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Listen up, idiot in seat 24D. Kids don't come with volume controls.

chld crying on airplane

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: We were flying home from Florida the other day and man, we thought we had it right. For her first time flying out to see her grandparents, our youngest flew like a champ. I, thinking I was slick, offered to take the seat next to our 2-year-old on the ride home, thinking she'd pass right out (as she has the propensity to do in any other moving vehicle) around her naptime like clockwork. And I'd score two nonstop, luxurious hours to peruse a book that wasn't crafted out of cardboard.

So we taxi. I hand her a sippy cup to prevent ear-popping and we take off smoothly. Her eyes begin to droop, and I mentally pat myself on the back. Score! But once we get to our target altitude, the kid loses her everloving mind.

Girlfriend is wailing. And I mean WAILING. I ask if it's her ears a few times, and each time she nods "no," without so much as pausing to breathe.

I read every Elmo board book I have. I put on "Dora" and stick headphones on her. No dice. She's overtired and passing her "nap window," and it's anyone's guess when she'll decide to settle.

The nice man sitting behind me goes to fetch some snacks. No animal cracker, Terra Blue chip, or Cheddar Bunny will silence her. It is abundantly clear to anyone witnessing this display that I am pulling out all the stops to soothe her. And after a mere five minutes of this tirade, do you know what the 60-year-old gentleman across the aisle says to me?

"Do you think you can do something about her? She's really annoying."

Turns out the nice young man burdened with sitting in our row had a 1-year-old of his own. So he let the jackass have it. "She's a BABY. C'mon!"

I pipe in. "You were two once, too. And I'm sure you cried like this on occasion."

"Hippos Go Berserk" does the trick for about a full minute, but as soon as it's done, she resumes her hysteria. I hold her. I rock her. We walk the aisles. And as soon as we sit back down, she flips a switch and it's back-into-banshee-dom. And short of pulling a muzzle out of my ass (admirable trickery, but sadly there is none), there's nothing I can do.

To add to my misery, I overhear the jackass lady sitting one row in front of the first jackass ask the flight attendant if there is "anything she could do" about my kid!

I wanted to say this at the time, but I was obviously busy, so I'm saying it now:

"Lady (I mean, raging idiot), no one on earth longs for her silence more than I. But if kids came with volume controls, the need for pacifiers, earplugs, whiskey, and Xanax would be virtually obsolete. So unless you are prepared to offer me one or more of the aforementioned solutions, do us all a favor and shut the f*** up."

And if it's not blatantly obvious, I'm being facetious. Sort of.

My husband eventually pulls out what we call the "big guns" -- his iPod. An hour and a half after take-off, with a mere half hour left of the flight, she passes out to the soundtrack of "Yo Gabba Gabba." Ah! The solution. Who knew?

I'm sure you've been the parent of "that screaming kid" at one point or another. Short of slipping her a mickey, what's a parent to do? Do you have a trick to share that works in times like these?

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39 comments so far | Post a comment now
Cheryl October 26, 2009, 5:13 AM

Well said! It is baffling that other travellers think that parents WANT their children to be screaming like maniacs and somehow are withholding the solution to silence. It is one thing if a child is kicking a seat or throwing things, but tantrums and the like are not in a parents’ control. A little compassion can go a long way.

Anonymous October 26, 2009, 5:51 AM

I’d look those idiots in the face and say, “I’m open to some suggestions, if you think you can find a way to keep her quiet please let me know”. What dorks.

littlepeapie October 26, 2009, 7:32 AM

Bless your heart, what a nightmare…I usually try to pack a few special, new things that I can pull out in an emergency like this one….if none of our other tricks work and we’ve tried everything, usually a new book, M&M’s, or something will capture my son’s attention….I know total bribery, but when you are confined and traveling, there isn’t much you can do!

tennmom October 26, 2009, 7:39 AM

If a parent is going to fly with a child too young to control his/her behavior, you are going to have to expect other passengers to become annoyed.
Perhaps a better idea is to have family fly to you, if their health permits, until a child is older. You could even offer to pay for the tickets.
A 2year old isn’t old enough to remember much about Disney World or Bermuda, so postpone the trip until they are older.
I would never have put my children on a plane until they were old enough to understand that their behavior affected other people.
I think parents of children under 5 should be charged a hefty “annoyance fee” along with their plane tickets. If the child doesn’t end up being a screamer or a seat-kicker, the fee could be refunded upon landing.
I love my girls as much as any other parent loves theirs but I wouldn’t put other people in the position of having to”put up” with my little darlings.

Cheryl October 26, 2009, 8:20 AM

It must be nice to only have to fly when going on vacation. What if you are going to see someone who is deathly ill? Or for work? Would your “annoyance fee” be refunded if in fact, they were not annoying? I don’t try to force my kids into situations that are above their comprehension either, but an annoyance fee is stupid.

chris October 26, 2009, 8:35 AM

I didn’t fly w/my kids until they are older…11 and 7. Instead we chose vacation spots within 8 - 10 hours so we could drive (at night) and w/a video player we never had any problems. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to quiet a small child who doesn’t understand that they are bother the people around them. Sorry it was such a bad experience for you and the other passagers.

