Kids on Planes

By Legal Eagle

My parents were transferred overseas when I was 2 and a half years old. Apparently, I was a sanguine traveller. Nothing has changed. I remember quite a lot from our overseas travel, as I’ve explained in my “Earliest Memory Meme” post. My parents went through Mauritius, South Africa, Greece and France until we got to England. My earliest memory is of a man sitting on a giant tortoise in Mauritius. The main thing I remember about South Africa is that I had a Pepsi and I hated it. In Greece, apparently my parents found an ancient clay potty for me to admire, and I also found animals on ancient vases to delight me. We visited Thera, and I remember the donkeys and a blue tarpaulin over some  giant ruins. In France, of course, I remember the food. And the drink. I would ask for some brand of hot chocolate (Choccy) and l’eau, s’il vous plait! Apparently in one of the vineyards, they poured a watered-down glass of wine for me, and my parents didn’t notice a little hand sneaking up and grabbing it until too late. It seems my love of travel, wine, fine food, interesting animals, archaeology, ruins and history started very young. I also wonder if my interest in other cultures was sparked by this early travel.

My daughter is not as widely travelled as I, but we have taken her to Singapore. And so far, she remembers quite a lot of detail from that trip. Most prominently, she remembers that a lemur tried to jump in her little cart when we visited the Zoo. The lemur was young, and loved to play with with other little kids, but my daughter was a bit freaked out. Perhaps that will be her earliest memory; we’ll have to wait and see.

Consequently, I felt very irritated by Catherine Deveny’s latest offering which suggested children should not be taken on planes. She says:

Watching grubby, overweight, badly dressed, stressed-out parents wrestling their indulged, whinging little brats into their oversized monster-truck prams as they have car-seat thrones for their precious prince and princesses strapped to their back as they disembark the aircraft makes me want to do to them what I wish someone had done to me. Grab me by the throat, pin me against the wall and ask: ”What exactly are you trying to prove and to who? Get over yourself. You look like crap, haven’t had sex since Britney Spears had pubes and are trying to make up for the gaping inadequacies in your life with a nauseating self-congratulatory blog that you think is adorable but we are all laughing at behind your back because it’s just a blatant shrine to your raging narcissism.

”And you know that photo album you keep shoving under our noses? The one you ask if we want to see but have no choice? It’s nothing but a spin-doctoring press release for your imaginary family.”

I don’t know if she’s trying to be funny, but if so – it’s one big FAIL. She just makes me angry. She’s the narcissistic self-indulgent one. She imposed her kids on others, and now her kids are more grown up, she doesn’t want others to impose their kids on her.

When we travel, we are always very conscious of the effect of our kids on other travellers. We know that people’s hearts must sink when they get a seat next to parents with two small kids. Of course, there’s always moments when things go pear-shaped, but we try not to let our kids kick the seats in front or scream loudly.

There is no way in which my kids are perfect. My daughter is a tantrum thrower and a difficult, headstrong personality. Sometimes, I’m sure people have looked at her and thought, “What a badly behaved child!” But I do try to teach her to behave herself and to think about other people. To my mind, this is a very important part of socialisation – realising that you can’t always get what you want or do what you want.

Many kids these days seem to be given free rein to do whatever they want. I see small kids taking apart a window display in a shopping centre while the parent listlessly says, “Don’t do that, precious,” and then turns away. I was a  well-behaved child who would never have contemplated doing that in the first place. I’d say my parents were on the strict end of the spectrum with us, particularly my Dad. It’s hilarious to see how Dad is putty in the hands of his grandchildren – really very sweet. My daughter seems to be intrinsically less well-behaved than my sister and I were, but when she goes to dismantle shop displays, I stop her and make sure that she knows such behaviour is unacceptable.

When I had a full-time teaching load and a full-time PhD load, I found that my energy to discipline my child dropped. (Yes, I am a maniac to take all that on at once). I was just so exhausted that it was sometimes easier just to let her have what she was demanding. Perhaps there was also some guilt there because I was putting her in creche two days a week and I knew she hated it. I wonder if the parents I see in the shops are like that. Perhaps they’re just so exhausted that they can’t be bothered standing up for the point. I can sympathise, having been there.

The issue is not kids traveling per se. It’s about kids who don’t respect the other passengers on the plane and run riot, and their parents don’t do anything about it. I find that irritating too, and I’m a mother of young kids. However, travel can be immensely rewarding for young children. I know that I gained a lot through it, and remember a lot (contrary to Deveny’s kids). I am immensely grateful for that opportunity. I certainly wouldn’t say that people with kids should stop traveling (or joke about stopping people with kids traveling).


