic Mass, but more often at Protestant services, who are quiet, attentive and reverent. One reason for that is that they understand what is happening is important. The other is that there parents will not stand for them to behave in any other way.
      Generally speaking if your child can be made to behave in a nursery school storytime, at a movie, or during any other activity they can be made to behave at Mass. If they can’t, because they are simply too young either leave them in the nursery or do what my friends family dose and attend two different Masses, so that one parent can stay home with the very young children.

      • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

        This may be a parish by parish thing. When I wrote this comment, I was specifically thinking of babies and very young children (toddlers) at mass. My town, not very large, includes one campus chaplaincy (which I attend regularly) and a couple of small to moderately-sized parishes, neither of which, to the best of my knowledge, provides childcare for young children. In these cases the parents often must chose between bringing their children to mass or not going to mass at all. I’d much prefer that they bring their children

        • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

          Woops, meant to mention that I attend the parish churches semi-regularly (thus I think I’m accurate in assessing that there’s no nursery).

      • Micha_Elyi

        If you need to bring a toy to occupy your child during Mass that child should probably not be there.
        –TerryC

        Preach it, sister!
        Would that such good advice as TerryC’s be taught in every parish’s post-confirmation Vocation Discernment classes! There’s a lot of talk in the Catholic Church about the importance of marriage, parents, and children but not a lot of walking the walk.

    • Theodore Seeber

      This. As a parent of a special needs child, I *often* feel far more embarrassed than I should at Mass (ok, my son is 9 and has emotional maturity far beyond where I was at his age, but he just doesn’t seem to get that the three pews surrounding us don’t need to know every time he leaves the pew to go potty- which with his special needs, can be up to 5 times in a Mass).

      Good thing everybody loves him- and twice a month the Archdiocese of Portland offers an “Adaptive Mass” in my area for special needs people (many of whom are far worse behaved than my son- last Sunday we got to witness a young man getting First Communion at the adaptive needs Mass, whose response to “This is the Body of Christ” was “WHOOP!”)

      • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

        I love the idea of an “adaptive mass”! So glad to hear that your archdiocese is reaching out to those with special needs.

        • Theodore Seeber

          I only wish they’d do it more often- and that they could find more support. Fr Peter every year goes about $12,000 into debt on his credit card for the yearly retreat, which many families cannot reimburse him for.

          In another two weeks I get to stand up at the Knights of Columbus Oregon State Convention to talk about this and encourage councils to donate to the Archdiocese Office for People with Disabilities.

  • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

    I think I disagree with this post more strongly than any other post of yours I’ve ever read. There are lots of reasons babies on planes bother me, and none of them have to do with my expectations of what a mother should do with her time, or the idea that mothers “need to withdraw from the public square.”

    Being locked in a metal tube with a stranger’s baby is an unnatural imposition. It would also be an unnatural imposition for someone on the plane to bring a boom box and play country music at full volume. The imposition isn’t that the source of the noise is a baby, but rather that it causes discomfort to those around it. That doesn’t mean babies are bad, or evil, or somehow less valuable; it’s simply an admission of the fact that I don’t like loud noises- and niether do lots of other people.

    Further, being on a plane is fundamentally different from being on a subway or a street; on a subway or a street, you can leave anytime you want to. Not so on a plane.

    That said, the reason it is (and should be) appropriate for a baby to be brought onto a plane is because there’s literally no alternative for traveling long distances. It’s not the parent’s fault, nor is it the baby’s fault, that the baby is crying; that’s just what babies do. But it is a major imposition on the people around it, regardless of the intentionality. A mom passing out survival bags is a recognition of a less-than-awesome situation for everyone involved, and a token of appreciation for the people that are going to be made uncomfortable.

    Other people should treat you with respect and politeness, but that doesn’t quite crossover to library-like silence.

    Firstly, this is a hugely false dichotemy. The options are not simply “library” or “rock concert.” Saying “this is not a library” is in no way the same as saying “this is an appropriate place for a baby to cry for several hours.”

    Secondly, airplanes are actually pretty close to libraries. Anywhere other people are trying to sleep, you should generally be very concerned about making undue noise. In this case, “respect and politeness” does indeed dictate keeping the volume to a minimum.

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      The basic points (babies can be uncomfortably loud but still appropriate to bring on a plane) are right, but I would disagree on this part:

      A mom passing out survival bags is a recognition of a less-than-awesome situation for everyone involved, and a token of appreciation for the people that are going to be made uncomfortable.

      The problem with this is that being stoic and (at least externally) non-grumbly about baby-noises is the bare moral minimum to be expected of everyone, sort of like not defecating in the corridor. It is not worthy of any special appreciation, and singling it out for applause undermines that expectation of basic decency.

      If we talk of optional and ineffective but nice gestures, the seat-neighbors could signal their baby-approval, perhaps trying to soothe the baby with funny grimaces.

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

        The problem with this is that being stoic and (at least externally) non-grumbly about baby-noises is the bare moral minimum to be expected of everyone, sort of like not defecating in the corridor

        I don’t think those are remotely the same thing.

        The moral minimum to be expected of everyone is to put up with the baby, not to pretend like it doesn’t bother them. A baby on a plane isn’t value-neutral; the baby is actively causing discomfort, and the people around the parents would be much more comfortable if the parents had failed to show up to the flight. That doesn’t mean the parents are doing anything wrong, but does mean that thanking someone for putting up with your baby is the moral equivalent of thanking someone for not punching you in the face (or defecating in a cooridor)

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

          *not. I missed an important “not” in that last sentence

        • Alan

          “The moral minimum to be expected of everyone is to put up with the baby, not to pretend like it doesn’t bother them.”

          Can we apply the same minimum when I’m wedged between two fat people or next to the guy who didn’t feel the need to shower for two days before flying? Or do only need not pretend when it is a baby?

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            If that’s a serious question, yes, I think that’s a reasonable minimum whenever you’re put into an uncomfortable situation that’s basically unavoidable. Fat people and people who smell (for reasons other than not showering) have to travel too, and they don’t have a viable alternative to crowded airplanes. Pretending like the fact that they’re fat/smell bad isn’t an inconvenience to you is a denial of reality. It’s certainly no excuse to be rude to them, nore is it an excuse to glare at them throughout the flight- but would it be inappropriate for them to make an effort to do whatever they can to minimize your discomfort (take a shower, scoot as far over in their chair as possible)? Absolutely not.

          • Alan

            Well, it was a somewhat serious question in that I think the answer should apply just as much to travelling with a child on-board. It just seemed like it may be considered more acceptable by you to visibly express that inconvenience when dealing with a child and not when dealing with a fat person.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            Nope- I’m an equal opportunity disapproving-look-giver :)

            In all seriousness though, I don’t think expressing anger towards the person in question is the right answer. That’s really only justified if you have some chance of changing the offending behavior, and babies don’t take well to logical arguments about why they shouldn’t cry. But that doesn’t mean that they’re somehow magically not annoying you because babies are cute and neccessary for the continuation of the species. And it doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate for the parents to make a token gesture to try to lessen the impact on the people around them- which is certainly how I read the original post.

          • Alan

            Fair enough, I don’t disagree that Leah’s reaction was over the top – though I personally wouldn’t feel the need to hand out drugs (even if of the over-the-counter) variety to my fellow travelers just because I had a child in tow.

          • Micha_Elyi

            The baby doesn’t care if folks pretend or not.

            The person with the widdle hurt fee-wings and demanding the whole world bend to suit her is the maaa-ME.
             

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          Jake, the baby is causing discomfort unavoidable by the parents. Grumblers are causing entirely superfluous additional discomfort in the parents.

          Comparison: If I’m on an evening train with a pretty female stranger it’s totally natural to notice her beauty but still not OK to express that appreciation. In fact unless there are special circumstances changing the story the correct behavior is to take a seat where she can see me but I can’t see her. And it would actually be rather strange if she then handed out rewards for not rape-scaring her.
          Now rape-fears are of course a lot worse than child-dissing, but the basic principle is the same. You just don’t get to unload your natural reactions if it causes someone else lots of additional discomfort without doing any good.

          And, b.t.w. I’m not talking of actual pretending. That’s why the funny grimaces are optional. There is a big difference between not saying something true and saying something false.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            Now rape-fears are of course a lot worse than child-dissing, but the basic principle is the same

            No, it’s not. The varying magnitudes of offense make it a bit hard to discuss, but when you do something that makes someone fear for their safety, you’re actively causing them discomfort. When parents bring a baby on a plane, they’re actively causing discomfort to those around them. You’ve got the analogy backwards.

            The discomfort is most certainly avoidable- they could simply not bring the baby.

            Now again, there are often really good reasons to bring babies on planes, and I’m not taking the position that parents owe the rest of us some compensation every time they step onto a plane with a small human. But bringing a small noise making machine into an enclosed space for an extended period of time is not expected behavior, and the rest of us shouldn’t have to act like it is. It’s annoying, but sometimes necessary behavior.

            I think a better analogy would be construction work on a highway. Does anybody actually like construction work? Of course not. Are we disappointed when we end up on a street under construction, and wish we would have taken a different street? Sure. But construction work is sometimes neccessary. It’s not an excuse to be rude to the workers, but pretending like it’s not bothersome, or like we owe it to the construction workers to be extra cheerful when the jackhammer makes us spill our coffee, is not a moral imperitive.

          • Kristen inDallas

            When folks give an already stressed mom or dad the menacing stare-of-death I-wish-your-child-didn’t-exist-look, that can also cause discomfort. Discomfort that is quite easy to avoid by adults simply acting like adults. I think that was the analogy he was going for.

            As far as expected behavior goes, parents have been known to have babies in tow since babies have existed. They’ve been bringing them on planes since planes existed. I think the real problem is that airfares have been getting more and more expensive, and the quality of flights has been going down. When people shell out $600 for an economy ticket vs maybe $200 a decade ago, their expectations go up. No free booze, minimal food selection, small seats and barely any footroom, sometimes extra hours spent taxi-ing around on the damn tarmac before they let you off. Of course everyone’s hostile. The truth is that expectations about other passengers behavior have been increasing drastically as people try to justify the expense. What I think some of the people on this thread fail to get is that the experience is miserable for everyone, including babies and parents. The price is exhorbant for everyone. Expecting parents to be overly gracious or apologetic for everyone’s shared miserable experience is a bit like being upset about a coworker’s tunafish sandwich when the boss decides to make everyone work through lunch.

            It’s not really so hard to be grateful when I see a baby boarding the plane. I just remind myself that crying babies mean the guy in front of me won’t be sleeping and thus less likely to recline his chair into my kneecaps. Also the guy with the ailes seat next to me won’t be sleeping andrequiring me to do this everytime I have to pee: http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&biw=1126&bih=909&tbm=isch&tbnid=XqGAQaZwCeBwcM:&imgrefurl=http://www.ehow.com/how_5119579_prevent-air-sickness.html&docid=PUd4JKLz3qk4OM&imgurl=http://img.ehowcdn.com/article-new/ds-photo/getty/article/58/43/dv2074051_XS.jpg&w=400&h=266&ei=TRZwUf71NoGg2AXK_4HYAg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=281&page=3&tbnh=133&tbnw=200&start=56&ndsp=30&ved=1t:429,r:82,s:0,i:334&tx=98&ty=91

      • grok

        @Gilbert,
        Agree. “Moral Minimum” is a nice phrase.
        I think possibly the mom in this case was partly motivated to act as she did by the fact that she was in business class. She probably reasoned that those folks, having paid a premium price for their seat felt extra entitled to peace and quiet as well. Again I am not agreeing with this, just outlining what may have been part of her thought process.
        cheers,
        grok

        • deiseach

          Yeah, but it’s not the people who pay the extra who make the bread-and-butter money for the airlines, it’s the poor sods packed in like sardines in the cheap seats. So yes, I can see that feeling “I paid extra, I’m entitled to what I paid for” is fine, but when it comes to “Oh, yuck, a baby in business class?”, I’m more inclined to go “Suck it up and stop being such a precious flower” :-)

          • grok

            Amen!

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          True grok, the individual mom should not be blamed, it’s the totally perverse social expectations she faces that are the real issue.