Katie October 26, 2009, 8:57 AM

Before I had kids I was really annoyed with little ones screaming. Now whenever I hear it, I am filled with compassion. I am just so thankful it is not me and I feel really bad for that parent with the tough job of quieting down a toddler.

m October 26, 2009, 9:12 AM

Sounds like you used all the tricks I normally use, except, I always give my babies a dose of tylenol half an hour before the plane takes off and before it lands, to help their ears

FirstTimeMom October 26, 2009, 9:48 AM

Annoyance fee? Come on. It is a fact of life that sometimes we have to fly with young children. Kudos to anyone that has been able to arrange their life in such a perfect way that they can reach family by car and no family deaths or emergencies ever come up that require air travel. We’ve not been so fortunate. Who would get the annoyance fee anyway? Is it going to be given out to all of the other passengers that were bothered? Or is the airline just going to pocket it and continue to do nothing to make a nicer flight for all concerned. Of course someone who doesn’t travel by air would want the airlines to charge people that have to travel by air more money for less service.

Liz October 26, 2009, 10:13 AM

As a military mom of two well seasoned young travelers, I understand that it’s hard to keep little kids quiet. My children have flown to Germany several times, we always bring lots of toys and videos plus we fly at night.While I sympathize with the mom of this article, I also understand the other passengers point of view. Not everyone wants to hear your child sceam for 2 hours and as paying customers they have a right to be annoyed. Why not take the child to the restroom or switch to a seat in the back of the plane or fly at night?

Pat October 26, 2009, 10:36 AM

I feel for the Mom its hard flying with a small one I know I did it with my grand daughter and she did the same thing thank god know one said anything because i would be in jail they are baby’s not puppy’s ,and if people don’t want to hear a baby cry then maybe they should drive.

jen October 26, 2009, 10:42 AM

Sorry, but you do not have my sympathies. My daughter is 3 years old and has flown over 10 times. She has NEVER behaved like that. Every single time we have flown, she gets complimented on how good she was. Now believe me, my daughter is NO ANGEL but when we travel, I am diligent to travel around her schedule. Honestly, it sounds to me like the parent was not prepared to travel with a toddler. When you have young children, you travel around them and not what is best for the parent. Not around their nap time, they may or may not go to sleep. If they do, easy for the parent. (Sounds like what this author was hoping for) If they do not, then they are highly fussy. When I travel, I have a whole backpack full of toys, books, music and a portable DVD player. I also carry lots of snacks. Also, I know it is a pain in the arse, but taking a child’s car seat really helps. Also, this is one thing I never understood, if your child can walk through the airport. Let them!! They need to burn some energy before they get on the flight. Everybody paid for their seats and has the right not to hear a screaming child for a hour.

Maria October 26, 2009, 10:43 AM

Tennmom…. that is just insane what you wrote. Im not traveling for the ‘fun’ of it. “Have the family fly to see you” Are you nuts, am I supposed to pay for hotels for the family too, all just to save a possible melt down on a plane? It surprises me you would write what you did if you really are a mom….come on Kids are Kids GET OVER IT!!!

Ellie October 26, 2009, 11:00 AM

For you even to comment on this woman not travaeling around her schedule is complete BS! She clearly stated that it was her “naptime” window and all moms know that a 2 year old is changing everyday, sometimes mine lays down like clockwork other days not so much, they are little people with minds of there own, shame on you for not giving your sympathies to this woman! We all have been there at one point or time!!!

anonymous  October 26, 2009, 12:25 PM

OK - first off.. why did you wait AN HOUR AND A HALF to pull out the “big guns” - the I-pod. if i were on a 2 hr flight and i had to listen to a brat screaming for 75% of it, I’d be pissed too. The i-pod should have come out within a half hour. It’s also called a mini dvd player - keeps children quiet and works like wonders. it’s really inconsiderate of people who want a quiet plane right to not have the right tools to keep the kid quiet. and yeah, the other passengers do havea right to be annoyed so you can get off your high horse right now!

MarMar October 26, 2009, 1:14 PM

Gee, I wish I was one of these moms insulting the writer, with a perfectly behaved child and living in a world that surrounds her schedule. That would be nifty. Where can I sign up for that?

Anymore, I hear someone squalling and I think “oh no, someone’s not happy!” And that’s it. Especially if you can tell the parents are pulling out all stops trying to get the child to quiet down. I get it, been there, done that, have the t-shirt. But then again, as stated above, I’m not one of those perfect mommies with a perfect child, so maybe that’s why I’m so patient…

Christina October 26, 2009, 1:28 PM

If we are going to charge an “annoyance fee” for children, may I propose one for the obnoxious people who 1) bounce around in their seats to the point my drink falls in my lap, 2) get DRUUUUUUUUNNNNNNKK, 3) keep chatting on their cell phones long past the time the flight attendants have asked for electronic devices to be turned OFF, 4) take off their shoes and share that funky smell with the rest of us, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. To date, my twin boys (now 2) have been the LEAST annoying parts of many flights. So much so that people comment about how good they are. My day is coming, I know, so I have nothing but compassion for those who are doing their best when flying with children.

Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) October 26, 2009, 2:43 PM

Oh girl, I’ve been there!!!

I’ve taken my kids (now 2 and 4) on more flights than I’d like to count. And it’s the worst when they won’t stop crying.

And it’s amazing how some people are just SOOOOO stupid.

the other Kris October 26, 2009, 4:07 PM

Surprisingly my children (6 and 2 years old) have no problem flying. They love it the only thing is the expect a full course meal and are disappointed when they are told they can only have a snack and not a full meal. I truly sympathize with those who have to deal with an alarmed or upset child while flying. Hell I sometimes want to go over and say here I’ll take them off your hands for a couple of minutes but I know that any parent with comman sense would not hand their child to a strnager no matter how well meaning they are

Barb October 26, 2009, 5:16 PM

Things happen on airplanes. Babies cry. Ladies wear too much perfume. Guys take up too much room. We can’t always control our surroundings, so what can you do but try to be helpful instead of a jerkoff?

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