"One of those no-neck monsters hit me with some ice cream. Their fat little heads sit on their fat little bodies without a bit of connection... You can't wring their necks if they got no necks to wring. Isn't that right, honey?... Think of it, they've got five monsters and number six comin' up" -- Tennessee Williams, Maggie, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
"We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!" -- Arthur Miller, The Crucible
My friend Molly Peacock and I were having breakfast at a quiet restaurant in New York recently, and we were commenting on how rare it has become to be in a restaurant where no children are running around. Of course, it's even rarer to be on a plane where no babies are shrieking uncontrollably or school-age children as well.
On my last flight, two middle school girls fought and yelled at each other from JFK to LAX. They kicked the back of my seats and my neighbor's seat. They told each other to shut up literally dozens of times. While they screamed and fought, their mother sat in the aisle seat alternately dozing in what I assumed was a Xanax haze and listening to music and movies with her headphones. Their father sat on the other side of the aisle. When we stood up at the end of the flight, he said to me, "Good flight?"
"Are these your girls?" I asked.
"Yes, why were they bothering you?"
"They should never be allowed to fly again," I said. "They were merciless. They kicked, they punched, they yelled." The man stared at me. He was clearly amazed that anyone would speak out against his offspring.
There was a time when children were considered a nuisance. When your friends came over for cocktails, you shooed the little monsters outside to play in the grass, and when they reappeared, you sent them off to bathe. Our kids used to sit at a kids' table when we had dinner parties. We got them to politely present themselves and then made them disappear. We assumed that not everybody loves children. Especially noisy children, and ours were noisy.
The great thing about raising kids without television is that it cuts down on their consumer needs. They don't see it, they don't want it. But the downside is that without television to teach them to be passive consumers, they talk all the time. Ours never stopped talking. Which was fine with us, but we assumed, not so fine with all of our guests.
That time is over. When you're in a restaurant, grocery store, concert, or airplane and kids start cranking up the noise, the parents seem to assume that everyone in the room shares their adoration for their obnoxious offspring. Even admitting you wish kids would shut up will get you some shocked looks of disapproval.
Here's the deal, those looks say, my children have a right to act out as they will in public spaces. It's part of the whole free will, right to happiness thing we've got going as Americans. And if you don't like the way my kid is behaving in a public place, that's your problem. Why don't you just leave?
We used to assume we had the right to courtesy. The right for parents to keep their children in line. Welcome to the supremacy of children. You do not have a right to silence.
More than half of travelers say they would pay more for child free flights according to The New York Times, and this isn't because we hate kids, it's because we don't like parents who refuse to control their kids. Airplanes are the one public space you cannot exit. Believe me, if it were possible to exit the airlock, there have been times when I've wished for a parachute. Airplanes may become the first public space where adults can put down their foot about the children out of control.
I am a person who likes kids. Between my husband and I we have three boys and a girl. We like travelling with our kids. We like our friends' kids. We like babies. We're looking forward to the time (hopefully a decade from now) when we become grandparents. But, I'm not a fan of kids whose parents refuse to establish boundaries and guidelines. Parents want their children to love them, and I want my kids to love me too. I don't believe in abandoning your kids or letting other people raise them; your kids are your job.
What I wish for is a generation of parents who understand that your kids won't love you more because you let them scream from Akron to Newark. They won't become dearer to you because you let them do wheelies in Vons in the vegetable aisle. They won't be your friends for life because you let them fight until they were too tired to do anything but text at that restaurant on 5th Avenue. They are not your BFFs; they're your children. They won't love you more. Quite the opposite. They'll lose all respect for you. But, for this generation of parents, wooing has replaced discipline, cajoling has replaced giving orders I wouldn't want to live in a child-free world, I'll take the noise and the grief just to keep being part of the hum, but when child free flights come online, sign me up.