I see their looks as I approach the gate. Baby strapped to my chest. Toddler holding my hand. I struggle to remove our tickets from the giant diaper bag and a snack trap full of goldfish crackers spills on the floor. The other passengers won't meet my gaze, but I know what they are thinking. "Please please please please kind and beautiful gate agent. Don't seat me next to them!" Once on the plane, I apologize profusely to the soul who sits next to me. "It's fine," she says. But I know "It's fine" really means "I would rather stab myself in the eye with this plastic airline fork than sit next to you and your spawn".
Some airlines are now making it possible for adults to pay for the privilege of not sitting near me amd my drooling and crumb-covered entourage. Earlier this month, IndiGo Airline banned the age of 12 crowd from being seated in so-called "quiet zones" which are located in certain highly-desirable areas of the plane (think those seats with extra legroom). In doing so, IndiGo has joined several other airlines that have already implemented childfree areas in sections of their planes. And while no North American airlines have yet followed suit, I wonder if it is only a matter of time. There has been much buzz about whether this is a merciful act of genius. Or instead is banning children from merely being in certain areas some sort of age discrimination against those who are least able to speak for themselves - both with their wallets or their words?
Let's be honest here. I sometimes (ok pretty much always) wish that I could pay to sit in a quiet bubble while my children travel a safe, yet sound-proof distance away from me. Drinking wine in peace while flipping through a magazine. That is truly the stuff that dreams are made of. But, something about creating child-free zones in planes just doesn't fly for me.
Here's the thing. Unless you have your own private jet, airplane seating is like a box of chocolates (well actually more like Bertie Bott's Any Flavored Beans). You never know what you are going to get. Travelling with children is like wearing a flashing neon sign which reads "your flight will be terrible". But let's be clear here. Packing oneself tightly with adults by no means guarantees an amazing flight experience .
For example, I have been seated next to all of the following adults on planes as a result of my own spins in the seating lottery: Flatulence man. No shower for weeks man. Perfume-cloud woman. Extremely large man who itched himself throughout the entire flight. Snoring and drooling woman. Drunk man who sexually harassed the flight attendant. Woman who badgered the flight attendant for extra cookies and made racist remarks. Old man who told me all about his childhood, his years working in the factory and his painful bunions. Oh and yes, mom with baby. Only one of these people acted apologetic for any inconvenience her proximity to me might have caused me. And it certainly wasn't flatulence man.
Unless airlines are contemplating flatulence/perfume/asshole free zones on airplanes, I am not so keen on implementing child-free zones on planes. If it is ok to ban children from certain areas, will it eventually be acceptable to designate entire flights as adult-only? Might it become commonplace for those of us accompanied by tiny spawn be seated in the equivalent of the baggage hold?
But more importantly, by excluding our children from adult situations, we also exclude them from learning how to behave when they one day become adults (as children do). And I want my girls to grow to be polite, non-flatulent passengers of life who kindly offer to hold the frazzled mom's baby to allow her to enjoy a sip of water and listen attentively to tales of the old guy's bunions.
So, I won't apologize to you, my fellow passengers because you happen to have drawn the short straw of sitting next to me and my minis. But I will make these promises to you. I will prevent my children from kicking your seat back. If they cry, I will do my best to console them. I will change and dispose of dirty diapers only in the same place that you do your business. I will bring many snacks in an attempt to silence my children into a food coma. And I will share those snacks with you.
Perhaps you can keep your flatulence to yourself.
Do you think child-free zones on planes are a good idea? Why or why not?