Babies on Planes

Babies on Planes December 21, 2022

I want to comment on an essay from a distressed air-traveling parent, but without picking on that parent.

The concept underpinning this parent’s torment is that somehow the other people on the airplane are paying for a “peaceful” (read: “adults-only”) voyage, and thus the presence of children on board infringes on the experience the adult passengers have supposedly purchased.

My comment is this: Commercial airlines are public transportation.

I understand all too well that they are expensive public transportation.

This gives rise to the illusion that they are intended for the better sort, the people who don’t take the Greyhound. But alas, no. Your local airline is not running a luxury retreat for the elite. They are running a system of mass transit open to the public.

The social contract is this: Everyone on board will behave as well as they can, and treat each other with as much understanding as they can muster, so that the journey will be less miserable than it otherwise could be.

You the adult bringing children on board are responsible for doing what you reasonably can to help those children behave as well as they are able, under the circumstances.

You the adult who has no child along on this particular passage are responsible for doing what you can to manage your own feelings of discomfort so that, like the small child, you behave as well as you are able, under the circumstances.

Because you are older, you are able to avail yourself of many self-soothing techniques to make the journey more manageable. Employ those techniques. Seek professional help if your current repertoire of behavioral management tools aren’t adequate for the task.

Parents, back to you: If you didn’t grow up with role models for effective parenting, seek some out. It is okay to literally walk up and ask other, more-experienced parents what their techniques are for helping their children behave more courteously. You may then selectively adapt those techniques to your child, who is not like any other child.

You will also have to adapt to your child today, who is not like your same child yesterday or the day before. It’s a learning process.

Furthermore, no amount of perfect-parenting will magically cause all children to be silent and still for long hours on demand, every time all the time. That’s life.  The adults on board with you are old enough to understand that life is like this.

Back to those solo adults on board: No really. You didn’t buy a ticket to the spa. If you really are that rich, book a private jet. If you aren’t that rich, accept the fact that you are depending on the other passengers — even the young ones — to subsidize the cost of your flight.

Learn to live at peace with your poverty, or else get richer so you can have that private jet. But as a poor person, yeah, you have to share the plane with the great unwashed.

It’s okay.

You can do anything for twenty-four hours. It’ll be fine.

File:Baby carriage, crying Fortepan 19896.jpg

Photo: Two babies in a carriage, crying, Hungary 1938. Via Wikimedia, CC 3.0. My life basically still looks like this, tbh. Just because they get older doesn’t mean there’s no spice.

About Jennifer Fitz
Jennifer Fitz has spent many, many hours in the air with babies, toddlers, and small children, and mostly it was fine. Master performance was four kids, ages 6, 4, 2 and five months. And no, I did not have a second adult traveling with me for any of those trips. So seriously: I know. I *know*. Home base is If you want the religious-ed version of this pep talk, check out Classroom Management for Catechists (Liguori, 2013). You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives