Recently I found myself in the unusual (for me) position of flying without a person under 48" whose care and comfort I am responsible for. So the time I usually spend lugging travel car seats, cleaning hands, procuring snacks and travel toys and now, blessedly, setting up the iPad, was spent actually observing the goings on around me. Our travel day ran just about as smoothly as a travel day could, but I think it was in spite of that rather than because of it that I noticed something I had long suspected but now could confirm. Regardless of what Internet commenters would have you believe, people are polite, courteous, even, when you're traveling with small children.
The polite and courteous part was sadly often a response to the not so polite and courteous actions of an adult person (behaving in a decidedly less than adult manner). JetBlue may force toddlers to deplane, but they still offer a pre-board for those flying with small kids or requiring special assistance. But that didn't stop the scrum of people pushing themselves in front of the families with strollers. Kudos to the JetBlue staff for not rewarding such actions, as well to the gentleman who cleared a path of passengers to assist a mom traveling on her own with a tiny baby. It was refreshing and inspiring to witness chivalry in action. You'd never expect to see that after reading the comments on this article.
And a word on the pre-board: This is not a luxury that we "entitled" parents feel we deserve. It's an opportunity to get organized and out of everyone's way -- thus actually facilitating the boarding process. Grown-ups who believe they are also entitled to such "privileges" are welcome to do so by upgrading their flight.
There are thousands of uneventful flights taking place every day. When all we hear about are tales of disruptive children and how 53% of people wish there were child-free flights or family zones on planes, and the barrage of hateful comments that ensue, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the vast majority are drama-free.
Those threatening to put a damper on our smooth flying day were not children being children, but grown ups acting like the ill-behaved kids we keep hearing so much about. The person who reclined his seat during landing after he was told to put it up was not a sullen tween, but a man in his 50s. Those that raced ahead to get in front of us in the security line were not preschoolers, but a couple in their thirties. When I did see kids acting up, I also saw mothers and fathers doing their best to manage the situation. Whether or not I agree with their parenting methods is irrelevant. I saw no so-called "checked-out" parents.
Flying with kids can be challenging, and flying with babies and toddlers can be a lot of work. But so is just being a parent. It used to be you could count on help from the village to raise your child, now it seems like you need to protect them from that village -- or at least the villagers who comment on online articles. But this most recent flying experience has inspired and encouraged me, at least until the next time someone publishes an online article like this one.
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel - your online guide for travel with babies, toddlers & young children. From baby packing lists to tips on coping with jet lag in toddlers, Have Baby Will Travel wants to help you travel with your baby! Connect with Corinne on twitter and on Facebook