There's been a kerfuffle in the media lately about the fact that Malaysia Airlines has banned babies from flying first class. It's just the latest in what seems to be a string of a zero baby tolerance situations that have ignited debate about where babies do and do not belong.
You people do realize that the babies have nothing to do with this, right?
It's not like they're the ones demanding their parents buy them the first class plane tickets or take them to see Harry Potter 8 on opening day during naptime so they'll whine all the way through Voldemort's penultimate scene with Snape (yeah, I'm talking to you, parent in the Regency Theater in Bend, Oregon.) They're far too busy forming teeth in their pink gums and learning to hold their rubbery necks up. Babies aren't what need to be banned.
Clueless parents are.
You've seen them, the parents who board the planes with a September issue of Vogue magazine, an iPod, and one diaper under their arm that is already used up by the time the flight attendant is demonstrating the oxygen mask. They apparently think that airplanes are a Magic Zone, where strangers will overlook the smells and noises and repetitive tray slamming of a runny-nosed tot in a way that doesn't happen on terra firma. They're oblivious to the hairy eyeball stares of fellow passengers who use every molecule in their retinas to plead, "Do SOMETHING to quiet your child down!!"
No one expects a baby to be silent and spend their flight flipping through a Wall Street Journal. They do, however, expect the parents to make an effort.
I live 3,000 miles away from my parents, so I know a thing or two about flying with young kids. I used to regard my solo cross country flights to the grandparents with the grim determination of a soldier preparing for battle: the odds may be stacked against you, but preparation can tilt the fight in your favor. I started with a giant black diaper bag backpack that I packed in stratum, to be excavated layer by layer as the states passed beneath us: toy, snack, clean clothes, toy, snack, clean clothes.
I'd pack twice the number of diapers my kids had ever been known to need for an equivalent time on earth, and a gross of wipes. A small pouch held Baby Benadryl, Jr. Tylenol, some bandaids and a nasal aspirator just in case. Reading material for me? The Sky Mall catalog, and only if both kids were sleeping. Slipping on the sleep mask to try and ward off jet lag? Fat freaking chance.
When my oldest daughter was a year old I made a stupid rookie parent mistake, flying from one coast to the other with her when she was sick. As a result of this error in judgment that haunts me still, we spent 8 hellish hours (it included a layover in Philadelphia) which I remember as a blur of wiping nose, wiping butt, nose, butt and hey! there's some more barf!
I jiggled her, walked with her, sang to her. Tears were shed, and the baby cried too. I looked like Medusa by the time we landed, which not coincidentally came about 16 minutes after she finally fell into a peaceful, fever-free sleep in my arms. (We looked bad enough that when my husband saw us at baggage claim, his jaw dropped and he said, "What did you do to my daughter?")
But it was obviously worse for the passengers around me who had no skin in the game and just wanted to get some rest. As they disembarked I apologized to anyone who would listen. Finally a businessman stopped and put his hand on my shoulder. "You don't need to apologize. You did everything you could." (He probably regretted the shoulder pat, what with the dried vomit there, but he was too classy to show it.)
That's the day I realized that the well-intentioned flailing of parenthood can count just as much as the result. And it's the least the child, and everyone else around you, deserves.