  1. lilacsigil
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    and run riot, and their parents don’t do anything about it

    Exactly! I work in retail, and most kids are perfectly well behaved. Some kids throw tantrums, some whine and complain. That’s fine. It’s experiences like being called a f*cking c*nt for asking a parent to remove a child from a glass shelf (no, I wouldn’t dare touch the kid!) that makes people dread being around other people’s kids.

  2. Tim QUilty
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I think they should just issue cattleprods to the passengers ahead and behind kids on the plane, and let nature take its course. It would be a learning experience for everyone involved.

  3. jc
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Watching grubby, overweight, badly dressed, stressed-out parents

    Does she own a mirror? And the dress isn’t exactly the latest little number from Valentino.

  4. Posted October 7, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    That really is a disturbing piece of writing, isn’t it.

    I can put up with everything from kids on planes except high-pitched squealing and screaming. Although I did take exception to the couple who sat together holding hands and canoodling in the row in front of me in my aisle seat, after they had parked their two little boys (4 and 6, at a guess) next to me in the middle and window seats. From where, during that flight, they climbed over me a total of seventeen times to ‘go to the toilet’. (Translation: run up and down the aisle shouting and bashing into other passengers.) At one point the flight attendant leaned over and whispered to me ‘Don’t worry, they’re getting off in Bangkok.’

  5. Posted October 7, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “badly dressed”? Puh-lease! I hope she doesn’t encounter me, in my comfortable trackies, hoodie and runners, next time I’m on a long-haul flight. But, like Dr Cat, I did once encounter appalling behaviour from young children, ignored by their parents. They were running up and down the aisles screaming, and even the cabin attendants’ pleas with their parents to restrain them for their own safety (never mind the attendants’ safety) were ignored. And I wonder whose fault it would have been if an air pocket had sent them crashing into the ceiling?

  6. jc
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I always take a very easy going attitude with this stuff. We’re in a confined space for several hours so just don’t let anything bother you too much and be tolerant.

    It’s quite easy to avoid irritating stuff , but only if you’re able to tune out and put your head in a different space.

    And kids… well I like kids and I’m prepared to forgive their transgressions almost all the time.

    One time I had a private porno exhibition done in the front seat where a couple joined the mile high club in the darkness of the Atlantic as we were crossing the pond from NYC to Paris. They apologized in the morning and I of course courteously accepted their apology and asked if there was going to be a second act.

    I think The Dev suffers a form of airline travel rage and doesn’t know. If she really is this intolerant in close confines she should get herself a heavy dose of sleeping pills from her Doc next time she travels which would ensure that even a plane accident wouldn’t wake her up.

  7. Posted October 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Have to say I’ve just read her whole column (twice)… And that’s a bit of my life I’ll never get back. I’m really struggling to see what she’s getting at in that last bit.

    Really little kids struggle on planes because of the pressurization — children have narrow and rather flat eustachian tubes and it hurts their ears, so you can’t really blame them for crying. Running up and down the aisles is another matter, however, and says far more about the parents than the children.

  8. lilacsigil
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    but surely they care about their kids’ safety? Surely?

    I wish! If you speak to the kids, they stop what they’re doing – they’re not (yet) bad people at all. Then the parents come screaming down the shop to abuse the staff for daring to speak to their precious angel, and the kid turns from sorry to smug. But if you speak to the parents, the abuse starts right away.

  9. Hugivza
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    My kids travelled all over the globe, and if nothing else it gave me, as a continuingly frequent international traveller a sense of sympathy and tolerance for travelling kids. The kids are usually there on sufferance, and few flights last more than 11 or 12 hours. Few parents travel with kids on a regular basis, so “cutting them some slack”, particularly the single parent with two more kids than they can cope with, is part of the excitement of global travel. Get real, relax, like life it isn’t forever.

  10. Hugivza
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] I agree re older kids, but usually this can be handled more directly. Younger kids are usually the problem as they are noisy when we want to sleep, but that is whay god in her infinite wisdom invented noise suppressing headphones and ipods/mp3 players! It’s almost a reason to believe, but not quite!

  11. Posted October 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, OK, I’m trying to figure out how to break this gently, after all, this is a nice little blog, a lovely crowd on the sofa and lots of lively topics and opinions not available elsewhere (even though I don’t often get time to stop by), so I don’t wish to offend anyone.

