Is it really that bad?

I’m ready to book tickets for a summer getaway after reading the Frugal Traveler’s post about traveling with baby. (If only we could afford it…) What’s even more interesting than the post is the bevy of comments it generated.

Things heat up around comment 5, when the FT is called inconsiderate for bringing his baby on the plane, ignoring the odds that the baby will act up and disturb other passengers. The poster goes on to say that babies don’t belong in restaurants at dinner time or in movie theaters “AT ALL.” (The caps are his.) And thus, the gauntlet was thrown down.

Parents hit back hard, weighing in with reasons for why they travel with babies: to see grandparents, to build memories, because they want to take a vacation and be with their baby too. Compassion and understanding and other fine virtues are invoked by some, while others get snarky and take shots at the commenter for being a curmudgeon.

Of course others jump on the anti-baby bandwagon, writing that parents should stay home and enjoy their kids in private instead of bringing them out in public where the kids’ crying and fussing (and the parents’ fawning) infringes on everyone. Selfishness and entitlement and other morally repugnant terms are bandied about. There also seems to be some resentment that the FT got his baby a seat for free.

This dichotomy between parents and non-parents (what Fucked-In-Park-Slope humorously calls Breeder vs. Baller) seems silly to me, because both sides are ridiculous if taken to the extreme. Obviously, parents shouldn’t take their baby everywhere at all times and expect people to love it. But on the other hand, having a baby doesn’t sentence you to home confinement.

I’m speaking as someone who, for years, shuddered at the thought of breeding. I loved to talk about how awful kids were! There’s so much to hate — the snot, the smells, the screams and yells. A lot of that was just posturing, as I was scared to seriously grapple with the thought of having a child because of the commitment it would bring, and the emotional intensity of the whole experience. (For some time I suffered under the delusion that warm, caring emotions were yucky.)

And there’s so many inattentive parents out there who let their kids run wild, or rule the roost, or don’t know how to say no. One of our favorite burger joints is overrun with such adults and their spawn, literally. The little hellions run and dance and carry on in between tables, playing with dough balls the beset-upon kitchen staff gives out in an attempt to pacify them. After a dinner there, we’d promise ourselves we’d never breed! It was great birth control.

These parents give breeders a bad rep. There’s plenty of responsible, active parents (and it sounds like the FT is among them) who travel and eat out and have a social life along with their well-behaved, well-socialized children. Why shouldn’t they, as long as they use common sense and self-restraint, avoiding things the baby isn’t ready to handle? For example, we have friends whose newborn was colicky for the first couple of months, and they said that they wouldn’t have traveled with her because they knew she wouldn’t be happy, even though they might have wanted a vacation.

People also have to understand and accept that even the best behaved of kids will sometimes act up, throw tantrums, and have crying fits because they have no other way of expressing their discomfort at being cooped up in an airborne can for eight hours.

I think there’s a real intolerance for inconvenience in this country. But when you live in a society, and especially a crowded place like a city, you have to expect that you’ll live in close proximity to people who drive you up a wall. Same goes for when you’re on an airplane, or the subway, or in a cafe or a bar, or any of the other microcosms we inhabit throughout our day. Are you going to let a little crying baby ruin your day? As the therapist Albert Ellis would say, “It’s a hassle—not a horror!”


1 Response to “Is it really that bad?”

  1. 1 cindym March 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    “I think there’s a real intolerance for inconvenience in this country.”

    I agree, but I also think we have pretty bad manners in this country, too. That is an explosive combination!

    Not that taking a baby on a plane is bad manners. But changing your baby’s diaper on the tray table is, especially when an innocent stranger is stuffed into the middle seat next to you.

    (I speak from personal experience, of course. Lesson learned: never assume the tray table is clean.)

    So is clipping your child’s fingernails on a city bus and brushing the nail particles onto the floor around you. Removing your nail polish with a vial full of smelly solvent on an airplane is also irksome.
    As is toting a big stinky onion-laden hot dog onto a plane to scarf in your seat. Or letting your kid run around vigorously picking his nose and wiping it on the Gap tank tops that I am about to try on. Or sitting at a cafe with your yappy dog who yaps at every single pedestrian that walks by for the entire meal.

    Am I just a curmudgeon too? Babies have the right to fly, to cry, to squirm. But no doubt there are loads of entitled people, parents or not, out there that have caused some sour feelings. If everyone would just offer a little smile and a quick “Oops, I’m sorry” for anything that could bother others, there would be far fewer pissed-off people out there.

    My personal favorite is getting shoved aside by the mammoth strollers in narrow supermarket aisles. MAKE WAY, MAKE WAY!! I SUCCESSFULLY PROCREATED!!


    -Fed Up in Frisco

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