STFU Parents: Summer Travel Tips: Don’t Be “That Parent” On An Airplane

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This week marked the official beginning of summer, which means that for the next two months, families will be traveling more than usual. The stress that comes with air travel will be felt much more by parents of small children than other passengers — a little fact most parents won’t hesitate to mention whenever a friend complains on social media about an incident on a cross-country flight. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone say, “Ugh, even my earbuds couldn’t drown out the cries of the baby on my red eye,” to be followed almost immediately by a comment from a parent who says something like, “Be grateful you could put in your earbuds and try to get some sleep, unlike the poor parent of that baby!” or, “Trust me, if you think it sucked for you, it sucked ten times as much for the baby’s parents.” And considering how determined most airlines are to screw over their customers by consisting fucking with the status quo — smaller seats, smaller bathrooms, less room in overhead bins, more convoluted seating rules that separate kids from parents and/or cost as much as a tank of gas — it’s easy to see why parents feel entitled to gripe or feel slighted by fellow passengers. If everyone is grumpy, and you happen to be the one with the restless child(ren), the chances of having evil glances shot in your direction almost certainly quadruple.

I mostly blame airlines and the TSA for making this form of travel so unbearable and dehumanizing — to the point that it can cause a real divide among passengers — and the thing that irks me the most is that we’re all supposed to be so flexible and accommodating. Customers shouldn’t think about the fact that they spent $300 for a two-hour flight, have no leg room, and would rather eat raw hot dogs than get up to use the teeny, tiny, smelly lavatory, because we’re living in the incredible age of air travel! We can use our laptops for $10.99 and access WiFi! Aren’t we fortunate.

While I think most people tend to suck it up and get through flights without being miserable, all it takes is a single additional instance of frustration to shift the equilibrium. For parents, this often translates to “giving up” in some way in order to stay sane, usually to the detriment of other people. Kid won’t stop crying? Fine, let him cry. Baby has a dirty diaper and the bathroom line is three people deep? Fine, just change her on the seat or on your lap. Things begin to deteriorate rather quickly, especially if a family is making a million connecting flights, and it’s those split decisions that create the types of scenarios non-parents justifiably complain about (or at least roll their eyes at) when traveling. And no, handing out candy won’t fix the problem (nor is it necessary — seriously, it’s cool, as a grown woman I don’t need to be placated by treats and trinkets, y’all).


In other words, I prefer to believe that parents don’t want to do the things that piss off their seatmates and plane neighbors, but when they do, they should accept some of the ire that gets tossed their way. Just because Delta doesn’t accommodate for changing shitty diapers on the plane doesn’t mean that everyone else should be forced to endure the stench when one is changed in the cabin. Parents aren’t expected to be perfect, particularly when traveling with little kids, which everyone knows can be a nightmare, but they also shouldn’t be surprised by those evil glances if they’ve reached the “giving up” stage. When you sacrifice others’ sanity for your own, those people will take notice, and yes, they might even complain about it. Let’s check out some social media examples written by folks who have had enough of certain air travel hijinks — and lived to tell about it.

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