As I was sat doing my weekly trawl of travel news, a headline grabbed my attention, ‘Mom Handed Out 200 Ear Plugs To Fellow Passengers, Just In Case Her Baby Made Noise’. My heart sank. I read on. Turns out a first-time mum, was traveling with her four month old from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco. She handed out over 200 goodie bags containing earplugs and candy to her fellow passengers. The bag also contained a note:
‘Hello, I’m Junwoo and I’m four months old. Today I am going to the US with my mom and grandmom to see my aunt. I’m a little bit nervous and scary because it’s the first flight in my life, which means that I may cry or make too much noise. I will try to go quietly, though I can’t make any promises. Please excuse me’.
(pic from Tal Masood’s FB page)
I can’t deny this is an extremely thoughtful gesture by Junwoo’s mum. Yet it makes me sad as this isn’t something parents should have to do. Air travel is commonplace. There’s likely to be a baby in your cabin. New parents are stressed enough without needing the extra worry of upsetting other passengers. It also must have taken Junwoo’s mum AGES to put those goodie bags together. Plus who wants to have to lug all those extra packages along with your already brimming hand-luggage!
Whilst I applaud the warm generosity of this action, I don’t support it. Parents shouldn’t have to stress about whether their baby behaves on a plane. It’s an unknown entity, nothing can prepare you for a curveball of illness, ear pressure, nappy rash or just being baby. For older kids, yes you should parent responsibly and tell your kids off if they are being noisy or kicking the seat in front of you. But for a baby, that’s just how it goes. Sometimes you’ll have a perfect flight and other time they’ll cry uncontrollably. Parents shouldn’t have this extra pressure put on them, for what may already be an anxious wait for an upcoming flight.
Babies aren’t the only ones who can be badly behaved on a flight. Why isn’t the passenger who decides to play their noisy game with no headphones, handing me a pair of earplugs? Why isn’t the smelly passenger handing out scented spray to us all? Why is the spluttering person not handing out masks so we all don’t catch their illness? Or wearing one himself?
A kind member of check-in staff once put this in perspective for me. I was traveling with a young baby from London to Hong Kong, booked in to business class. She informed me that I had a great seat in the Upper Deck of the 747. She said ‘It’s lovely up there, a much smaller cabin and you’ll get extra attention.’ I panicked as I was worried about the baby upsetting other business class passengers in the smaller upper deck. I asked if she could try and find me a seat in the downstairs instead, where I could blend in to a bigger cabin. She looked at me and said ‘You stay where you are. You’ve bought this ticket, you have as much right to be up there as any other passenger’.
There’s so much angst on the internet, I hope this doesn’t come across as an attack on this considerate new parent. Far from it. I just don’t want this action to inspire others to feel as if they need to do similar. Even though passengers may be shooting you evils as you walk onboard with your baby, everyone deep down should understand how it goes. We were all babies once.