    • Brandon B

      “I think I disagree with this post more strongly than any other post of yours I’ve ever read.”
      Really? She’s written on life and death, love and rapture and heartbreak, the dominion of religion and the dominion of law, the existence of God and the particulars of His almighty will, and babies being loud on airplanes is what gets your dander up?

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

        Yep. I think most of her other posts are logically defensible from the framework she’s arguing from (even if I think her framework is wrong.) This is the most far-afield from any reasonable interpretation I’ve seen. The only framework I can conceive of where this post would be reasonable would be some sort of socialist-utopia where everyone is responsible for raising everyone elses children.

    • Michelle

      My suggestion…if you know you are going to be locked up in a confined space for a set amount of time with an unknown group of people, it is your responsibility to come prepared. I’m not excusing other’s lack of manners or common sense, but if we are the type that is easily annoyed, stop complaining and buy some noise canceling headphones or something. I have four children under the age of seven (a fifth on the way) and I fly frequently with all of the children, by myself. My husband works for the airline so we can afford it. As a frequent flyer with babies, I agree that I don’t need to apologize for traveling with my child. I’m not trying to bring them to a fancy late night dinner at a restaurant or some other socially acknowledged “adults only” function. I am trying to get from point A to point B. My temporarily crying baby is like any other unpredictable possible behavior that any number of the other passengers could exhibit during the flight. My personal take on this is that the baby brings up emotional/deep psychological issues in people’s lives that the annoying coughing man or the too-loud talker don’t invoke. A baby is a completely helpless creature that is not in control of it’s reactions and is completely dependent upon the empathy of others. Passengers that are annoyed with babies are facing their own demons on the plane and the baby is not the problem.

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

        I strongly disagree with this. I can’t speak for others, but my problem is the loud piercing noise while I’m trying to sleep. If a baby is well behaved and quiet, it’s adorable. But “well behaved” is not a reasonable expectation for a creature that, as you say, isn’t really in control of what it’s doing.

        My point is simply that it is very much the noise that is the problem, not that I have unresolved personal demons.

        • Alice

          Yes, I am extremely sensitive to any loud noise, it doesn’t matter what it is. I think it is because I get migraines easily, so my body automatically perceives loud noise as a threat. I don’t get nearly as irritated with babies because I know they can’t control it, but I still have the automatic aversion. However, I keep it to myself and try not to show my aversion. I should take earplugs with me the next time I fly. I started wearing them at night because my roommate snores like a freight train and I would get really angry when I really needed sleep, even though I knew there wasn’t much she could do about it. It was partly because I felt out of control.

          I think it was really nice of the mom to provide those things, especially on a looooong flight, but I would never expect parents to never take their kids in public or go out of their way to “make up” for their kids’ noise. I accept that children will scream their heads off and there isn’t much parents can do about it. As the person sensitive to loud noises, I would see it as my responsibility to pack the earplugs and iPod. But regardless, I would do my best to keep my discomfort to myself.

  • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

    We’re flying from Texas to Massachusetts late next month for our daughter’s baptism, so this article certainly hits home. Any suggestions from Jake, anon, or anyone else on the appropriate etiquette?

    • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

      My two cents-
      I certainly don’t think you’re obligated to do anything other than board the plane, keep what peace you can, and get off the plane. Again, it’s not like you have a choice in the matter; if the baby is going to cry, it’s going to cry.

      I don’t think babies crying on planes is a fundamental problem in our society- just a mild inconvenience that we should be allowed to call an inconvenience. If you feel the need to pass out earplugs, more power too you- I’m sure lots of people would appreciate it. But you don’t owe it to anyone.

      Keeping a good attitude and demonstrating that you love your baby even when it’s crying would probably have a bigger effect on observers than a goodybag :)

    • anon

      I agree with Jake that there is no obligation to do anything else. All I ask is that you recognize the inconvenience and don’t treat those others of us on the plane as if we are the bad people for rolling our eyes and silently wishing to ourselves that we didn’t have to be on a plane with a child.

      You seem to have a relatively good reason to be on a plane with a child (long travel distance, arguably important event [not a Catholic so this is where we may split]). That’s fine. Really it is. But recognize the problem.

      Leah was objecting to people in your situation recognizing that others may be inconvenienced and trying to remedy that. While there is no obligation to remedy that, there certainly is no call for disparaging those who do try to.

      • Alan

        “All I ask is that you recognize the inconvenience and don’t treat those others of us on the plane as if we are the bad people for rolling our eyes and silently wishing to ourselves that we didn’t have to be on a plane with a child.”

        And would you say the same if we replace ‘child’ with ‘fat person’, ‘man with bo’, ‘praying muslim’ or ‘fisky teenagers’?

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      I guess you should probably bring diapers and the mom and/or bottle both to make the baby happy and to avoid avoidable crying. If anyone complains about unavoidable crying, tell them, if they didn’t want to be in the part of the plane that might have ordinary life, they should have checked in as luggage.

      • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

        And, while we’re at it, said mom is totally free to nurse the baby wherever it is most comfortable. Men who find this distracting (as I do) should avert or close their eyes.

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

          Um… why? Our society has decided that certain parts of the human anatomy are indecent to show in public. I fail to see how the existence of a baby changes that? It’s entirely societal, of course- in some cultures, that wouldn’t be a big deal at all. But not in our (western) culture. How is this any different from expecting people to wait until they get into a bathroom before revealing their not-for-public-use parts?

          • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

            You must live in a different western culture than I do, I think; everywhere I’ve been, it’s clearly less clear-cut than you are suggesting.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            Perhaps. The west is a big place :)

            Is it your contention that a woman showing her breasts in public is acceptable in the culture you live in? If so, then sure- no reason to make a fuss about breast feeding. But the tone of the original comment (“Men who find this distracting (as I do) should avert or close their eyes.”) seems to suggest that this is not the case in Gilbert’s culture. In my experience, it is not the case in my culture either.

          • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

            Breastfeeding is not very accurately described as “showing breasts in public”. Most breastfeeding women show less breast than women with cleavage do, and certainly less than most women in bikinis do, and they pretty much all show less breast than girls at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or women showing their breasts in public at a men’s club.

            Women who breastfeed in public, while not common, are also not exactly rare, either. It’s not difficult to find people who consider it entirely acceptable. However, what I said is that it was less clear-cut than you are suggesting: you can find lots of people on both sides. It is not analogous to either your original example, nor is it analogous to most situations people would think of under the description “showing breasts in public”. And this is not even getting into the fact that there are people who argue that it’s an important feminist issue, because the rejection of public breastfeeding is closely linked with customs and expectations that treat women’s breasts as having no public function except for being objects of the male gaze.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            Breastfeeding is not very accurately described as “showing breasts in public”.

            … that seems like an accurate description to me. It’s certainly not complete- breastfeeding involves a lot more than that- but yes, a breastfeeding woman does indeed seem to be showing her breast in public.

            As far as I can tell, the only two objections to breastfeeding are “showing your breasts in public is bad” and “breastfeeding should be a private, personal activity.” Frankly I don’t have much of an opinion either way- the consequence of being a reductionist is that I think these things are rather arbitrary societal norms. If society would like to decide that this is appropriate, that’s fine- but again, if it’s making other people uncomfortable, then society as a whole does not appear to have decided this. If you’re trying to enact social change (“if enough people do it it will become acceptable”), that’s cool, but don’t be surprised when people give you funny looks.

            And this is not even getting into the fact that there are people who argue that it’s an important feminist issue, because the rejection of public breastfeeding is closely linked with customs and expectations that treat women’s breasts as having no public function except for being objects of the male gaze.

            Not sure what you’re getting at here. As with most displays of masculinity/femmininity, their main “public function” is to attract members of the opposite sex. The same could be said of a strong jaw line, or a curvy figure, or heavily muscled arms. That seems like a biological statement, not an ideological one. It says nothing about the value of the individual.

          • deiseach

            Well, the telos of breasts is to nurture the infant, and I don’t think most women breastfeeding in public just whip ‘em out and let everyone have an eyeful (my sister always had a towel or the like to cover herself when she had to do it).

            So I think the polite thing to do is neither gape at the “Boobies!” nor go “A woman using her breasts for the purposes for which they were intended rather than as erotic signifiers? Gasp!” and I do think it’s different than someone urinating in public (a sight I have seen – passing through an alleyway in town with my mother, middle of the day, two guys pissing up against a wall). Also, it may be more inconvenient for a woman to try to climb out of her seat and clamber over her neighbours with a baby in tow, make her way up the aisle knocking against people to the toilet, occupy the toilet and keep others from using it while feeding, make her way back down the aisle and clamber back into her seat than to remain in her seat and feed the child discreetly.

            Then again, I’m female, so my attitude to breasts is not going to be the same as a male’s view of the matter, I imagine :-)

          • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

            Deiseach has it exactly right and gets 50 wisdom points.

          • melissa

            to Jake – Um… because feeding the baby in the bathroom is a ridiculous suggestion. Seriously – have you ever seen an airplane bathroom??? Also, nursing a baby is the most practical and effective way to keep it from crying on the plane. As a general rule, nursing is done very discreetly, and even if it is not, it is an reasonable way to take care of the needs of the child. Also, it is hard to imagine how you can live in this society where you are continually bombarded by nearly naked breasts every time you turn on the TV, walk through a mall, go through the checkout at the grocery store, etc and still be shocked and offended to see a breast used for feeding a child.

          • deiseach

            I don’t know if I’ll forfeit your good opinion, Gilbert, by linking to this image of the Virgin nursing the Christ child :-)

          • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

            Jake,
            As with most displays of masculinity/femmininity, their main “public function” is to attract members of the opposite sex. The same could be said of a strong jaw line, or a curvy figure, or heavily muscled arms. That seems like a biological statement, not an ideological one. It says nothing about the value of the individual.

            Err, no. Again, the whole feminist argument here is that this is an obviously and egregiously sexist argument: breasts obviously have a lot of actual functions in the lives of women, and by suggesting that none of them can be public except “attracting members of the opposite sex” you are reducing breasts in women’s public bodies to one particular biological function (which is not even the only actual biological function), sexual attractiveness to men (as a “display of femininity”, which makes the utter absurdity even more palpable, because it is, quite frankly very, very far from the minds of most breastfeeding mothers to be ‘displaying femininity’), and then pretending that this is somehow written into their biology. (And if we put emphasis on the ‘main’ in your description, then it is irrelevant: the whole question is whether there are other public functions, among which breastfeeding can be placed.) Feminists have argued this at great length for years now; it’s not a difficult argument to find, and no position on this subject can be taken seriously that does not seriously address it. If you are going to talk about women’s breasts and what they can and can’t do with them, you have a responsibility to establish that you are not drawing your conclusion on the basis of sexist assumptions about what breasts are for.

            yes, a breastfeeding woman does indeed seem to be showing her breast in public.

            ‘Seems to you’, unfortunately, is not a serious argument. As I’ve already pointed out, women who breastfeed generally show less breast than is allowed in public for lots of women in lots of other circumstances. Your original argument required that “showing breasts in public” be understood specifically in such a way that it would fall under some kind of sexual taboo or norm of public acceptability; but as I pointed out, mothers breastfeeding in public typically do much less that could be called “showing breasts in public” than lots of women who are clearly not violating any norms of public acceptability. Thus the mere fact that breastfeeding has something to do with breasts does nothing to support your original line of reasoning.

          • Theodore Seeber

            The telelogical purpose of breasts is for feeding children, and thus should be allowed.

          • Alan

            The teleological purpose of breasts is obviously motorboating. Though using them for feeding should be allowed too.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            @Deiseach

            I don’t think most women breastfeeding in public just whip ‘em out and let everyone have an eyeful

            Fair enough. I didn’t mean to imply that most women would. But in Gilbert’s example, it was clearly making people uncomfortable, and it seems like public exposure of breasts (even if it’s not gratuitous or intentional) would be a plausible source of that discomfort.

            So I think the polite thing to do is neither gape at the “Boobies!” nor go “A woman using her breasts for the purposes for which they were intended rather than as erotic signifiers? Gasp!”

            Well, sure. That’s definitely not the polite thing to do. The quesiton is whether breastfeeding in public is also an impolite thing to do.

            and I do think it’s different than someone urinating in public

            I agree, but only because urinating in public leaves a lasting negative effect on the environment. Other than that, it’s a bodily function that is entirely neccessary but could be done in private if society deems it undesirable for public consumption.