    So, umm, it’s like this: Catherine Deveny is a comedian. She’s often criticized for not having writing credentials, yet being paid a lot by a certain newspaper to pen a column as well as a weekly television review spot. ‘Waste of space’ comes to the mind of many, most particularly resentful journalists in need of their very own opinion column.

    So, arrh, she’s hyperbolic in her written approach to satire, shall we say. Not to everyone’s taste, for sure, but not intended for serious consumption or thought. I glance over her telly reviews, quickly.

    Having said that, I’m still puzzling over the notion that all parents are fat.

  12. Posted October 7, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    deveney would be one of those indulgent self righteous mothers who would have let her little darlings run riot over others enjoyment so they could realise their full potential, dumped them on her parents when she was sick of them, had her mother look after them so she could be a full woman and now she’ll be equally self righteous about her rights to be not bothered by children.

    In a few years deveney will be suing some 40 something comedian come opinion writer for calling her an over the hill 50+ has been wanna be …………

  13. Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    FWIW I actually largely agree with Caz (hence the comment about that bit of my life I’ll never get back after reading Deveney’s piece). I commented to LE on skype earlier today that I think she’s just in it to press people’s buttons. There are quite a few writers like that, and they’re not confined to Australia.

  14. jc
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink


    Oh, she’s funny like Seinfeld way? I yea I get it. She’s a scream and obviously in high demand for her talents.

    I’m still puzzling over the notion that all parents are fat.

    It’s quite possibly self loathing. George Costanza for instance hated bald short men.

  15. Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Have to say I laughed pretty hard at your private porno experience, JC, although I do wonder how they managed it if they weren’t in first class… hell, even if they were in first class.

  16. jc
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    They were in first, in the front row. It was the good old days in the early 90’s when firms with heavy travel requirements could get business and first class if they paid premium economy (the good side of the recession) 😉

    What shocked me is that they weren’t the least embarrassed about the whole thing in the morning.

    She looked like a model type and he appeared like the good looking hanger on – a truly enviable mode of living for a male.

  17. Posted October 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Sigh – the early 90’s is such an age ago, when *discreet* sex on a plane might still have been almost daring.

    True story from an afternoon peak hour Melbourne tram: young lass giving her boyfriend a blowjob, neither being in the least perturbed by the crowed presence of other travelers.

    Thankfully it wasn’t me who witnessed the tram-track sex act.

    Oh, for the innocent days of the 90’s and a handy blanket.

  18. jc
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Oh my god Caz, on a tram in broad daylight?

    No wonder I don’t even know how to catch a tram or a train these days.

  19. conrad
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I find $2 earplugs and a window seat are amazingly good for most annoyances (the little foam earplugs work really well for higher frequencies, like children screaming). If you travel all the time, $250 noise cancelling headphones are even better.

  20. Caz
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    L.E – yes, it beggars belief. “Surely you jest” was the immediate refrain, of course, but it was no jest.

    I gather there was vigorous public display of affection – off putting enough on a crowded tram or train – but no forewarning to commuters that it would lead to the type of logical conclusion that the rest of us prefer to indulge without a large audience in the full light of day.

    As I understand it, no one did or said anything. I guess they were all too alarmed to dial for the constabulary ,or to quietly dob the indulgent couple into the tram driver, or better still, whack the duo over the head with a roled up newspaper and tell them to cool it.

    J.C – the rest of us will no doubt join you in your ignorance when Myki goes live in Melbourne next month. A new ticketing system, and none of us will any longer have a clue how to get on or off a tram, train or bus, let alone how to pay for a trip. Such are the joys of public transport.

    Hmm, I’m trying to envisage the extent to which noise canceling headphones might have helped one cope on that Melbourne tram trip …

    Back to the Dev-o column: the thing is, as much as other people’s children can be painful on a plane, especially if they’re upset and bored, planes are mostly full of adults who smell, snore, hog the arm rests, talk loudly, over-spill their allocated seating, and generally act like dick-brains. The whole “OMG, let me tell you about other people’s children”, not to mention token mentions of road warrior sized strollers & so on – jeez louise, could it get less original, less interesting? Stale doesn’t come close. There are people who get paid to tell the rest of us stuff we’ve already thought a thousand times before? Hey, I want one of those jobs!

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  1. By Skepticlawyer » What a scream! on July 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    […] What could the airline and its staff possibly do to prevent a three-year-old from screaming? Maybe, channelling Catherine Deveny, she thinks kids should be banned from […]

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