So, I just saw this story (courtesy The Baby Guy, Jamie Grayson) about two parents traveling back from Turks and Caicos who got kicked off a JetBlue flight when their 2-year-old daughter had a meltdown (for about 5 minutes, they claimed) and they had trouble getting her to sit still and stay buckled up and calm for takeoff. (The couple also has a 3-year-old daughter as well.) You can see the story, plus an interview with the family from the Today Show, here.
When I imagine being on a plane with a tantrumming toddler and knowing that strangers’ eyes are on me and that I’m basically holding up the takeoff of the plane—-well, it gets my heart beating a little faster just thinking about it, so I really feel for these parents. Who among us hasn’t been in the position of not being able to settle our child (or children) in a public space? Who among us can’t imagine that uncomfortable mix of anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, and judgment? But apparently, when the Today Show conducted a poll asking people to vote whether or not they agreed with the airline, 71% of people said the airline was justified in their decision. I found that surprising, not because I can say for sure they were right or wrong, but because that’s a pretty strong number feeling so sure that it was right to kick this family off the plane. I understand that it’s a flight, there are safety protocols that must be followed and that something as unfortunate as removing a family from a plane might be unnecessary in extreme circumstances. But then I read the comments on the story on MSNBC’s “Overhead Bin” Facebook page and there’s not a lot of nuance in a lot of those siding with the airline. Really there was just a lot of mean-spirited, nastiness directed towards the parents.
It was clear to one commenter that “these nitwit parents have no parenting skills as their kids couldn’t sit still for even one second while Matt (Lauer) interviewed them.” Wow, I had no idea that a measure of our skill as parents was the ability of our 2- and 3-year-olds to be interviewed on camera for a national television audience in a calm, sit-still and don’t-make-a-fuss way. I must be a real parenting failure then; my kids are 5 and 8 and sometimes I can’t even get them to sit still at a family-friendly restaurant where there are not ginormous television cameras trained on them and a friendly stranger (Matt Lauer) staring at them and asking questions. The parents are both doctors, one a pediatrician, and the Facebook commenters also note that “they must have skipped parenting classes in med school.” They teach “parenting” in med school now?!?
The comments continue to deride this family on the basis of class: they are doctors, and therefore assumed rich, and therefore, snobs, and therefore, they let other people raise their children, i.e. nannies, and so of course, they don’t have a clue how to parent properly. Many commenters also fly frequently and *their* children are never so monstrous, so *obviously* it’s not *that* hard. Because really, how hard is it “to put a 2-year-old in a seat, buckle it, and give her a cookie?” The husband, who remains a bit quieter than the wife throughout the interview and tries to calm the children when they seem restless, is also advised to “grow a set.” I’m pretty sure he has one, or else I don’t think he’s the biological father of those children, but what the hell do I know?
The parents are also “entitled,” “self-absorbed,” “assholes”, and “tote their children along on flights like fancy handbags.” Another bemoans the passage of the good ol’ days, when “parents had the right to discipline their children with more than just words. Nowadays, children have all the rights.” The children are “spoiled brats,” the evidence for which seems mostly to be that they try to talk to their dad during the interview, squirm a lot and the 3-year-old keeps trying to touch her dad’s hair.
THEY ARE 3- AND 2-YEARS-OLD. My word. Thankfully there are some rational, reasonable commenters on the thread. As I’ve said, I don’t know if the airline was in the right or not, I wasn’t there. However, if the tantrum truly did last 5 minutes tops, the child was calm and restrained before they went to taxi and yet the pilot still turned the plane around to go back to the gate and had them escorted off the plane, well, I’m leaning towards “not in the right.” When did people become so hostile towards children? I understand that unruly children can be very annoying when you are on a plane. Sometimes I agree parents can and should do more than they are to attempt to correct that type of behavior. But wow, it’s sad to me that so many people seem to find the ultimate accomplishment in parenting to be iron-fisted control over the behavior of a developing human being.
One commenter, Sandra Richter, juxtaposes how when she flies as a frequent business traveler, she gets the royal treatment, but when she flies with her kids, people give her the stink-eye before they’ve even interacted. She points out that children over age 2 must pay the same fare, yet are much smaller and lighter than an adult passenger. “I regularly watch as enormous adults take up more space than they have paid for, refuse to turn off their iPhones, smash other peoples’ belongings in the overhead compartments, play R-rated films on their laptops for all to see, snore, emit various bodily functions without restraint, and talk at the top of their voices and are rarely addressed by flight attendants.” If bad behavior by adults is so often not addressed, but the second a child doesn’t toe the line, we treat them like this, then, she proposes children must be considered “second-class flyers. If that is the case, may we have reduced flight prices, please?”