            Also, it may be more inconvenient for a woman to try to climb out of her seat and clamber over her neighbours with a baby in tow, make her way up the aisle knocking against people to the toilet, occupy the toilet and keep others from using it while feeding, make her way back down the aisle and clamber back into her seat than to remain in her seat and feed the child discreetly.

            This is true. It’s also inconvenient to do this if you need to urinate. Perhaps it is much more inconvenient for breastfeeding than it is for using the urinal (as you pointed out, never having breastfead, I wouldn’t know), but convenience is a weird angle to take. It might win you the argument “is breastfeeding on a plane appropriate?”, but says nothing about breastfeeding in public in general (which is what I thought Gilbert was arguing for)

            @Melissa-

            because feeding the baby in the bathroom is a ridiculous suggestion. Seriously – have you ever seen an airplane bathroom???

            Well, that would be a good answer to my question “why?” :) If it is indeed extremely difficult to breastfeed an infant in an airplane lavetory, then that’s a compelling reason to do so in your seat instead. But again, this doesn’t say much about the general acceptibility of public breastfeeding.

            Also, it is hard to imagine how you can live in this society where you are continually bombarded by nearly naked breasts every time you turn on the TV, walk through a mall, go through the checkout at the grocery store, etc and still be shocked and offended to see a breast used for feeding a child.

            Well, I don’t have TV, I don’t go to the mall, and apparently I”m going to all the wrong grocery stores. Odd to hear a Christian arguing for breastfeeding from the moral climate of our culture, though. Since we’re already so unchaste, what’s a little more public exposure…

            @Brandon Watson
            I have nothing whatsoever to say about “women’s breasts and what they can and can’t do with them.” I do have something (descriptive, not prescriptive) to say about societal norms.

            The idea that saying the public function of breast is a display of femininity equates to rampant sexism is utterly absurd. You know what the public function of male genetalia is? Absolutely nothing. Female genetalia? Absolutely nothing. The kidney? Also nothing. Public is a very specific, very important word. I never came close to saying that the public function is the only function, and to suggest otherwise is frankly disappointing. If you’d like to drown out dissent with cries of sexism, I suppose that’s your business, but you do nobody any favors by inventing positions for you to attack.

            ‘Seems to you’, unfortunately, is not a serious argument

            As if any argument has ever been anything other than this. This is one argument I shall walk away from, I think.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

            The idea that saying the public function of breast is a display of femininity equates to rampant sexism is utterly absurd. You know what the public function of male genetalia is? Absolutely nothing. Female genetalia? Absolutely nothing. The kidney? Also nothing.

            A modest suggestion for a possible difference between the role of the breast and the role of genitals in public situations. Genitals are generally conceived of as having two primary purposes: waste removal and sexual activity/titillation. These activities are, generally speaking, hidden affairs; in terms of waste disposal, even if we’re just placing a trash can in a room, we’re inclined to stick it under a desk and relatively out of sight. The breast also has two primary roles: sexual titillation/pleasure and feeding. Generally speaking, eating/feeding is treated by our society as a public activity. Insofar as breasts can be part of the public activity of eating/feeding, then it seems reasonable for them to appear in public. We might draw a comparison with the mouth. The mouth is, obviously, capable of being a site of sexual activity and titillation; however, it is also capable of participating in several reasonable public activities (eating and speaking). As such, we don’t find it scandalous when somebody decides to open their mouth in public to fulfill the purpose of speaking or eating.

          • Jmac

            I have nothing to add to this conversation, except for SMBC: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2270#comic

        • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

          Wrong. Covering up with a blanket is only polite and is basically cost-free for the mother.

      • anon

        Wait wait wait. The people who are opposed to the baby on the plane should check in as luggage? Why shouldn’t the baby check in as luggage?

        Note: I AM NOT ENDORSING CHECKING BABIES IN AS LUGGAGE. I just think the argument made is silly and can easily (and more fairly: babies won’t hit the 50lb limit on many checked bags whereas adults will) be made.

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          The rhetorical point was that babies are a part of life and if you don’t want life you should be on the non-life part of the plain.
          But no, I’m not actually advocating for any people to check in as luggage. The actual deep-structure point is that people complaining about babies are way out of line and should be slapped down hard rather than accommodated.

    • Tiff

      Change his/her diaper as close to right before you board as possible; and often something to eat/drink during take-off and landing gets them swallowing and adjusting their ears to the change in pressure.

      • Kristen inDallas

        These are both good tips. Also scheduling during naptime, or skipping the prior nap will help them sleep through most of the flight. Between eating and napping, my infant never gave me any trouble on flights. (Toddlers are a whole other ball of wax I’m afraid).

    • Michelle

      Some helpful tips for the parents flying for the baptism from a frequent flier with babies:
      1. Bring minimal supplies on the plane. Having to deal with too much carry on stuff can be confusing in a small space.
      2. Be prepared to feed your baby promptly. Whether you bottle feed or nurse make sure it’s accessible at a moment’s notice. I nurse and am always prepared with a modest nursing top and appropriate cover ready to go.
      3. Have diapers and wipes easily accessible.
      4. Don’t be afraid to bounce up and down the aisle for a minute or two if the seat belt sign is off (related…if the flight attendants aren’t busy serving drinks,etc. most of them would die to hold the baby for a bit.)
      5. If baby is old enough to stand or move, Immediately put a stop to any pushing or kicking of the seat in front of you, seriously, immediately.
      6. Use your common sense and manners. What applies in most social situations with strangers also applies in a plane.
      7. Don’t apologize for being there like the woman in the article. Do apologize if you do something offensive to someone else just like you would in any other social situation.
      8. Relax and have fun!

  • Noah Kristula-Green

    “Would it really be so much more difficult to accommodate a somewhat colicky child than it is to tolerate a cell phone conversation?”

    But I don’t tolerate cell phone conversation in my other modes of transportation. When I ride the Acela for a long period of time, I have the option of taking the quiet car. If such an option existed for an international flight, I imagine many people in would want to take it.

    I also think you are discounting a where a crying baby falls on the hierarchy of annoyances. A person who is on the phone for a short conversation is not the same as a baby who cries for an hour or more. One is much longer and more disruptive than the other. Though they are certainly both disruptive.

    I don’t really see how community is “built” on a plane. It is often full of strangers anyway and I consider a great flight to be one where it is under-booked and I have no one sitting next to me at all. Travel is also a tiring and exhaustive process, so the number of possible annoyances pile up.

    In contrast, I don’t think babies are seen as annoyances in other contexts, in fact I can think of several parties I’ve been to where a baby became the star of the event because everyone found him/her adorable. In those cases, the parents were definitely being built in as part of the community.

    Also, I think you have interesting word choice here:
    “There are plenty of possible distractions and interruptions that we accept as the price of travel”
    Sure we accept those prices, that doesn’t mean we have to like them!

  • Erin

    Wow. Lots of non- parent comments here. Babies-as-flu, babies-as-to-be-tolerated-inconveniences (should you CHOOSE such an idiotic decision in the first place, is the implication). I can think of similar situations when I might mentally compare these commenting adults as such, yet I would always verbally affirm, and hopefully internalize, said commenters’ dignity and value. No matter how irritating they are.

    • anon

      I never said the decision was idiotic, simply that it is one the parents made. Your decision to have kids also means that you must deal with the consequences of paying for their medical care; I don’t see why it’s any different to have to deal with the consequences of many in society not wanting you to bring that child to a theatre or onto an airplane.

      I also was not meaning to diminish any particular infant’s dignity and value, nor the dignity and value of infants on the whole. The comparison to the flu was an analogy where the parents were the subject of evaluation. I was not saying babies are exactly the same as the flu, or morally equivalent to it, I was saying that the decisions a person makes when they have either of those things affect those around them similarly, and so similar decisions should be made.

      • Alan

        “I don’t see why it’s any different to have to deal with the consequences of many in society not wanting you to bring that child to a theatre or onto an airplane.”

        And of course you would extend that to people who choose to speak Arabic on a plane – they have to deal with consequences of many in society not wanting that onboard and you shouldn’t be allowed to remain on the plane.

        • anon

          No, I wouldn’t extend that that far. Perhaps to the level of, if you chose (read: it’s not your only language) to speak Arabic you should deal with the sideways glances (which themselves are a big problem we need to deal with, but are unfortunately part of American culture), but no more. You absolutely should be allowed to remain on the plane, just as someone with a baby should be allowed to remain on the plane. I am not saying kick babies and their parents off the plane. I am saying that parents shouldn’t be shocked when people are annoyed.

          • Alan

            That’s fair, and just like with the Arabic speakers, the annoyed people shouldn’t be shocked when the parents find them rude or paedophobic.

          • anon

            Yes, you’re right. But the difference is that there is nothing about the Arabic language that should upset anyone. A baby’s cry is something that should (indeed: was evolved to) upset people. So yes, I should be shocked when a parent finds my annoyance at a child rude, because that’s how I was designed by evolution to behave.

            Arabic is not offensive. A cry is.

          • Alan

            “But the difference is that there is nothing about the Arabic language that should upset anyone”
            Clearly you have forgotten that 9/11 changed everything – you are also missing the point. There is nothing about a baby crying that should upset anyone either – a baby never hijacked a plane.

            “A baby’s cry is something that should (indeed: was evolved to) upset people.”
            No, it was meant to get the attention of people not upset them and a clam response to a baby’s cry is typically more effective than a response born out of being upset or annoyed.

            “So yes, I should be shocked when a parent finds my annoyance at a child rude, because that’s how I was designed by evolution to behave.”
            I assume this isn’t intended to be some scientific statement as to how homo sapiens have evolved to relate to babies crying – if it is I would ask you provide a precise definition of ‘annoyance’ because as I noted the casual use of the term does not seem to be what a baby’s cry elicits from a parent who is acting on instinct to relieve the cause of the crying. In other words, I call BS on this being an evolutionary designed response.

            “Arabic is not offensive. A cry is.”
            To you. Other may find Arabic offensive and the cry of a baby a beautiful sign of humanity.

          • anon

            First point: No, a baby never hijacked a plane. Neither did the Arabic language.

            Second: Look again. The cry was intended to annoy to the point of inspiring help, not just divert attention. A calm response is more effective at calming a baby over a passionate one, but the point is that people are inspired to act because they are annoyed. Lots of things get my attention, only those that concern me get my action.

            Third: It was, see above. “Annoyance” doesn’t mean act annoyed towards the child, it means willing with every fiber of their being that the annoyance (here a noise) end. And being willing to act calmly in the face of it does not lower the willingness for the end to come.
            “So yes, I should be shocked when a parent finds my annoyance at a child rude, because that’s how I was designed by evolution to behave.”

            Fourth: “Offensive” not in the sense of “people find it societally offensive” but “offensive” in the sense of “causes deep-seeded evolutionary offense and an ultimate hatred that cannot be overcome.” I challenge you to find a single person that has ever heard a baby cry and had their first thought be “awwww, cute!” The first thought is always “ow, what the heck? How can I stop that? Oh, it’s a baby, isn’t that sweet.”

          • Alan

            “First point: No, a baby never hijacked a plane. Neither did the Arabic language.”
            Uh, ok. But people speaking the Arabic language did so this point is for what exactly?

            “Second: Look again. The cry was intended to annoy to the point of inspiring help, not just divert attention. A calm response is more effective at calming a baby over a passionate one, but the point is that people are inspired to act because they are annoyed.”
            SO I will ask again, what is your scientific definition of annoyance because I don’t thing ‘inspiring help’ and ‘vexing or irritating’ are equivocal.

            “Offensive” not in the sense of “people find it societally offensive” but “offensive” in the sense of “causes deep-seeded evolutionary offense and an ultimate hatred that cannot be overcome.””
            So you think there is no deep-seeded evolutionary cause for people to be offended by sounds that they connect to imminent danger? You seem to have a very narrow, misguided understanding of human evolution.
            But that is beside the point, why should evolutionary offenses be given privilege over societal-based offenses (as if society itself isn’t a result of deep-seeded evolutionary factors and we can somehow separate any human action from evolutionary roots)?

          • Josh Lyman

            People speaking in Arabic does not wake me up when I am sleeping. A crying baby does.

          • Alan

            Josh – Ah, so it is your need to sleep on the plane that is at issue, not other aspects of comfort. Well maybe you need to be getting longer nights sleep at home if being awoken in a public place is too much to bear.

          • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

            Slightly OT: Alan, we agree on very little else, but I appreciate you having your head on right on this issue. Thumbs up!

    • Birthday boy

      Yup, sounds like a gaggle of college kids to me. I used to be one … sigh of shame …

      Having also been a parent taking a 3-month-old on a plane trip to visit his grandparents and receiving “comments” about his noises, which I did not think were excessive but another passenger did think so … well … yeah … it makes you realize how much you have grown and adapted in parenthood, even in 3 short months. And the pity is there is absolutely no other way on the planet to learn those lessons. Not really.

      • anon

        I’m no longer in college, for what it’s worth, but I still find screaming in my ear to be annoying (how odd it is that that didn’t go away with my degree…).

        You may change in parenthood, that’s true. You also would change your feelings on the illegalization of cocaine if you were a cocaine addict. My choice to not have kids is a perfectly legitimate one, and my opinions should not be lessened because of it.

        • Alan

          It is quite possible that your opinions should in fact be lessened because you have chosen not to have children. You do have less of a vested interest in the continuity of society than those who have chosen to have children so maybe your opinion needs to be discounted accordingly.

          • anon

            Less of a vested interest? Really? I care more about humans as a species (despite an aside I threw elsewhere in this post) than most people I know with children. Just because I myself do not want to raise a child does not mean I care less about humanity.

            Do infertile people necessarily hate society? Do gay people? If they don’t, then why do I, simply because my not having children is a choice?

          • Alan

            When you are gone you have no progeny in the society, when a parent is gone they have progeny whose success they are intimately vested in (evolution and all you know) so yes you have less of a vested interest no matter how much you personally care while you are alive. Suck it up, its the consequence of your decision to not have kids – at some point you need to accept that.

            And I never said you hated society, just that you don’t have as much a vested interest in its continuance past your lifetime than those who have contributed to the future gene pool. Accept it, it is your choice after all.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Infertile people maybe not. Gay people, I often suspect do. I have built these suspicions solely on their political methods that turned me, as a Catholic believing in sacramental marriage but willing to let say, Protestants have civil unions, to a bigot who believes in sacramental marriage but is willing to let, say, Protestants have civil unions. (note, for me it is divorce, not gay marriage, that is the main danger to traditional marriage).

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          Actually no. What your choice to not have kids actually is, is none of my business. But unless it comes with a decision not to have sex it is not perfectly legitimate.

        • ACN

          “You do have less of a vested interest in the continuity of society than those who have chosen to have children so maybe your opinion needs to be discounted accordingly.”

          None of that is obvious.

        • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

          And my opinion that you comparing children to cocaine use shows that you have a shriveled soul and nobody of any sense will listen to your opinion on morals and courtesy is also a legitimate one.

  • MountainTiger

    I understand disliking babies on planes (I’m not their biggest fan), but I can’t fathom the kind of hostility evident in the letter. The parents are dealing not only with the inconveniences the rest of us experience but also with the whole issue of taking full responsibility for shepherding a mostly helpless person through an airport. My approach is to grab a beer, be thankful it isn’t me, and wonder how well I will deal with it when it is me. Works well for me, but YMMV.

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com Turmarion

    anon: But it was your choice to have a child… you should live with the consequences.

    I think I completely disagree with that, and that it pretty much sinks the whole argument anon makes. It sounds like, “You bought that old car/that house on the edge of town/that trashy novel/that high-maintenance sound system/etc., so don’t whine about fill-in-the-blank.” Except that a child is not a car or a house or any of that.

    I had a libertarian friend who used to talk like this—he was single and childless and thought it unfair that women could get maternity leave (!) but single men couldn’t take off to pursue things important to them. He would say, “But she chose to have a child….”

    Look, first off, if some people didn’t choose to have children, the race would become extinct and discussions about behavior in airplanes would be moot. Second, and a bit more subtly, is the issue of free riding. A parent incurs all the expense of hospital, childbirth, education, food, clothing, etc. for his/her children. However, all of us, including the childless, reap the benefits to society that those children bring. Sooner or later, other people’s kids will grow up to the be doctors that treat you, the mechanics that fix your car, the IT people who design the funky computers you use to post on web discussions, the lawyers that write up your will, the nursing home staff that wipe your senescent butt, and the morticians that bury or cremate you. Their parents bore most of the expenses of rearing the children, but the childless benefit equally from said children without having contributed to their upkeep (yes, property taxes for schools, etc., but parents still bear most of it). They are free riders. As such, the least they can do is tolerate the wailing of the baby that might one day be saving their life as they lie in the hospital undergoing surgery for cancer, no?

    Gilber, Erin, and MountainTiger, totally agreed!

    • anon

      Well this is surprising to me that I am being compared to a libertarian (it’s been a long time since that charge has been leveled, and I assure you it is not true).

      I guess I just have a general response rather than individual nitpickiness: do you honestly think we are at a point where we are at any risk of going extinct as a species? People want kids. People will always have kids. But kids are a responsibility and certain things attach to that. When you have a kid, you have to pay it’s medical bills. You shouldn’t whine about having to pay those (any more than you can, and should, and must whine about anyone anywhere paying medical bills [see - not a libertarian]). Nor should you have to whine about not being able to sleep well at night. Those are things you signed on to when you had the kid. I have chosen to not sign up for those things. Notice how nicely I sleep at night. Notice how I don’t have a kid. These are tradeoffs, and I am happy with mine and you can be happy with yours (also please note I am not saying either decision is better, just that they are decisions we have each made). But I also don’t think that it is unreasonable to have ANOTHER consequence (in addition to medical bills and lack of sleep) be that people in public spaces will be annoyed by your kid and, if you care at all about those people, you shouldn’t bring the kid there.

      Children on airplanes annoy people. We all understand that kids, on some level (again, are we at a point where that is a real concern?) are necessary for the continuation of the species (off topic, but maybe for a future post by Leah: is that a thing we should be concerned about? Is the continuation of the species a good?). However, they still annoy us. And thinking that maybe the parent is being a little selfish by prioritizing themselves and their child over every other person on the plane seems to not be unreasonable.

      Anticipating the response to that: yes, I admit that I am being “selfish” too in a way. But everyone is selfish in everything they do always. We always do what we want, because otherwise we wouldn’t do it. But we consider things “selfish” in a bad way when they say “my interests are more important that all of your multiple interests”. And this is the perfect example. A parent’s life is made easier by them being able to fly with their child. Many others are made more difficult. Perhaps to a lesser degree, yes, but still difficult. And so it’s a balancing test. Is the parent’s benefit outweighing the detriment to everyone else? I say no, because the parent chose to have a child and the other people didn’t (or at least don’t have them on that plane).

      Choice really is a big deal here. I have chosen to never have children. Ever. You have chosen to have them. That’s fine. But getting hit by the externalities of your child is not something I have signed onto.

      Ok, but you have a good point about how those people will enter society and support me in one way or another throughout both of our lives. You may be right. In fact, you are right on an absolutist level. Help me institute absolute socialism and support for everyone and I will not object to you having a baby on a plane. Anything short of that is an abdication of the principles you seem to be espousing. Free riders are present everywhere until we make everyone absorb every positive externality. I will absorb this one, if you absorb all of the myriad others I want (I have no idea if you in particular would be willing to, but I have yet to find a single person who would go as far as I would).

      To Leah and maybe a few others: I feel this post may have outed my identity given my statements and your personal knowledge of my views. I am posting on anon for a reason and would request you honor that. Thank you.

      • Alan

        And I think people who make the choice to not contribute to the next generation of workers shouldn’t be able to reap the benefits of that generations work when they retire – medicare and social security are for the most part a demographic issue and you aren’t helping it any so you shouldn’t be able to benefit from them.

        Please, pretty much everything about plane travel is at some point inconvenient to me including my fellow passengers of all ages – those who aren’t capable of not showing their frustrating with their fellow human beings in those circumstances are the ones who should stay home. Whether you are whining about the crying baby, the handicap elderly that is preventing you from getting off first, the fat man encroaching on your arm rest or the stewardess who can’t serve you coffee during turbulence you are the one acting with the immaturity of a child.

        • anon

          So to my unworthiness of withdrawing benefits, I have two things.
          One is to assume you are correct. At which point I would say the system itself is flawed and we shouldn’t be basing this on a hierarchical system at all but rather pure socialism (see my above post).
          Two is to counter you. I have taught children. My significant other has taught children. We do not desire children of our own. How would we having children benefit the world more than the massive amount we have helped to cultivate, to help, to make better people? I am confident that my work with younger people will lead to the world being a better place. Is that not enough? Is the fact that my significant other’s place of employment was struggling to find employees, and so her presence actively contributed to the survival of infants, made less worthy because she has not birthed a child herself? Not wanting children of our own, and not wanting to deal with children outside of work, does not make us any less of caretakers of the younger generation. It does not make us any less deserving of benefits we should have regardless. It does not make us any less compassionate towards the youth. It simply makes us want to be let alone and able to relax and not have screaming in our ears.

          As to your other examples, I have no problem staying in my seat a few extra minutes so a handicapped person can leave the plane (although the priority given has always confused me). I have no problem with air currents making walking unsafe. I don’t have a problem with not getting an armrest, but that may be because I always choose a window seat so I can sleep on the wall. I do have a problem with screaming.

          I guess my point may boil down to this: I see little difference between you bringing a child on an aircraft (assuming you don’t have a good reason) and it screaming and you yourself screaming. Screaming is inappropriate on a plane because it is somewhere where people are trapped. You shouldn’t act in such a way that screaming occurs, whether that is you yourself screaming or bringing a child who you know will scream.

          But really, my basic point in my original post was this: an action to remedy the situation by a mother who realizes her child may disturb others is not something that should be objected to. The mother in the story was trying to make a bad situation better. That’s good, and Leah is wrong to criticize it.

          • Alan

            “I have no problem staying in my seat a few extra minutes so a handicapped person can leave the plane (although the priority given has always confused me). I have no problem with air currents making walking unsafe. I don’t have a problem with not getting an armrest, but that may be because I always choose a window seat so I can sleep on the wall. I do have a problem with screaming.”

            So it is all about you? What you have a problem with matters and what others may have problems with is their problem? It seems your point really boils down to you chose not have annoying crying children around you home and therefor feel it ok to be annoyed when they are on the plane but others annoyances are their issues because it doesn’t bother you.

            My point is, get over it. You chose to buy a ticket on a public plane that allows children to fly – if you didn’t want to be bothered by their screaming choose to fly private.

            By the way, I agree that Leah went overboard in her post in how far she took it – but so do you in your response.

            P.S. I think there could be an interesting conversation on the benefits piece, basically your contribution as a teacher is materially different than the contribution of increasing volume when we are talking about the demographics needed to support an increasing aged population (and this is true whether you are talking pure socialism or our system – you start talking about alternative ways to handle the elderly and handicapped that people tend to react badly to when you don’t have the demographics to support it). But that may be way to much of a tangent to keep going on this post.

          • anon

            I can’t seem to reply to your post (too far down the chain) so I’m doing it to my own.

            Yes, it’s my problem.

            Why should you be immune from my disgruntledness when you have a child on the plane? Isn’t it just your problem with my attitude?

            If you don’t want me to be mad at you, fly private.

            Why should murder be illegal? Because it annoys those of us who aren’t murderers. Embezzlement? Same. Every societal objection to anything can boil down to it annoys people and therefore should be prevented.

            I am simply saying that my annoyance is something you chose to deal with. The same as if you were to post an opinion I disagree with on a popular blog (I know, completely unrealistic). You have to deal with my response. When you bring a baby on a plane, you have do deal with my response. That response is to think you are selfish. You can disagree with that feeling, but I wills till try to convince you that I am right. Saying it’s just me is just to say that my opinion doesn’t matter. It does. And I will voice it until hoarse. And I may not convince you, but I will try.

            Yes, I am being selfish on the plane. But so are you. It’s a competition of selfishness, and I don’t understand why you should win.

          • Alan

            “Why should murder be illegal? Because it annoys those of us who aren’t murderers. Embezzlement? Same. Every societal objection to anything can boil down to it annoys people and therefore should be prevented.”

            But this just isn’t true for any formal attempt to justify laws that I am aware of, mere annoyance is not the reason those acts are illegal and things that are merely annoying are not therefor illegal.

