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Flying with Children

Finally, a David Brooks piece that leads me to believe I might enjoy encountering him at a cocktail party: Pain, Agony, Despair: Flying With Children. Clearly, he has observed plane-bound children and their parents in the wilds of airline travel. Some of his hypotheses are wrong, but they are based on actual data:

It is an iron rule of plane travel that the parents who are trying to hush their children are more annoying to their fellow passengers than the children who are being hushed. Accordingly, other fliers in the area begin to develop hostile feelings toward the desperately shushing parents.

Well, actually, no.

Why, David, did you know that a two-year-old has the power to make a full-sized plane pirouette in the runway right before take off? All she has to do is take off her seat belt, stand up in her seat, and loudly proclaim her victory to the nearest flight attendant. Take-off aborted. Simple as that. FAA regulations.  (I got a whole lot less embarrassed at the prospect of appearing an evil controlling witch to the other passengers after that.)

And I don't imagine Brooks has sat in front of my son back when he flew strapped into a car seat that fit into an airline seat.  The car seat had the advantage of a five-point-harness, so Peter couldn't inadvertantly hijack the plane by unstrapping his seatbelt. But it had several disadvantages. Not only did it move him about four inches forward, but it made it so that when he kicked the seat in front of him, he had a perfect shot at the kidneys of the man in front of him. He wasn't even trying to kick the seat. The rows were packed so tight, that the target spot was only about an inch and a half from the furthest back position for his feet.

Now, kids are not truly to blame for these incidents, in that US airlines steadfastly insist that modifying restraint systems in planes to accommodate children is just not their problem. And there are many other ways that airlines in the US are in denial about the existence of child passengers. (What are the odds that there will be a changing table in an airplane restroom? And what's this new thing about denying passengers food?)

Some inexperienced parents do many of  the high-energy counter-productive things he describes. Me, I don't bring piles of toys on planes. I get out the safety brochure and interest them in the prospect of a sliding board. And I just cope. Sorry if I got on your nerves. (No, it almost certainly wasn't me.)  I actually sort of enjoy flying with kids.