If You Get Irritated by Children on Your Travels

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To those who get irritated by children on your travels.

I get irritated by you more.

Well not all, just the ones who are vocalize their annoyance at children in a rude and condescending way. (N.B: I’m talking about children who are probably under 6, because after that age they should no how to behave and fair enough you can get irritated by them if they are menaces.)

I often see and hear comments like:

Children on planes should be banned. They shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants. They are all ruining our peace and quiet. Stay at home with them or give them to your parents to mind when you travel.

I get it. I really really do.

My children have completely destroyed my peace and quiet since the day they were born.

I know how tough it is.

But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to tear your eyes out when I hear your comments. I sympathize, but at the same time I think how could you?

How could you be so mean? They are children.

girls rolling suitcasesLook out – here they come!

You know there was a time in my life when I wasn’t a mother – feels like another life ago, even though it was only five years.

In my former life as a non-parent I’d experienced at least a hundred flights and ten solid years of international travel, and I don’t ever remember being that disturbed by children.

That is not to say they weren’t crying and screaming and being gigantic pains in the arse, like they can be, it’s just I chose never to hold it against them.

And now that I am a mother, I am so protective of ALL children.

One of your biggest worries as a parent is how your children will go nuts in public and disturb the peace of others.

They can’t help it. They can’t control themselves. They are babies.

The panic sets in your heart and makes anxiety an unwelcome friend. Do I keep them at home and stop living just so they don’t cry and disturb those around me?

I’ve been lucky with my children; they choose to go rank more in private spaces than public ones, so I know when people complain it is usually not about my child, but I sure as hell take it personally.

Because when you become a mother, that all-encompassing love extends to all babies. Suddenly you become a mother to everyone.

A child walks past and you cup their chin in your hands, and stare into their eyes with honour as you speak.

Look at you precious. I will protect you little angel.

Because that is what they are. They are pure and innocent and precious. And yes they cry because they don’t know any other way to communicate.

If I was exploring the world for the first time, I’d cry at many of the adults that I came into contact with too.

So when people speak about little children like vermin who inconvenience their lives I feel anger like never before rise from within me.

How dare you? Do you not understand you are in the presence of angels?

When my Kalyra was born I was suddenly transported into this world where I knew nothing and she knew everything. She was my teacher and spirit guide. I have honoured children as such ever since.

Raising children is so bloody hard; they wear me down and break my spirit, but that honour  and love I have for them defies all tiredness.

For those who choose to complain about your few hours of disturbed peace, I ask you not to look upon the children with scorn. They are babies. You are only viewing them from the point of view as to how they affect your life.

They’re so much more than that.

woman sitting on a plane with childrenBehaving themselves – for now!

Craig and I were terrified Savannah was going to scream the whole way home on our flight from Bangkok to Sydney like she had the previous two nights. We almost cancelled our flight we were so worried.

Most of the angst parents go through is worrying how our baby’s hurts affects others.

That screaming baby you hear is often not screaming because her parents couldn’t be bothered to control her; it is most likely because her parent doesn’t know what else to do.

They have become numb.

I call it the shutting down to protect.

You’ve tried everything, yet still they cry. They cry for hours. You don’t know what else to do. They can’t speak; they can’t tell you where it hurts or how to help. You guess for hours and you feel such a failure.

Look how upset my child is and I don’t know what to do.

You cry silently. You cry from fatigue, from angst, from confusion and utter pain that you, the mother, can’t help your baby.

And then you go numb. It’s a coping mechanism.

As for parents who just sit there and watch their kids run wild and behave unacceptably whilst disturbing the peace, that’s a different story. At least make an effort to control your children and show courtesy to others. (This post is not really written with these cases in mind, you can get as angry as you like with the adults here- fair play!)

If another child aggressively pushes in front of my girls in the line up at the playground, and the parent just watches and says nothing, my blood pressure rises! But I don’t abuse the child and look at them like dirt beneath my feet.

(You can hear my thoughts on raising respectful and well-mannered children here and here)

I believe most parents are doing their best and are considerate of others.

I think back to a flight 4 years ago when we were living in the states. We had an early morning flight with Delta departing Raleigh, North Carolina. Kalyra was about 12 months old then, the plane was packed, it was still dark outside, and it was silent.

Then it happened – Kalyra just started screaming and crying as the plane started to taxi away from the gate. She didn’t want to wear the child seat belt and sit on mummy’s lap, she wanted her own seat. Craig and I did our best to calm her, but sometimes you are helpless. If we could have got up and removed her from the situation (which we do in restaurants), we would have.

I remember not wanting to lock eyes with the other passengers, and could feel their glare burning through us. Those moments are tough. Luckily she calmed down once the plane accelerated for take off and was good for most of the flight, except when landing as it hurts their ears.

You know how upset you get after five minutes of listening to a baby cry. Imagine a mother who has listened to it for 48 hours. Imagine if the mother could not go numb to protect.

I know, it’s not your problem and it’s still bad for you and the vitriol spills out of your mouth as to why they should not be inflicting that upon others. I so get it. You can’t predict and often you can’t control, but it does not mean mother and child should stop living.

When you have done all you can and you can’t help, you detach yourself from the screaming.