            “I am simply saying that my annoyance is something you chose to deal with. The same as if you were to post an opinion I disagree with on a popular blog (I know, completely unrealistic). You have to deal with my response. When you bring a baby on a plane, you have do deal with my response. That response is to think you are selfish”

            And mine is the same – but you have to deal not only with my thinking you are selfish but your annoyance at the crying baby to boot so I think I’ll call this a win for me.

            “If you don’t want me to be mad at you, fly private.”
            I do, but not because I care if you are mad at me its because I enjoy piloting myself when I get the chance.

            “Saying it’s just me is just to say that my opinion doesn’t matter. It does.”
            No it doesn’t, and this evidenced by the continued presence of crying babies on flights with no attempt by the airlines or society at large to stop that. You are entitle to have your opinion, but that doesn’t mean it matters at all.

            “Yes, I am being selfish on the plane. But so are you. It’s a competition of selfishness, and I don’t understand why you should win.”
            Because I am the one with the cute baby and your are the childless brat. It’s amazing how often that is enough to tip the scales in my favor.

          • anon

            1) It is actually the only attempt I have ever seen to justify laws at a basic sense. People don’t like certain things, so we make them illegal. All laws are merely attempts to make annoying things go away.

            2) I have two things annoying me: you thinking I am selfish and the cry of the baby. You have one annoying you: me thinking you are selfish. The selfish things cancel. So I am left with an annoyance you are causing. How is that a win for you? You annoy me more than I annoy you? Sure, that’s a win if your goal is to hurt me most. My goal is to develop a society that minimizes pain. So that means I win, because my end removes the last remaining annoyance.

            3) That’s not the point and you know it, or at least it wasn’t the point when you posited the same option to me.

            4) Opinions matter even if not acted on. My opinion alone has no effect. My opinion, should I convince others, has weight. I am not saying “listen to me, the individual”; I am saying “listen to us, those that feel as I do, for whom I am speaking right now” (and that’s not to say I have any authority to speak for a group, merely that I am trying to make a point others feel).

            5) You think your baby is cute. I think you are the brat for bringing the equivalent of a breathing air horn into an enclosed area. I am not saying I will convince others with my rhetoric, merely that my underlying points are correct. There is nothing more bratty about wanting to not be screamed at than there is about wanting to bring a thing I chose to create wherever I want without regard for how others feel.

          • Alan

            “1) It is actually the only attempt I have ever seen to justify laws at a basic sense. People don’t like certain things, so we make them illegal. All laws are merely attempts to make annoying things go away.”
            I think you may want to spend more time studying legal theory and history before your next attempt.

            “So that means I win, because my end removes the last remaining annoyance.”
            No, you have added the annoyance to the mother and child of not being able to travel wherever they were heading – obviously that doesn’t mean anything to you because you seem to completely lack empathy for those who propagate the species but it would seem that the annoyance of being unable to reach the destination at all is far greater than the temporary annoyance in getting there.

            “I am saying “listen to us, those that feel as I do, for whom I am speaking right now””
            And I’m saying nah – your opinion here should carry exactly as much weight as that of people arguing that people who look Middle Eastern shouldn’t be allowed on flights with them because of their discomfort.

            “5) You think your baby is cute. I think you are the brat for bringing the equivalent of a breathing air horn into an enclosed area.”
            And I think you lack empathy and are probably sociopathic for not recognizing that public forms are travel are for the convenience of all members of the public to bet from place A to place B not party flights for childless spinsters.

            “merely that my underlying points are correct. ”
            Nope, they are incorrect.

            “There is nothing more bratty about wanting to not be screamed at than there is about wanting to bring a thing I chose to create wherever I want without regard for how others feel.”
            Sure there is, one is about how you accommodate the needs and rights of all human beings (including children) and the other is about the minor annoyance of a brat who chose to use public transportation but whines about being with the public.

          • anon

            1) I’m just laughing because that’s all I study and that’s the only conclusion I have come to that seems reasonable. Other than, you know, laws are imposed by the powerful to keep their power. But any legitimacy would come from what I’ve said.

            2) I lack empathy? I have complete empathy! I just think that you have chosen X in your life and should have to deal with X. Should people who get fat complain about others’ annoyance when they are crushed in an airline seat? Should those who don’t work (by choice) complain when those who do are annoyed they have to pay for them (this again gets to my whole socialism thing, but it seems this is an angle that may work with you)? Why, then, should a person who choses to have a kid get to complain when others are annoyed by that kid’s actions? Propagation of the species is such a weak argument because it assumes (1) we will go extinct if you, the world traveller, don’t have kids [we won't] and (2) it’s a good thing to propagate the species [which this all depends on how you define the good, but I would argue it's a close call].
            “So that means I win, because my end removes the last remaining annoyance.”

            3) So “I don’t like having screaming near me because it physically hurts and is incredibly annoying” is the same as “I have prejudices against people speaking a language because I am too dumb to undertand that not everyone who doesn’t speak English wants to kill everyone that does”? If you think those are the same, I guess I can’t counter it. But they seem really distinct to me (because one involves physical pain and the other involves not understanding how individuals are different than incredibly small subgroups of particular cultures).

            4) They are public forms of travel for the convenience of all society. Notice how I am not proposing a ban on infants in planes. But they are also luxuries in many cases. You want a vacation? Luxury. You want to see friends/family across the country? Luxury. You have a form of cancer that can only be treated at a particular hospital across the country? Ok, we can talk, that seems pretty necessary. Are you sure you can’t leave your kid at home with a significant other? No? Ok, then bring them on the plane.

            5) You argue for accommodating the needs and rights of all human beings. How are my needs and rights being accommodated with a child on the plane? Do I not have a right to privacy (how private is it when I am being screamed at)? Do I not have needs of relative peace? I do understand the needs of others: I don’t understand how voluntary air travel is a need. I have no problem with being with the public. I have exactly the same amount of problem, however, between these two situations: (1) Random 30-year-old person screaming in the back of the plane or in my ear the entire flight. (2) Random 6-month-old person screaming in the back of the plane or in my ear the entire flight. Sure, the 30-year-old is more personally culpable. But the 30-year-old person who brought the 6-month-old on board, with full knowledge that the screaming would happen (or perhaps only with a reckless level of culpability) has exactly the same culpability as the 30-year-old screaming. I do not judge the child, I judge the parents.

          • Alan

            “1) I’m just laughing because that’s all I study and that’s the only conclusion I have come to that seems reasonable. Other than, you know, laws are imposed by the powerful to keep their power. But any legitimacy would come from what I’ve said.”

            So you don’t think their is any basis to say having murder be illegal because it enables a certain degree of coexistence and comfort that allows people to work and live together to mutual benefit? Protecting private property can’t have anything to do with incenting innovation and productivity that benefits the group overall over time? Laws against speeding have nothing to do with the danger it poses to others and the value that the ability to travel safety provides society? It is simply because that wooshing sound annoys you?

            Looks like you have wasted a life of study along with not providing any progeny to the world.

            “2) I lack empathy? I have complete empathy! ”
            You keep telling yourself that, it is really convincing.

            “Why, then, should a person who choses to have a kid get to complain when others are annoyed by that kid’s actions?”
            Whose complaining? I just don’t care that you are annoyed and pointing that the mature thing to do when you are annoyed in these circumstance is to suck it up and be gracious about it anyway.

            “So “I don’t like having screaming near me because it physically hurts and is incredibly annoying” is the same as “I have prejudices against people speaking a language because I am too dumb to undertand that not everyone who doesn’t speak English wants to kill everyone that does””
            Ah, so the anxiety someone feels caused by fear isn’t real, physical pain (whether the fear is rational or not)? Are you sure you have complete empathy? Are you sure you know what the word means?

            “4) They are public forms of travel for the convenience of all society. Notice how I am not proposing a ban on infants in planes. But they are also luxuries in many cases. ”
            Infants are luxuries? Any more that air travel at all is a luxury? Are you sure you can’t leave yourself at home? No? Ok, then get over yourself and your annoyance.

            “How are my needs and rights being accommodated with a child on the plane? ”
            You are allowed to fly to your destination just as the child is.

            “Do I not have a right to privacy (how private is it when I am being screamed at)?”
            Not on a plane you don’t – public place and all. Just like you don’t have a right to not have the preacher on the corner scream to all about the wonders of jeebus.

            “Do I not have needs of relative peace?”
            If you have needs of such peace that can’t tolerate a screaming baby in public than you probably just need to become that recluse now and stay home.

            “I do understand the needs of others: I don’t understand how voluntary air travel is a need.”
            Great, you don’t have any need for your anti-social opinions to be accommodated in air travel. Glad we could settle that.

            “I do not judge the child, I judge the parents.”
            And I judge the bratty boy who thinks the world is a Single’s resort.

          • http://turmarion.wordpress.com Turmarion

            anon: I care more about humans as a species (despite an aside I threw elsewhere in this post) than most people I know with children.

            This reminds me of a line in an old Peanuts comic strip where Lucy says, “I love humanity—it’s people I can’t stand!” “Humanity” is an abstraction, and to say that one “cares about humans as a species” is nearly a content-free statement. One can give to charities or do something like working for a better future (whatever that means); but unless one is kind, generous, forgiving, and decent to the real, actual, concrete people one actually interacts with, be they friends or strangers, then one is a jerk, attitudes about “humans as a species” notwithstanding—and this can be true of parents or of the childless, either one. Therefore I call total BS on this statement.

            Also, to say that one “has taught” (though the statement about “not wanting to deal with children outside of work” is telling—what would we think of someone who said, “I work with people all day long—I just don’t want to deal with them outside of work”?) doesn’t get one a pass. Kudos to anyone who does teach, and great if they’ve positively affected the next generation; but almost everyone on my father’s side of the family, several on my mother’s side, my mother-in-law, my sister, one of my sisters-in-law, and I myself are or were teachers; and most of these had kids. In any case, my experience is that the truly great teachers I’ve had in my life, at all levels, didn’t check their liking of and concern for kids in the age groups they taught at the door when the last bell rang. Teachers with that attitude don’t remain teachers very long.

            I’d point out that I never “whine” about the burdens, compromises, and sacrifices of raising a child. I accept them joyfully, and consider the benefits and joys of parenthood as ample compensation. I will acknowledge that some parents, in fact, don’t manage their kids well in public. Still, the attitude evidenced here by anon and many others is much like the person who thinks of all cops as “pigs” or anyone in a uniform as a fascist or farmers as dumb redneck hicks without regard for the vital functions all these people perform for all of us and the real sacrifices they make, to say nothing of the blatant and near-bigoted stereotyping.

            I guess my point may boil down to this: I see little difference between you bringing a child on an aircraft (assuming you don’t have a good reason) and it screaming and you yourself screaming.

            I guess I’ll leave it at this though, since if one can’t see the difference, then any further discourse seems futile. Enjoy the free ride.

      • anon2

        Ugh! I don’t even have children, but your comments make me want to borrow some hungry, tired ones and follow you around. Your attitude seems so self-righteous. You are not entitled to a plane ride free of annoyance. You are entitled to a ride from point A to point B. That is what you paid for and that is what the parent on your flight paid for. Who cares that you chose not to have kids? Your choice doesn’t trump their choice. We are all sharing the planet, those of us with kids and those of us without, and no group is entitled to more rights than the other. We’ve got to figure out some way to get along and be kind to each other, and a parent’s life is not made easier by flying any more than your life is made easier by flying.

        • Kristen inDallas

          I was *this* close to nominating turmarion for daily winner of the internet, but then I read this. I’ would totally let you borrow my children for jerk-following-around-purposes in a heartbeat.

      • Theodore Seeber

        Please read the link I posted above. Extinct maybe not, but we’re going to have MAJOR issue with demographic decline in the first world over the next 20 years, and in the rest of the world over the next 50. Current projections are for the human race to peak at about 9.65 billion in 2050, and be back down to 2 billion by 2100.

        I guarantee both you and I will be dead by then.

      • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

        You’re a free-rider, which is fine. Let other people sacrifice for your benefit if that’s what floats your boat. But it takes a particular kind of mentality to *complain* about the people you’re freeloading off of.

        I have neighbors down the street who never take care of their yard and bring down the housing values. Late one Saturday morning another neighbor was trimming some of the weeds between their property and the road, and they came out and complained that he was interrupting their sleep or something.

