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Keli Goff

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Why Bad Parents Oppose Kid-Free Flights

Posted: 02/22/2013 8:11 am

I've long believed that people who claim they don't like kids are misguided. It's not that they don't like kids. They just don't like bad parents.

I was reminded of this when I had yet another semi-silly discussion with well-meaning parents (on the fabulous HuffPost Live, no less) who believe that not only should their world revolve around their kids but every other person on the planet's world should too. Apparently some parents are up in arms over the movement towards child-free cabins on airlines, which some anticipate are merely serving as a possible precursor to child-free flights.

Here's a million-dollar question: what's wrong with that?

One would think that after the appalling story of alleged racist Neanderthal Rickey Hundley, who is accused of assaulting a crying baby on a flight, that more parents would applaud giving jerks like him the option not to fly anywhere near children (or humans in general for that matter) but no. There are parents who believe their children should be welcome everywhere -- even in places where people are willing to pay not to be near them.

Despite the fact that there are already couples-only resorts, (not to mention nudist resorts), opponents of child-free options tend to ramble on about things like "intolerance." But the definition of "intolerance" is "unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc."

Hmmm. So if someone is willing to pay for extra legroom for a more comfortable seat, and that same someone is also willing to pay for a child-free cabin to increase the likelihood of enjoying a quieter seat, but your superior opinion is that your kids are adorable and every person should be forced to see them as adorable too, and therefore should have to sit near your kids whether a person wants to or not, that would make you... what's the word? Could it be "intolerant?"

We all have to do our part to make living in this society as civil as possible. I agree with parents who get offended when adults swear in front of children on airplanes, or even loudly in a restaurant or movie theater. It's rude and it's tacky. But by the same token if you bring your five-year-old to a rated "R" movie, you're a bad parent. (Cue the obligatory: "And just how many kids do you have Ms. Goff, the parenting expert?" To which my standard reply is, "I've never been convicted of a crime, or been the victim of one, yet I write about the criminal justice system regularly and no one seems to think I need to have served jail time to at least have an opinion.") But if an adult chooses to swear at a rated "R" film, and your children hear it I would think that's unfortunate, but also your fault. (And for the record I saw the very R-rated Bad Santa in a movie theater and there was more than one small child in the audience. I shudder to think what they thought of the anal sex references.)

The same goes for if you try to force your children on to adults in other domains in which they don't belong. If New York can prohibit adults from visiting playgrounds (and ticket them for doing so), then airlines should be able to prohibit children from certain cabins -- as long as passengers are willing to pay for them, and as long as families are afforded just as many opportunities to fly comfortably to their destinations. Amtrak trains already have quiet cars, which are not explicitly child-free, but prohibit any noise above a whisper and explicitly prohibit cell phones. To be clear, I'd actually rather sit near a crying child than some loudmouth on a three-hour cellphone call while traveling, but that's me. I don't have a right to dictate how someone else defines traveling in comfort, and neither do you.

Even if you're a parent.

Because just being one, doesn't make you a great one. It doesn't make you perfect and it doesn't make you supreme commander of all things good and right in the world. It just means you've had the courage to take on the hardest job in the world, and for that I applaud you. But it doesn't mean that if I'd like to sleep on a cross-country flight I should be made to feel guilty for admitting that I don't want to sit next to your kid and am willing to pay a premium not to do so -- as beautiful, bright, and brilliant as they may be.

Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Political Correspondent for TheRoot.com.

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