During a recent 2 1/2-hour flight from Portland, Maine, to Charlotte, N.C., Tom Meador heard nothing but crying.
“The baby in the back row screamed bloody murder,” he remembers. “Its mother did everything she could think of to quiet the baby. She actually was dripping with sweat because you could tell she worried about what it was doing to the other passengers. I think she had reason to worry, too, because there were some very sour fellow passengers.”
The problem is as old as air travel itself: Adults seated next to misbehaving kids while confined to a pressurized aluminum tube. But it seemed like until now, at least, we knew whose side the parents were on. Like the mom on Meador’s flight, they did everything they could to keep their offspring from driving the rest of the passengers quietly mad.
Today, you can’t be so sure.
Take Pamela Root, who recently became the poster child for permissive parents after she and her two-year-old son were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight. Apparently the child’s demands (“Go! Plane! Go!” and “I want Daddy!”) were so loud that the in-flight announcements couldn’t be heard by the other passengers. Southwest apologized for ejecting them and offered Root a $300 voucher, incurring the wrath of the commenting classes.
Have parents stopped caring?
“Today’s parents have a different view of children’s behavior,” says Renee Mosiman, a marriage and family therapist and co-author of “The Smarter Preschooler: Unlocking Your Child’s Intellectual Potential.” “Parents are more permissive, which can result in children who are more unruly in public, especially during plane travel.”
I’ve given this some thought after an earlier column in which I wondered if children should be banned from flying. Halfway through the story, I conceded that no discussion of banning kids would be complete without the possibility of getting rid of bad parents, too.
I can’t pretend to know what separates a good mom or dad from a bad one. But when it comes to air travel, there are a few telltale signs that you’re dealing with parental incompetence. Here they are:
‘My child can do no wrong.’
There’s a small group of parents that believes its kids walk on water. On the ground, they are free to indulge their offspring to their heart’s content. But on a plane, it doesn’t quite work.
Michael Liebmann, a legal secretary who lives in Atlanta, remembers flying from Tel Aviv to Rome, where he was seated next to a child, “who started screaming the moment we took off.” After a while, he politely asked its mother to do something. “She yelled at me that her ‘perfect child’ could scream as much and as long as it wanted to,” he says. “No amount of niceness was able to accomplish anything.”
I have some experience with parents who turn a blind eye to their kids’ shortcomings: I am related to a few of them. They shouldn’t allow these kinds of parents to buy airline tickets — regardless of their kids’ ages.