        You remind me of them.

      • Kristen inDallas

        “Children on airplanes annoy people.”

        Who is this “we” and “us” and “people” on behalf of whom you speak? Did someone nominate you as spokesman or did you appoint yourself? How large, exactly is the group who’s views you represent?
        The thing is, in my expirience, not everyone is annoyed and not every child is annoying. I’ve seen plenty of kids sleep or gurgle though the whole flight. Nobody brought their mothers cookies. I’ve seen a grandpa-age guy trade places with a member of a young couple so they could sit together and he wound up sharing a row with me and my small one. He spent most of the flight making funny faces and playing cars. Every one was pretty happy. Yes there is a small subset of people who seem to get very uncomfortable when confronted by people outside their own age bracket or who speak in languages they don’t understand (that’s what crying is). There are also a subset of people who will bring a large caryon and yell at the stewardess that there isn’t enough space. I and many people I know (though I won’t speak for everyone) generally consider people with unreasonable expectations to be jerks. If your okay with my type of subset thinking that about your type of subset, then by all means carry on with your stink-eye at everyone who’s fact of living interferes with your personal comfort level.

  • LeRoi

    Of course a baby on a plane isn’t a normal public situation, not because babies aren’t normal, but because being in the air on a giant tube isn’t really a normal public situation – as others here have pointed out.

    Where this column goes wrong is in the umbrage at the original story. Does it really “reinforce[] the idea that parents (especially mothers of young children) need to withdraw from the public square”? Really? Let’s take a closer look.

    The storyteller is getting on the plane, baby and all. She isn’t suggesting the parent ought not to get on. She isn’t going to approach the parent. She doesn’t say she will shout, “Madam, can you please keep that baby QUIET?!” Instead, she’s prepared to endure the crying baby, right along with the parent – she sees a bit of a grim job in front of her (“did not make me smile”), but she’s going ahead.
    (granted, there’s perhaps a hint that she has paid for better treatment – “in business class” – but i think my point stands)
    In fact, the humor of the story arises from the parent’s defiance of expectations: society expects the parent and child to carry on with daily life, including plane trips – but this parent goes above and beyond the call of duty. She rises above society’s expectations with a sympathetic nod to the long journey in front of all the passengers.

    So the story illustrates a humane and reasonable expectation that parents and children will go about their lives, and the rest of us will suffer along with the parents the joys and trials of parenting. But by the end of the column, Libresco is fighting a nationwide crisis that shuns children, penalizes those who breed them, and perhaps even shoves women barefoot back into the kitchen (“that can mean a retreat from adult company”). An absurd search for cause to take offense only creates victims and discord where there were none.

    • Gorge

      I agree with this analysis. The mother in the story made a nice gesture to her fellow passengers and the article is rightly appluading her for it. That doesn’t mean every person with a baby is now expected to act that way, it’s just that it was a nice thing to do and the journalist felt like sharing it.

  • grok

    “The apologetic cringe of the parents in this story and the applause they receive from the storyteller reinforces the idea that parents (especially mothers of young children) need to withdraw from the public square. And given the suburban-y, nuclear family kind of culture we live in, that can mean a retreat from adult company.”

    I agree. A related topic is that of babies/kids in church. Here is a good WSJ column:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704335904574495761234081316.html

    HOUSES OF WORSHIP December 4, 2009 “Seen and Not Heard in Church”
    By LAURA VANDERKAM
    One Sunday in February 2008, I faced a dilemma. After being cooped up all week with a sick 9-month-old baby, I was desperate to get out of my apartment. I wanted to go to church. But I didn’t want to expose other children in the church nursery to my son’s germs. So I decided to bring him into the pew with me and my husband—only to learn that my church had chosen that Lenten Sunday for a very solemn service, full of soft chants and contemplative silences. You can guess where this is going. My baby made joyful noises at inopportune moments. An usher asked us if we would take him out. My husband brought him home. I spent the rest of the service in tears.
    We all recovered soon enough, but the experience got me thinking: Should children be in church? This turns out to be a major topic of discussion in a growing number of churches.
    For much of American history, notes John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., “church was seen as an intergenerational experience,” albeit a rather stern one. The Puritans expected their little ones to be seen and not heard during services. By the 20th century, Americans had developed more progressive notions of childhood, which gave rise to Sunday school and age-appropriate children’s programs.
    But the net result was de facto segregation—an uneasy state of affairs, theologically, if you view Christians of all ages as being one in the body of Christ. And so, “in the last 10 years or so, there’s been a renewed interest in intergenerational community,” Prof. Witvliet says, with the idea of “8-year-olds and 80-year-olds sitting next to each other.”
    While most churches still have the typical separation—adult services, babysitting for the little ones and Sunday school for the older children—some parents are pushing back. Kate Wicker, an Atlanta-area mom of a 4-year-old, 2-year-old and a baby brings all three of them with her to Mass on Sundays and sometimes during the week. “I try to be polite and respectful of other people’s worship experience,” she says, but “how can we baptize children, welcoming them to the body of Christ, and then say ‘until you’re old enough to not make any noise and sit still you’re not welcome here?’ ” While she has gotten some raised eyebrows and nasty comments when she has written about such topics for the Web site Inside Catholic and other publications, she is backed up by Pope Benedict XVI; he has reminded Catholic parents that Christ “calls the whole Christian family to Sunday Mass.”
    Some other churches have tried to make worship a family affair, too. When the Rev. Caroline Fairless, an Episcopal priest, took over a church in Half Moon Bay, Calif., in 1992, the congregation had fewer than 10 children. To accommodate them, she and other church leaders asked the congregation to re-envision the service to be more inclusive of children over the course of a liturgical year. Later, they pulled together their discoveries of what kept people of all ages engaged: for instance, multiple shorter messages instead of one long sermon, having children do readings and mentioning kids’ concerns (not just middle-aged health woes) in prayer. It worked—when Ms. Fairless left in 1999, the church had more than 130 children (and their parents) worshiping there.
    Such efforts work best, says Prof. Witvliet, when congregations don’t dumb things down. Too often, he says, when church-goers “start thinking about children” attending an adult service, “they think that basically means turning it into something entertainment-oriented.” Children do not necessarily require projection screens or guitars. A better idea is to think of the Passover model. In the Jewish tradition, during this celebration, a child poses the question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This ritual is not just about teaching children—it’s about “enfolding them into practices,” he says.
    Of course, not everyone wants to alter a church’s services for the sake of including children and alllowing the whole family to attend together. “A lot of people in the congregation didn’t want anything to change,” says Ms. Fairless. “We always kept a second service available.”
    Indeed, I’m torn on this myself. I like traditional services and—when my family isn’t ill—I make liberal use of the church nursery. As a mom of small kids (who doesn’t get much quiet time), I would have appreciated some Lenten stillness had circumstances been different that February day. But when Jesus told the disciples to let the children come to him, we have no record of him adding “only if they can keep quiet.”
    —Ms. Vanderkam is author of “168 Hours,” to be published by Portfolio next year

    • Emily

      Thanks for posting this! It was an interesting read, and I appreciate the practical insights on making children more welcome, too.

      • grok

        @Emily,
        You’re welcome. Glad it was helpful.

  • Joe

    My son Philip Jeremiah was born a week and a half ago so Im sure I will have to deal with this sort of thing in the near future. Although, the few times that we have taken him out in public people seem delighted to be near him, but that wasn’t on a plane. I think you’re right that the mom in the story shouldn’t feel obligated to do what she did, but I still think it was a cool idea.

    • leahlibresco

      Mazel tov!

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    I don’t know why, for the last two weeks, the seat next to me on the bus is invariably taken by a variety of massively overweight women wearing too much perfume who insist on attempting to force me into conversation for the duration of our commute. All I want is enough personal space that my tender, overwhelmingly pregnant belly isn’t being banged on, and the peace to lean back and focus on not yakking from the combination of perfume, motion sickness, and hyperemesis gravidarum.
    Other people can be damned inconvenient, annoying, obnoxious impositions, regardless of their age. But dealing graciously with the imposition of another person’s presence is part of the social contract of going anywhere that others may reasonably be expected to be present. Age is fundamentally irrelevant.

  • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

    The inconveniencing argument in some of the above comments is a complete nonstarter, because (as is very common with inconvenience arguments) the potential for inconvenience in the situation is symmetrical. People like some of the commenters above are quite as inconvenient for parents who have to get their children somewhere as the children are for the commenters. This is actually right there in the story in the post: why give other passengers goody bags? The parent was hoping pre-emptively to offset some of the inconvenience she might cause in the hope that others would limit their inconvenience to her. The inconvenience is not one-way, and any argument based on the assumption that it is, is, again, a complete non-starter.

    It doesn’t mean, of course, that people like the commenters are bad people. Their attitude is just inconvenient to people with kids. And it’s not as if their decisions and choices not to be hermits but to participate in broader society is a bad decision; it just means they have to accept the consequences of living in a society. With real people. Who sometimes have children. That they obviously can’t ship across the country in shipping crates.

    • anon

      I think you may be right, and the question boils down to this. What’s the default? Having kids or not having kids? I think not having kids is the default, and you should have to justify and deal with the consequences of having them. If you think having kids is the default, then you are right that I am inconveniencing you. And for that I am sorry. But I just think my default is the correct default to have.

      And yes, in our society having kids might be the default. And evolutionarily it might be. But something just strikes me as odd assuming that it ontologically is. I am not born with kids. I do not, as a matter of existing, produce kids. So a change from that born and existing default would indicate a change from a default. Meaning the default is to not have them. But society messes with that.

      So yes, I totally see your argument. To the extent that I agree, I STILL disagree with Leah’s original post. Handing out “I’m sorry” bags is not a bad thing and should not be discouraged (even if, at the same time, it should not be encouraged or viewed as mandatory). This was a nice gesture by a particular individual, and I commend her for that. I think Leah is wrong in demonizing her for her actions. We should not expect this behavior, but it is nice when it comes, because it acknowledges and attempts to rectify the annoyance the rest of us feel.

      • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

        There obviously isn’t a single default here; how would one possibly establish it in this kind of case? There are no large-scale societies devoid of children, so one could equally argue that the “default” in every society is that people will at least occasionally have to put up with someone else’s children. And clearly an unavoidable “default” like this would have to trump arbitrary “defaults” like the one you suggest.

        • anon

          I don’t see either as more arbitrary that the other. I see one being the consequence of living, I see the other as a consequence of choices made while living. Given those choices, the default seems obvious to me.

          • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

            I have no clue what you mean here, and I don’t think you do, either; as I pointed out, you can’t arbitrarily assume a single default, but would have to establish it on a non-arbitrary foundation, and yet here you are assuming, again, that there is something that is “the” default, without any reasons given for it or why the argument you’re responding to is somehow less “obvious” than your completely incomprehensible claim that “one is the consequences of living, the other is the consequences of choices made while living” (which makes no sense, since they are both the consequences of living and both the consequences of choices made while living); and then they’re somehow supposed to be equally arbitrary, despite the fact that your set-up appears to make one more choice-dependent (and therefore more arbitrary than the other); and then we get the equally baffling disconnect in that this entire argument would suggest that the two are, in fact on a level, except that somehow they aren’t.

            The whole thing comes down to this: you don’t get to magically define yourself into rightness. Either there is some real default or there is not. If there is not, your entire argument fails. If there is some real default, though, then either there is more than one or there is only one. If there is more than one, however, your argument fails again, because it is based on the assumption, completely unsupported by anything you’ve said, that there is one and only one default operative here. If there is only one, however, this (1) has to be established; and (2) since it is supposed to be a real default, you don’t automatically get to pick what “seems obvious” to you — if it’s a real default, then the reasons for it will have to retain their validity when the reasoning is made impartial and not simply from your own perspective.

            So I say again: your entire argument is a non-starter. Despite the valiant attempt to save it, all you’ve done is increasingly show that no reasonable person who takes other people’s perspectives into account can seriously accept it. All you seem to have done is gerrymander the situation to get the result you want.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

            Obviously you’re correct when you say that we don’t, by default of being alive, have kids. However, I still think there’s a reason to hold that the “having kids” default is not completely arbitrary, at least if we think historically.

