So what if your child throws a tantrum on a flight? You’ll never see these people again

We cannot expect infants to behave the same as adults

The sun cream is packed, and so are the swim nappies and sandals. The summer holidays are fast approaching and parents everywhere are preparing for a break with their children. For some, car boots will be packed as they take a chance on a British summer holiday. For others, boarding passes will be downloaded to head further afield to a country with more reliable weather.

And with a trip abroad comes some more admin. Across parenting apps like Peanut, parents are asking for the latest tips and tricks to occupy their little ones while in the air. Among Amazon links to sticker books and fidget spinners, there’s something else shared, too: anxiety.

That’s right. In the lead-up to their coveted family time away, parents are most worried about their children’s potential behaviour on the plane… and strangers’ potential reactions to it. In fact, one of my friends steadfastly refuses to fly with her young child. It’s not worth the anxiety of “getting through” the flight, she says.

Now, that’s her prerogative. But why does she view a plane journey as something to “get through”, rather than being an exciting part of the holiday journey?

Just see the widely-shared stories that spark polarising conversations on whether or not airlines should create “child-free” zones or whether children, whose parents “let” them misbehave, should be “allowed” on planes in the first place.

Reading the threads, it’s not surprising that my friend is anxious, or that another mum has posted that she’s losing sleep worrying about their upcoming four-hour flight with their baby.

People can be really vicious. It’s “us and them” and people fall into two camps: those who think children are people and should be granted the freedom to be in public spaces just as adults are, and those who think that children should not be seen and certainly not be heard anywhere outside of soft play.

But people say a lot of things on the internet. In reality, it’s unlikely that Firstname040779 would really “dropkick” the child making noise on the flight they were on together, despite insisting that they would so fervently on Twitter. And while as a parent it’s common to think in worst-case scenarios, you can be sure that most people don’t inherently hate or wish violence on your children.

The reality is, you can make it as easy as you can for yourself with a bag of new toys and prams that you can take on the plane, packing a week’s worth of snacks and definitely booking your seats together in advance, but sometimes you can’t win. Kids cry. They get annoyed and impatient. We cannot expect children to behave the same as adults. But even still, most people around you aren’t sitting there ready to shout at you because your child dares to exist in an age-appropriate way.

In my experience, people without kids on planes are willing to help you stow your bags. To make silly faces and wave back when your baby flicks its chubby hand at them. Many have children of their own, or nieces, nephews, grandchildren or friends with children.

On our recent flight home from Majorca, we were grounded on the tarmac for an hour before we took off. When we landed, we weren’t able to get off the plane for another hour and a half. A two-and-a-half-hour flight had suddenly turned into five and despite all my prep, my toddler was losing patience. And even with my committed attitude that children have the right to take up space in society, I’ll admit I started to sweat a little.

But our fellow passengers were brilliant. One lady – who told us she’d brought up three boys and had flown solo with them many times as young children – was so helpful to us, creating little games out of nothing for our daughter to enjoy while we waited.

Not that we should expect everyone to indulge us in this way – some people might completely ignore you – and that’s absolutely okay, too.

There will always be someone to tell you that kids shouldn’t do X or Y and the insistence, especially when you’re new to it all, can put you off even trying. But you don’t get these years back. Don’t let a potentially stressful few hours put you off making your memories. Just do the best you can. It likely won’t be as bad as you think. And even if it is, you will never have to see these people again. Enjoy your holiday!

And if you’re someone who is travelling this summer without children, remember that if you’re kind and courteous, we will always remember it and think of you fondly. Can you please be that person?

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