The airports are packed with adults eager to escape their reality and enjoy a relaxing vacation elsewhere, but they aren’t alone. Large families with babies, toddlers and kids in tow are also purchasing the airfare to enjoy a family “vacation”. I say, “vacation” loosely as parents all know that they are still required to work.
So you arrive at the airport, get through security and then scope out a seat at your gate. You surveillance the other passengers and do one of two things.
If you are traveling without kids than you groan and mutter about a baby being on your flight and automatically become annoyed. You start praying that they aren’t sitting anywhere near you.
If you are traveling with your kids, than you scope out the other parents. You make eye contact, throw a mental high-five and feel relived that you have a team member. You get on your knees and beg God to have them sit next to you on the flight.
Let’s be real honest though, as you may grunt and be annoyed that there are children on a plane, the parents are dreading the flight even more than you are. We know how our kids behave and obviously we don’t want the ugly side to come out. We equip ourselves with the basics (snacks, IPads, crayons, bottles and lollipops) and hope that it will alleviate any possible meltdowns.
So here are my do’s and don’ts when you see families on the plane.
Do Smile. A small smile goes a long way. Maybe you can relate in parenting or working with kids. Maybe you have been there before and actually get to have an adult vacation without your kids.
Don’t grimace or roll your eyes. Yes, you are entitled to travel but so are families. If the kid is over two than the parents are also forking over the same cost for a ticket and I doubt they will be in first class.
Do engage. Talking to the kids and parents brings down the stress level incredibly. Parents will feel your sense of interest in their family and start to calm down about the flight.
Don’t ignore. When a kid stares or says something to you, the least you can do is smile and say hello. They are checking out the new surrounding and getting familiar with the strangers coming on the trip with them.
Do offer help. If a child is upset and you see the parent becoming frazzled, offer help if you can. Maybe you have an extra snack, lollipop, or know a magic trick. Just an empathic smile and a game of peekaboo can be incredibly helpful.
Don’t plug your ears with your fingers or whip your head around with disgust. It just intensifies the situation and makes the parent feel that less inadequate in taking care of their child.
Do validate. Let the parents know you can understand the challenges of flying with little kids. Give them credit as they have to do it, sober too!
Don’t say something unkind. If you don’t have something nice to say, than don’t say it at all. This is what a fellow passenger told me right before takeoff, a few weeks ago, “I hope you know how to keep your kids quiet on a plane.” Seriously? It’s just rude.
Do stay patient. The moments when the child is melting down and nothing is helping, just stay patient. It will pass, the child will eventually stop and the plane will become silent again. It is awful when it happens, but where there is a beginning, there is an ending.
Don’t try to gather a camaraderie of fellow passengers against the family on the plane. Shaking your head, whispering to shut the baby up or making cruel gestures just shows that you are a bigger baby.
The plane will eventually land and everyone will jump up to escape the small moving capsule. Some families will walk off proud, that they dodged the crying bullet and others will gather their baby gear and begin to apologize to fellow passengers for the meltdowns.
It happens though, so parents don’t beat yourself up, and enjoy your family “vacation.”