            Part of being an adult human being means, generally speaking, being possessed of strong sexual urges and those urges will often be towards a member of the opposite sex. And, until relatively recent scientific advances, sex between people of the opposite sex tended to produce children, whether one particularly wanted them or not. Obviously folks chose to have sex—which could result in children—but I think this is a bit different from deliberately choosing to have children (which, again, is a pretty modern phenomenon). So, historically speaking, the default of having children was the simple outworking of a primal urge that, it would seem, is pretty fundamental to our ontology. We aren’t born with kids, but we are born with impulses that in many cases—if exercised—will produce kids.

          • anon

            First to Broken: I think we have to look at the world and our society today, not at history. You are right historically. But in the world today, having children is clearly a choice.

            Now to Brandon:
            X is necessary for Y to happen. Y cannot happen without X. X can happen without Y.
            I see no problem ascribing to that reality the status that X is the default and that Y is dependent. I can live without having children. I cannot have children without living. Therefore, X, living, is the default, and Y, having children, is the modification on that default.
            No, I don’t get to define myself into rightness. You are right. Either there is a default or not. I posit there is. I think there is only one. (For clarity, I believe I have now responded to your first two objections in the second paragraph). Now I must establish the default. I think I have done that above with my X/Y analysis. That to me is the definition of what a “default” is. When considering two things, if one can exist without the other, than that is the default. Life is the default. Life with kids is the non-default. And yes, perhaps you could reverse this to say that Life without kids is the non-default (because one must live to live and not have kids). But I take the default to be what exists at birth (which seems perfectly reasonable, and I would challenge anyone else to argue why what exists at birth should not be the default). And what exists at birth is not having kids. A change from that is a change from the default.
            I do not think I have shown that a reasonable person taking other people’s perspectives into account can accept my point. I fully acknowledge your perspective. You want a child, you like your child, you think society should accept your child. I don’t understand why you think I, someone who has chosen not to have a child, should have to accept your child.
            I think it is perfectly reasonable for you to accept my perspective: that your kid annoys me when we are trapped in a small box together. I also think it is reasonable for me to accept yours: that you have a kid and I cannot prevent that kid from being in the box. But not being able to prevent it does not mean I have to be happy about it. I accept that people will murder each other, I’m not happy. I accept that people steal, I’m not happy. I accept that people like those crazy bland girl scout cookies and so they make fewer thin mints, I’m not happy. I accept that people got Firefly cancelled, I’m not happy. I accept that you brought a kid on the airplane, I’m not happy.

      • Emily

        I think individualizing this is a little silly. The presence of children is the default in all human societies, regardless of whether every individual has them. Also, the “you had a choice” argument is t least a little willfully blind, because not having children can be as much of a choice as having them – contraception takes at least a TINY bit of effort, abortion in the case of unexpected pregnancy takes much more, and carrying a child to give it up for adoption takes a huge toll. Lots of pregnancies are unplanned, so you could argue that the “default” is having children. It is true that people still have to deal with the consequences of life, but it is totally unrealistic to act as though everyone who has a child went through a cost-benefit analysis and planning phase first.

      • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

        Not having kids is the default? These eyes are goggling.

        Where, exactly, did you come from? The stork?

        Ever heard of biology? Species? Evolution? The man-woman thing?

        You do realize that most Americans–most humans–have children, and this has always been the case?

        What kind of “default” is contrary to biological imperatives, personal existence, species survival, and the all historical and contemporary practice?

        Is fasting also the default? Fasting and celibacy?

        By your standards, you should assume as a “default” that these questions are not rhetorical.

      • Kristen inDallas

        I don’t think she’s demonizing the mother handling out goody bags. I think *almost* everyone would agree that’s a pretty nice and thoughtful thing to do. I’d wager any negative sentiments expressed in the post would be dirrected at the attitude of the author writing *about* the mother who brought the goody bags.

  • http://www.whenkayleengrowsup.blogspot.com kayleen

    Thank you for this. Increasingly, I see children considered intrusions when they are out and about. I observe so little patience and so much attitude from people and it makes me angry, then sad. I have 3 under 5 and I would like them to be able to go out into a welcoming, loving world- not an impatient, annoyed-by-their-presence-world. Remember, without children, the world is a dying, sad place.

    • http://revertedxer.blogspot.com/ Gen X Revert

      That is sad Kayleen, and it is a symptom of our decadent and joyless culture – people who see children as annoyances probably do not enjoy much in life. I am glad to say our son has elicited nothing but loving smiles and joyful waves at our Church. Hopefully, our culture will make a U turn and children will be seen as the blessing they are (for parents and non parents alike). That being said, I do everything possible to keep my son from shrieking at concert like decibels at restaurants or at Church and will take him outside if necessary. I try to be polite to others, you know, do unto others etc…

  • Arizona Mike

    A child crying, yelling, or laughing is a part of normal adult life. They rarely do it forever, they get tired and thenfall asleep. When your parents took you on long trips I doubt you sat quietly in your seat reading a copy of The Economist, you screamed and yelled and sometimes made a pest of yourself the way young humans do. Your parents found a way to incorporate you into everyday life so you learned how to behave, and people survived your incessant caterwauling, now extend the young parents across the aisle from you the same courtesy. The period of time when a small child is loud is short in the grand scheme of things and a small price to pay for the blessed fact that his parents stepped up and helped create a new life that will replace the dying, support their aging parents so the state won’t have to, provide an engine for economic growth, and pay into the system that will fund (maybe) the entitlements that will support the childless in their dotage.

    Simple solution: always have an iPod with you. Or just look and hear and experience life as it is, in all its beautiful, loud, sometimes discomfiting glory.

  • Heisenberg

    It took our ancestors three weeks to cover the same amount of ground we cover in three hours. They faced down disease and attack from outside forces. You might have to turn up the volume on your iPod a little bit so you don’t hear a baby cry.

    And the crazy thing? You’re the one whining, not our ancestors.

    • Arizona Mike

      Did you direct that at me, Heisenberg? I’m not the one who was whining. I’m fine with children acting like children and have a large family of my own. Ironically, I’ve also “faced down disease and attack from outside forces.” In that grand scheme of things, a crying child in two seats over is not such a big thing for a passenger to obsess over.

  • Sarah M.

    You rock, Leah! I’ll fess up that it took becoming a parent myself to switch from being “inconvenienced” by a crying baby to thinking “oh, that poor little one must be so uncomfortable!” On a practical note to people extremely irritated by crying kids, it is a LOT harder to calm a child when you’re stressed out yourself. An encouraging look from those being inconvenienced can (most times) shift a multi-hour long crying jag to much shorter interlude just by helping the parent relax!

    • Kristen inDallas

      This is so true. And babies can detect those negative feelings, especially from their mothers and it doesn’t make them stop crying, that’s for sure.

  • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

    As an aside, the idea that parents are somehow in a special class that doesn’t have to care when it annoys other people is downright weird. Sure, they have a good reason to do it- but this is fundamentally an economics problem. You incur a cost every time you bring a baby on a plane- the cost of other people’s comfort. Parents should recognize this cost, and genuinely weigh the cost versus the benefit. You need to get to a far away city and have to bring your child with you? Perfect. Benefit outweighs the cost. But to pretend like there’s no cost at all would lead to you making bad decisions about when and where to bring your baby. Just because something is _good_ doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have a cost.

  • Solarcvat

    Hmmmm, might our young lady host have stars of babies and motherhood in her eyes? A delightful thought. :-)

    • Theodore Seeber

      I hope so. But first I suspect she’ll have to convince a Deist that the Sacrament of Marriage is necessary.

  • ACN

    *does double take*

    Alan, do you really think that if someone doesn’t have kids they shouldn’t be allowed to get social security or medicare?

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      It is interesting that one appeals to the dignity of all humans on a question like that. Then when we talk about babies we say “this is fundamentally an economics problem.” Either humans deserve respect because they are human or they don’t. If it is about economics then seniors who don’t have children are in a lot of trouble.

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

        For the record, almost everything is fundamentally an economics problem. People who claim “humans deserve respect because they are human” and refuse to talk about costs and benefits have no answer for what to do when you’re resource limitted.

        The obvious case is charities- who should they focus on saving? They don’t have enough money to save everyone. It sucks, but it’s a fact about reality. To pretend like it’s not is going to cause a lot more harm than acknowledging reality and dealing with it. You save the most people you can with the money you have, possibly weighting the lives by expected lifespan, quality of life, etc. This isn’t a fundamental denial of human dignity, it’s a fundamental acknowledgement of math.

        Same goes for social situations. Every action has a cost, every action has a benefit. You need to think about which outweighs the other for each action you take, regardless of whether babies, elderly, handicapped, gay, straight, male, or female individuals are involved.

        • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

          Mother Teresa used to talk about this. She said the world does not have a poverty problem. It has a greed problem. The problem is not the poor. It is us. We don’t share.

          The baby story can be looked at that way too. It is not that the baby causes too much annoyance. It is that the passengers have too little love. Love or the lack of it becomes obvious when we are called to suffer for another. We should thank the baby for giving us the opportunity to spend the flight becoming better lovers. For me, I would need a long flight. My first reaction, I suspect, would not be good. I would hope to grow into the love reaction before we landed.

          On the flip-side, I find I can often get any baby to stop crying by singing to them. One advantage of having 6 kids. The trouble is I am not a great singer. It might be a close call on which is more offensive, the baby’s crying or my singing!

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com Jake

            We should thank the baby for giving us the opportunity to spend the flight becoming better lovers

            …seriously? Would you thank someone for punching you in the face? Or stealing your shoes? The problem with the idea that suffering is always has good consequences is that it’s a complete denial of reality. Suffering is bad, and we seek to minimize it whenever possible. That’s what it means for something to be called “suffering”. It means it hurts, and we would rather not endure it.

            Limitted suffering may indeed prepare you to endure even more suffering later- but would someone who’s never experienced suffering and would be guaranteed never to suffer voluntarily sign up for it? Of course not.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            I never said we should not avoid suffering. Still when we are forced to endure it we should look on it as an opportunity to better ourselves. Do people voluntarily sign up for suffering. Sure. That is what fasting is about. But sometimes we don’t choose suffering. It chooses us. It is never meaningless. We can always unite suffer with the suffering of Jesus and make it redemptive. But beyond that suffering is often connected with a person or group of people. Suffering for them becomes an act of love. It is something we can do graciously or with much complaining. So look for the benefit and actually be thankful for that benefit. James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

    • Alan

      No, not really but I do recognize that if the demographics of this country were a certain balance (one we may be close to) than our ability to provide those types of social insurance will be severely impaired and may require us to rethink our social compact. I would look to means testing benefits and opportunities to raise additional revenue first but could certainly see the argument both from an incentive and fairness perspective of tying certain benefit levels for the retired elderly to the continued contribution of offspring to the revenue pool.

      • ACN

        “demographics of this country were a certain balance (one we may be close to)”

        Ross Douthat’ian histrionics aside, I don’t think we’re particularly close to anything of the sort.

        • Alan

          By close I mean a generation or two – I think it is entirely possible if life expectancy grows by just a couple of years, the current birth rate trends in immigrant communities move closer to the general population (as they tend to do by the 2nd generation) and we don’t have a turnaround in the workforce participation rate (or even worse we continue to squeeze out labor from our domestic workforce as technology and automation encroaches on more areas).

        • Theodore Seeber

          More Reagan histrionics- after all, the Federal Government noted this way back in 1986 and rejiggered the Social Security Formulas to keep it solvent until 2048, when the Baby Boomers start dying off.

          Too bad they didn’t count on the 1990s, when GenX failed to breed.

  • A Philosopher

    A baby crying or screaming on a plane is crying or screaming because it is suffering. The appropriate reaction, then, is the reaction that is always appropriate when confronted with human suffering. If someone (e.g.) broke their leg in flight, and spent the rest of the flight groaning loudly in pain, would anyone be opining about how inconvenient this was for the other passengers? It’s not about you, it’s about the baby.

    • Guest

      I completely agree. But the obvious corollary to that observation is why do parents subject their poor children to that kind of torture for anything other than an absolute need to do so? Is taking an infant on a plane trip to see the relatives a need or just a want of the parents? If it’s a want, what does that say about the parents?

      • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

        Babies often cry even when not on planes. Your analysis that the parent is torturing the baby by taking it on a plane ride is faulty.

