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They Frisked My Baby!

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We are in a new world of international security, and these days Americans are feeling the daily terror that so many families in other countries have felt most of their lives. So how do we prepare our kids?

kids at airport

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Over the holidays, my kids and I returned from a family vacation in Canada. When we arrived at the airport in Ottawa, a week after the Christmas Day terror attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight, I expected long security lines. What I was not so prepared for was the sight of babies in diapers being pawed by security personnel in latex gloves. I thought the biggest inconvenience this traveling mom would experience was a new rule banning all carry-on bags on international flights coming into the U.S. Yep, if you couldn't carry your items separately in your hands, they weren't going on the plane. Imagine traveling for eight hours with two kids and no toys or art supplies! I was braced for that inconvenience.

But not the other new thing. Once through the scanners, I found myself standing with legs apart and arms straight out to the sides while a burly, female agent pressed her hands in between my breasts, along my inner thighs, and down my back to my buttocks -- all while my little girls gawked. It was their turn next. As the security employee did her duty with my 11- and 6-year-old daughters, I distracted things by chatting lightly with the agent. She told me she felt as embarrassed as I about having to do this. She even divulged that she felt the new "pat-downs" were useless because the genital area could not be touched, and that's exactly where the Christmas Day terrorist had hidden his lethal chemicals. Great.

We are in a new world of international security, and these days Americans are feeling the daily terror that so many families in other countries have felt most of their lives. So how do we prepare our kids? How do we attempt to mitigate the fear that they might feel?

Before you head to the airport, explain to your children what might happen. Go back to that conversation you once had about good touch / bad touch, and now extend permission that you give medical doctors to security personnel. So, just as it is okay for a pediatrician to touch your kids, now you have a new kind of touch to allow.

Then explain that to be fair, every passenger must be searched, even kids. And put things in perspective. Stress how rare it might ever be that someone would bring a dangerous thing onto the plane. The most important thing is to emphasize how much safer these new security measures make you feel. Children look to adults for cues on how to feel, and if you exhibit anger or fear, they are sure to pick up on that. Always ask the agent to frisk you first, and keep a smile on your face while the kids watch. This kind of modeling will help them see that it is painless and purposeful.

Finally, as a courtesy to your kids and all the other inconvenienced passengers, be patient, kind, and cooperative. The security agents are merely someone else's kid or mommy doing their job in a recession. Have compassion for their experience. They didn't ask for the Christmas Day scare any more than you did. Thank them for doing their jobs so thoroughly. And move along quickly if asked.

We are all in this together. And the biggest lesson for our children is to show grace in even the most uncomfortable of circumstances. This is how we shape the minds of our tender angels.

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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sonnie January 8, 2010, 8:42 AM

I really like this article. It’s nice to know that you’re not complaining about what the TSA are trying to do to keep us safe. Although I don’t have little kids I really appreciate the advice you gave about talking to your children before hand.

Jen January 8, 2010, 10:03 AM

Guess I won’t be flying for a very long time. My 3 year old would be scared and screaming at the top of their lungs. I love my pediatrician, he is gentle and patient with my daughter but she is still scared of him even with her sitting in my lap. So, I could just imagine how would she would be with a TSA agent who is usually rude and rushed. Honestly, I don’t know if this is appropriate for young children. The airports just need to get the full body scanners.

Christina January 8, 2010, 11:43 AM

This is only being done to make us FEEL safe, it does nothing to increase the actual safety of passengers, as the security person herself admitted. Personally, I will not be flying anywhere until a bit of sanity is restored unless absolutely necessary. My kids are champion travelers, the kind that attendants love and other travelers smile at; but I work HARD to make it that way, and it does not happen naturally, easily, or without carry-on luggage. I would be hard pressed to keep them from committing mayhem (they are 2 1/2 years old boys) if I could not bring their usual distractions on board.

Kale January 8, 2010, 1:27 PM

So we are supposed to feel okay about letting strangers touch our kids and our kids allowing strangers to touch them in front of us. Put on a smiling face. NEVER. This is despicable, and impossible to even fathom a world where this could happen. I choose to go on an airplane, my kids don’t.

Chrissy January 8, 2010, 9:29 PM

The reaility is that some parents have been caught smuggling contraband (most common one is drugs) in their own children’s diaper bag as well as as the diaper the child was wearing.
And in the baby’s formula can, talcum poder bottle etc.
Hell if some one is willing to set his own underwear on fire, what makes anyone think that soemoen wouldn’t do it to their own child?
It’s an ugly thoguht but there are evil people out there.

Anonymous January 11, 2010, 11:59 AM

Kale - you CHOOSE to put your children on a plane. Flying is a privilige, not a right. So when you choose to put your child on a plane you choose to have them through security - end of story. Don’t like it then don’t fly

hj February 5, 2010, 6:55 AM

Just posted this on the chocolate milk pat down story and then saw your article. Wish I had seen it before we traveled! We just returned from St Lucia and leaving to return to the USA on Jet Blue to JFK ( out of a group of 9) the first 2 patted down were my red headed freckled 10yr old son and my 6 yr old niece. ( I know no profiling but really???)They called my son over and he had no idea what they where doing and they did let me go with him but he’s traveled a lot and never been touched before so it was strange. Our carry on luggage was searched entering through security and again 100 feet away all passengers carry on bags re-searched before boarding. I was a little confused. It is a small airport and all duty free items were only sold after your passport or license numbers were recorded and signed for ( I re bought the hot sauce I forgot to put in suitcase, my fault,I do respect the liquid rule) I do also check the rules before going. I was surprised by the kids being singled out 1st. they did check us all after the kids. I just found myself feeling like the focus was off…
Loved the airline though, Jet Blue was great!I am happy to say that as the rest of the trip with the kids was really pleasant.

Lolly November 19, 2010, 6:18 PM

Teaching your children to be sheep while the government invades your privacy in the name of security is not a good lesson. What next? Will you allow a body cavity search in the name of security also? It’s time to stand your ground and show your children that you a free thinking individual. That’s the lesson!

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:30 AM

It is good too read your website again buddy, i see some interesting updates here…

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