Flying With Small Children

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about the family with the three-year-old daughter who was kicked off their flight because the child was throwing a tantrum. According to an email survey at Good Morning America, my opinion is in the distinct minority. The overwhelming majority was on the side of the airline.

I do understand that the plane cannot take off until everyone is buckled in their seat and apparently, the little girl was having none of that. I also understand that it’s the pilot’s prerogative to remove anyone from the plane before take off who is being disruptive. I get all that.

I guess the problem I have is with the attitude of so many people who made such ridiculous comments as, “If the parents can’t control their child they have no business on a plane,” or “Obviously the brat needs more discipline,” etc.

People, please. I don’t care how good a parent is or how well-behaved a child is. Somewhere, sometime that angel is going to have a fit. The rare tantrum is not an indicator of bad parenting. Of course, when your child does this in a public arena you feel the need to explain, “This never happens! He/she is usually so well behaved! I really am a good parent!!”

Getting on an airplane with an infant or toddler is, at best, a crap shoot. So many times the change in cabin pressure is painful on their tiny little ears. Also, I think it’s hard for them to understand that just because there’s room for them to run around, they have to stay in the seat. And depending on circumstances – sometimes beyond the parents’ control – if the child is hungry or tired, well, fuhgetaboutit.

I know nothing about these particular parents or child. For all we know they may spoil her relentlessly and her conniption was a common occurrence. By the same token, however, this may have been a one time deal and the poor baby just chose the wrong time to throw it.

All this brought to mind a time when I was getting ready to fly to California with Taylor. Todd had gone to a conference the week before and Taylor and I were meeting him there and staying with his parents. Taylor was 14-months old.

I was in the bathroom getting ready and he was in my room, playing quietly. That in itself should have been cause for alarm. Instead I just thanked my lucky stars he was being so good and continued with my preparations.

My packed suitcase was lying opened on the floor, waiting for the last bit of toiletries. I had a jumbo, family pack of tampons in the suitcase and when I walked out of the bathroom, there was Taylor, sitting on the floor, holding a tampon and smacking the bottom of the applicator so the tampon would shoot out of the top like a rocket. There were tampons all over the place.

When I called my mother-in-law before we left and told her about it she suggested I take a bunch on the plane to keep him quiet and occupied. LOL

My children both flew several times by the time they were three or four – Taylor first at 14 months and Katie first at 10 months. My memory says they both behaved very well on the plane, but it’s possible I’ve wiped away anything humiliating and created my own reality.


  1. terrillr on January 25, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I remember one trip from CA to Dallas with you, Katie, and Taylor (may have been Katie’s 10 month old trip – she was a baby), and they were both very good. Katie slept most of the way, and I got to hold her for most of the trip. I loved it!

  2. Jenster on January 25, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Yup. That was Katie’s 10 month trip. I was never so glad to see you in Dallas!! The flight from Little Rock to Dallas alone with a baby and toddler was interesting! I was so happy to let you hold her on that trip!Then we flew back to Southern California for Christmas just a few months later when she was 14 months.

  3. Jen on January 25, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    I read this story about a half an hour after booking our flight from Montana to North Carolina in May! We should all start praying now! LOL Seriously though, I would not take my children on an airplane unless I was confident they will do well. Having said that, you never know when the Meltdown Monster will attack or what will set it off. I always ignore a kid having a fit. That is what kids do! News Bulletin: Parenting is a 24/7 hands on job people! If you see a parent trying to deal with their child in an appropriate way, cut them a break. It is the hardest job around :)Hearing that your kids were fine, Jen makes me feel even more confident that mine will be fine and dandy!

  4. Anonymous on January 25, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    LOL! What a great story. Hey, when you get a chance, email me at – Sheila

  5. Jenster on January 25, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Jen – Your kids will be fine! And you’re going to have a fabulous trip. If I can offer any advice, try to plan enough time to run them up and down the airport to wear them out a little bit. It always worked well with my kids. LOLSheila – 😉

  6. Barb on January 26, 2007 at 11:24 am

    My husband and I have raised four kids, both sexes, different temperaments, and while children will melt-down occasionally, there were 112 other people running late while they patiently waited for that family to get their child under control, not to mention other planes full of people who were delayed, waiting for that one to pull out and move on. If parents are that uncertain about their child’s behavior, so that so many other people are inconvenienced when things go wrong, then those parents should probably drive rather than fly.

  7. Slackermommy on January 26, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    I feel so bad for that family. We have taken all four of our children on planes since they were babies. Luckily they were always good or at least if they misbehaved I was able to get it under control before it disrupted other passengers. I have had a baby cry on the plane and I know how nervous it made me. I felt like everyone was looking and judging. I’m sure that mother wanted to just die but having said that if I were in her situation I would have sat my three year old in the seat, buckled her in and restrain her until she calmed down. If she didn’t calm after a few minutes I would have gotten off the plane mostly because of sheer embarrassment.

  8. radioactive girl on January 26, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    I feel awful for that mom! I have one child that is difficult (and three that are easy), and we have never flown with him. In December we will be taking him on his first plane trip. I’m hoping I won’t be making the news!

  9. Jenster on January 27, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Barb – I have very mixed emotions about what happened. I understand why the pilot did what he did and I truly hope this was an extreme case. My point, however, was that people seem to think that because this child had a tantrum the parents must be bad parents. Maybe they are, but maybe they’re not. One tantrum does not a bad parent make. And as a person who LOVES road trips and would prefer to drive everywhere anyway, sometimes that’s not realistic. When you live a three days’ drive from your family and you only have a week’s vacation, driving is probably not an option. :o)Slackermommy – I like to think I would have been able to control my 3-year-old as well. And I totally agree. I would have run off the plane if I couldn’t control the child just to save myself any more embarrassment. lol I’m just glad my kids will be 12 and 15 this summer when we take the loooong trip to Hawaii. They’re old enough for me to ignore!!Radioactive Girl – Like I told Barb, I really think (at least I hope) this was an extreme case. I’m sure you guys are going to be just fine. Hope you’re going somewhere fun!

  10. Kristie (J) on January 28, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Oh that was a hilarious story!! Being pretty much a non-flyer, I’ve never had issues with it, but I do feel sorry for those parents. Who hasn’t had the little darlin’s act up at one time or another in public? And I think they ended up flying the next day and the little girl was fine.

  11. JenniferTX on January 28, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Well, I can promise you that Pilot Man would not have made them get off the plane. In fact, he probably would have gone back there and calmed the child down. 🙂 Of course, he probably would’ve gotten into trouble for that, but I think he wouldn’t have minded. When we talked about this story, he grumbled that the pilot must not be a dad . . . Jennifer

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