        • Guest

          Have you ever actually heard a baby scream for 2 hours because their ears hurt? Do you have any idea what level of pain is required to sustain that kind of screaming? When a baby gets like that they vomit and hyperventilate and you can’t get them to suck which is the only remedy for the pain.
          Did you ever experience a really bad earache when you were little and do you remember what that felt like? I have and I do remember the pain and I would not put my baby through that any more than I would ram an icepick in their ear – which is a pretty good description of what it feels like.

          • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

            I have a number of kids and have traveled by plane with them from time to time. Number of experiences of torture = zero.

            Next question.

      • :)

        Surely people should be allowed to take their baby to see relatives, whether it’s a need or a want. Come on.

        It could easily be argued to fall under ‘pursuit of happiness’. Few things make a family happier than a new baby. The extended family, at least. The parents might be too tired to be happy.

  • Guest

    Let’s be honest. Most people don’t get upset at a crying baby. Most people get upset with parents of crying babies who don’t appear to do anything to stop the crying and who don’t seem to give a rip about the inconvenience to others around them. Parents who seem to be doing something and seem to understand the inconvenience to others usually get more sympathy than dirty looks.

    It seems to be the the epitome of political incorrectness these days to imply that a baby, doing whatever babies do, shouldn’t be welcome everywhere and anytime. I don’t think that is the case at all, including at Mass. I don’t expect you not to bring your child at all or that I won’t hear brief bouts of crying. But those times when the crying is loud and clearly not going to stop I expect you to get up and take the baby out until the crying stops, not let it go on and on acting as if it’s of no consequence. I have been at Mass when a child was allowed to cry so hard and so long that even the priest got rattled and was losing his focus during the consecration. That’s just selfishness and there is nothing wrong with objecting to it.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      I’m the parent of a number of young kids and I agree with you.

  • Kewois

    Interesting finding so much anti-babie talk in a Catholic blog. Perhaps some are advocating the use of condoms.

    It is strange as many Catholics are very worried about the drop in the numbers of birth.

    So I guess that the answer is, have many babies but stay at home. Don´t bother the rest of us. Perhaps just the father can flight but the mother has to stay at home.

    Of course it is annoying. And some parents do as much as they can to comfort the baby and reduce to a minimun the crying. Other just don´t care and let even grown up kids to be noisy and bad behaved.

    I was in a baptism and the priest began saying.
    “Here all people under six can talk, laugh, run and cry. People over six years old can´t do that. Of course I ask parents of under six kids to take care and try to reduce to a minimum that noise but I understand that the noises made by kids are a bliss from the Lord.”

    Of course as far as several babies were being baptized the people who talked loudly, who stand up and crosses in front of the rest of us to take photos with their cell phones and who as far as their baby was baptized began to talk louder were the parents and relatives. Not the under six years old kids.

    Returning to plane issue.
    What about if your neighbour feels ill an began to barf??
    I can say… If you are so sensible to motion sickness don’t fly……

    How little love for your neighbor, how little empathy, how little interest in children and how much selfishness for a Catholic Blog Comments .

    Kewois

    • Theodore Seeber

      I would point out that this blog, up until LESS THAN A YEAR AGO, was in the atheist section.

      I find this to be a very worthwhile discussion, and I thank Leah for starting it.

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

      To build on Theodore’s point, I think it’s important to remember that the commenters on Leah’s blog represent a diverse community that includes not only Catholics and other Christians but also people of no religion or of a different religion. I may not always agree with them, but I am very appreciative of having a forum to engage in dialogue with them. I think it would be a mistake to insist that all commenters on a “Catholic Blog” must be in perfect step with church teaching. Instead, I think the combox is most useful and lively when a variety of positions are presented and argued.

  • JohnE_o

    That was very considerate of the mother on the flight to pass out earplugs.

    As for the rest of the complaints about babies on planes, I suggest traveling with laudanum – so you can sleep through the flight while the baby cries.

  • Freed

    I’m going to agree with the other people that have said that being in an airplane is different from being on the street, or being on the subway. There’s less space on a plane, for one thing, and you are confined to your seat for most of the journey, so it’s much harder to get away from a crying baby. There’s also the time factor- most flights are longer than any a subway ride. We’re talking about several hours, most likely. Then there’s the fact you’re breathing recycled air, the noise of the engines, the occasional turbulence- it’s already a stressful situation. Plus the food is horrible. So, if a baby is crying for a long time under those kinds of conditions, it’s natural for people to feel a little annoyed.

    That doesn’t mean babies should be banned from planes. That would be wrong. It’s not a licence for people to start yelling at parents either. Obviously that’s not helpful, it just makes the situation worse. It’s just nice if parents understand that their baby might upset the people around them and do their best to minimize the discomfort of their fellow travellers, in the same way as it’s nice if people who see a baby near them on the plane crying do their best to be patient and give the parents a chance to settle the baby down. I don’t think parents should be forced to apologise for their children and shunned if they don’t, but it would be the polite thing to do, if your baby has woken someone up on a plane, to say sorry to them or at least give them an apologetic smile. Especially in business class where they might have an important meeting in the morning or actually be doing work while they are flying. So I admire the mother in the article for what she did and I think it’s worth highlighting as an example of good behaviour.

    There does seem to be something especially unsettling about a baby crying which you don’t really get from a cell phone conversation.
    It triggers bits of the brain associated with the flight-or-fight response (totally useless on a plane where you have to keep still):
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/oct/17/crying-babies-hard-ignore

    An infant’s cry is a fundamentally disturbing noise, probably by evolutionary design, according to Ann M. Frodi of the University of Rochester, who has conducted laboratory experiments to test the effect of the sound of crying.

    She has found that not just new parents, but childless adults of both sexes, adolescents and children as young as 8 years have identical physiological responses to infant crying. These include increases in heart rate, blood pressure and the skin’s electrical conductance. Asked to describe their feelings, the subjects all mentioned irritation and anxiety provoked by the sound.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1981/11/03/science/baby-s-cry-it-turns-out-can-speak-volumes.html?pagewanted=all

    And it increases testosterone in some men, which might explain why they feel irritable or antsy:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~nickthompson/texts/A%20Reassessment%20of%20the%20Role%20of%20Pitch%20and%20Duration%20in%20Adults%27%20.pdf

  • momofthree

    And those motherless women will be crying a river at 42. I know many. Thanks for writing this.

  • CW

    I’ve flown on planes with my own kids many times. My kids have mostly been good fliers, but there have been a few times when they’ve cried. My wife and I always try to stop the crying. We don’t enjoy it any more than anyone else (our incentives are alighed with yours, fellow passengers) and we do appreciate how tough it can be to be stuck in an enclosed space with a crying baby. We’ve found that most people are pretty understanding. They clearly don’t like the crying (who would?), but they can see we are doing our best. However, there is a distinct minority of people who just hate babies. They’ll give you a nasty look when you enter the plane or sit down near them and respond to even the smallest and most inoffensive baby sound, such as a giggle, with eyerolling and grimaces. They may say something, usually in the form of an overly loud comment made to someone sitting near them. These same people can also be found at Church and restaurants, and I suspect they do think that parents and families should have to sequester themselves from the rest of society. They imagine that children are some unwarranted intrusion on society rather than a natural part of it. They may be the same people who react so negatively whenever someone takes maternity or paternity leave.

  • http://Californiatokorea.com Micaela

    I just traveled from Korea to the Philippines and back with my 4 children under 8. It was a 5 hour flight. In June, I will take a 12 hour flight from Korea to California with those same children. There were no major problems, but still, my tension is always high in those situations.

    It’s not easy to travel with children. Indeed, I am easily embarrassed in public so I am probably harsher with my (generally well-behaved) children than I need to be during flights, trains, etc. What really bothers me about the whole idea of being ‘stuck’ on a plane with children is how they are viewed as less than people. Developmentally they are less able to control their emotions, and we need to care for them as such. Do what you can to occupy them, keep them engaged, etc. But we need to treat them with respect also as fully complete humans at another stage of life.

    Adults, on the other hand *should* be developmentally more capable of dealing with delays, distractions, noises, etc. Emphasis on ‘should.’

  • Mike

    Leah I agree with your reasoning.

    BTW If people want to fly sans-bebe, they should be able to: they can subsidize baby only flights by paying alot more for their adults only snore fests!

    The more babies the better! A country that frowns on babies is a country without humour!

  • Alice

    I see a lot of confusion on this thread between feeling and action. There is a difference between feeling irritated and showing irritation. Telling someone they should not be irritated by something is pointless. No one can control how someone else feels or thinks. If they’re going to be irritated, they’re going to be irritated. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way as long as they are not rude about it. It would be rude to roll your eyes, groan loudly, sigh loudly, or complain within earshot of the parents, glare at the parents etc. But keeping your irritation completely to yourself and treating everyone with the same common courtesy is not rude. Sometimes we can talk ourselves out of being irritated and sometimes we can not, but either way, there is no reason to be rude. The same goes for people on airplanes who are larger than one seat or smell or anyone else that irritates you because of something out of their control. Those things do not bother me very much. I do get very catastrophic in small spaces, but not irritated at the people who are crowding me.

  • Corita

    I think certain contributors to the thread represent the more mundane version of what Leah is talking about: an everyday, commonplace, sense of entitlement.

    Mothers everywhere are acquainted with the constant seesaw of how our offspring discomfits the world. And how the world judges us–from all sides– for it. I say that a parent is obligated to think about the needs of the baby and nothing else. If flying with baby, practice Not Apologizing for your existence. It’s super-duper healthy and can help counteract a lot of that judge-y bulls-t parents have to slog through.

    I might choose to hand out goodies if I took my baby on a plane, but if I did it would be like diplomats of warring countries bringing gifts. I already know that many people will be annoyed by our existence, and still more inevitably find cracks in their best-of-social-intentions after a long demoralizing airport/plan experience. I don’t agree to the ideological attitude that some of the other passengers might have toward my right to fly with my baby, but I am not above certain kinds of bribery if it will help *me* get through the day onto more important things.

    In the end, it is a lapse of our best selves that causes us to be visibly annoyed with a baby doing what it does. The same thing with actively judging a stranger for creating conditions that annoy us. It’s a natural response and maybe even a long-standing habit…but it is not our us being our most human and loving. We can’t possibly know all of what brought that person into our lives that day.

    Really, the spluttering attempt to construct a moral argument about why *other* people ought to make different choices “the ones I would make!!!”** in such banal circumstances**…that just smacks of egotistical self-involvement. Hey we have all been there. Just don’t try to claim it’s All Good.

  • Pingback: The Sin of Inconvenience

  • Micha_Elyi

    The conscientious mother in the story seems to be required to apologize for taking her baby out in public.
    –Leah Libresco

    Oh that’s so misleading! She’s not taking her baby out into some generic “public” place (as if such a thing exists). She’s imposing her baby on people who’ve paid extra for something billed as Business Class. The mother knows she’s depriving her fellow Business Class passengers of their rightful expectation of quiet and decorum during the flight. Simple common courtesy requires her to apologize.

    The example of this mother will be useful in my classes on ethics, economics, and sociology. Even my colleagues teaching psychology could find her story worthwhile. Why? Because by distributing the little bags she’s demonstrating by deed that she’s aware of the apprehension of her fellow Business Class passengers. (Likely, she’s been a business traveler herself in the past.) And she’s signalling in a material (sacrificial?) way her commitment to minimize her imposition.

    How this mother’s wonderful deed relates to applied ethics should not need to be pointed out. Economics and Sociology? Studies of commitment-signalling has won several Economics Nobel Prizes. And sociologists are interested in this human behavior too. Psychology? The little photo of the mom included in the bag suggests to the other Business Class passengers that she’s easily approachable should anyone be annoyed by her child’s behavior – any psychologist could tell you that the opportunity to do something about a discomfort results in people being willing to accept much more discomfort than they would otherwise.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Everyone who tried to argue in one form or another that airlines are common carriers and therefore mothers can impose their squalling babies and misbehaving children on their fellow passengers should think again. (The giveaway is their use of the word “public” to describe airlines.)

    The same argument can be used by the State to impose rules of its choosing on your religion unless you close it to the “public”. Christians are going to have a lot of trouble with this when obeying the Great Commission. Look at the trouble Catholic Christians are already having with State impositions on their hospitals and schools.


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