You can hear it, but it does not infiltrate your core, if it did it would send you crazy.

And no baby needs a mother who goes crazy.

Aren’t you glad you had a mother who did not go crazy with your endless cries? That is right, you did it once and you pissed off a lot of people. Maybe it’s just karma. I often think that with my two challenging children who hate sleep. I was exactly the same to my mother.

I cried for months on end. My mother calls me her difficult one, yet the love she has for her baby never leaves her eyes.

That is a powerful love. It says,

“Cry and scream for days on end, make me feel like I am going insane and will literally pull my hair out as it feels more enjoyable, but I will still love you; I’d still walk over hot coals for you.”

So when there is nothing else you can do you go numb and you hold your baby, because you know that is all they need. Whatever their unsolvable struggle may be, they know if you hold them, they will feel safe and loved. They will get over the screams and the pain with little damage if they are held.

I remember a childless friend speaking of dinner dates with their friends.

“With the first child, they were worried about every noise. They were up dealing with it but now, with the second, the two brothers could be wrestling in the corner and they don’t notice.”

It’s the numbing.

I was numbing as we sat in Starbucks waiting for our flight home from Bangkok.

We had two nights of Savannah screaming, we didn’t know what was wrong, but I’m sure it was her teeth. There was nothing else I could do.

All I wanted was coffee to help me.

I sat down and went numb.

I held her.

I couldn’t really hear her, but I was holding her with love.

The two English ladies behind me started scowling and moved place. They looked at me and their eyes spoke viper.

They made it plainly clear how much my crying child had inconvenienced them.

I get it, I really do, but you are being hateful towards a child.

And you are women.

And I am a mother who has just turned numb for five minutes.

I got up and moved outside.

They mumbled something to each other and pointed to me, the scowl permanently imprinting their face. (Hope the wind doesn’t change as your face will stay that way. Sorry your soul already spoke, it is that way.)

I exploded with the words “Bitches” to Craig upon return. Very harsh I know. I was not proud. I rarely speak about other people like this, but I hadn’t slept for two days and, as I said at the beginning of this, they failed to honour children at their sake of their own five minutes of peace.

So what. Get over it.

You’ll move on in five minutes to peace. So what. You had five minutes you had to listen to a baby cry, and it ruined your Starbucks moment. Hate to have a real problem to moan about. Put it into perspective.

You moan about the baby crying on the plane, in the restaurant, on the street and how it affects YOU. What about the baby? What about the mother who can never move to a quieter place?

Not your problem I know, which is in itself a major problem of Western society.

What I love so much about travelling in Asia is how much they honour children and how they embrace the concept of the village raises the child. We never received any angst from an Asian person about our children, nor did I notice it with any other. Even when my girls had a meltdown in the most important temple in Thailand, their spirits were still honoured and the concern was for them.

Grand palace BangkokPost meltdown at the Grand Palace, Bangkok

On the flight home Savannah thankfully slept. Miraculously there were no screams or tears.

But every other child on the flight was crying.

“Thank god it is not mine.” I thought

I didn’t sleep much because of the cries, but I did not care. I felt for the parents and the distress of the baby. If Savannah wasn’t sleeping peacefully across my lap, I would have got up and asked the parents

How can I help? Please let me give you a break.

Just like the Asians do. The village raises a child.

I sent those babies a whole lot of love and hugs and then shut down so the screams couldn’t infiltrate me and send me crazy.

That is all you need to do.

And in the process of shutting down, remember that you were once a baby too.

23 thoughts on “If You Get Irritated by Children on Your Travels”

  1. I completely understand that children will be children and if they decide to start crying there’s not an awful lot that can be done. This is why I carry ear plugs with me when I travel and my headphones are never far from my reach.

    I think the main issue is with parents that don’t seem too concerned with the way their child is behaving. I was sitting on a flight a couple of years ago with a child of about 4 sitting directly behind me. When he started kicking the back of my seat while I was trying to sleep I only started getting annoyed because the parent was completely ignoring them. I even turned around and asked if they could please try and stop their child from doing it and I was met with a look that simply said “how dare you tell me how to raise my child”.

    After 2 hours I eventually told the child off myself. I don’t know if they saw the anger in my eyes or they were just shocked at being told what to do but the kicking stopped immediately.

    The simple act of a parent trying to discipline their child is more than enough for most people to let it go.

    1. I completely agree with you Lee. I think this is totally the parent’s responsibility to bring the child into line. And I get the anger that can come from people in this regard. I get irritated myself. Kalyra will get a stern word from us if this happens and if she doesn’t listen then we take her for a walk with a few extra stern words and loss of privileges.

      This I get. And I can become a glaring monster in playgrounds when parents let their children run wild and not teach them basic manners and respect. the teacher in me often comes out to gently remind the children how to behave and line up. I find most parents are really good at this though. It’s just the odd few.

      What really bothers me though is the way people talk about children, in particular babies. I mean they are just little cherubs who are speaking the only way they know how. And I do know the majority of parents are really trying their best to help their child and stop them from disturbing the peace of others. I think these people need a little more understanding and the children shouldn’t be spoken about so harshly.

      Other than that I am totally with you on the other issue. If you are not going to attempt to control your child and teach them the right way to behave then you are going to have to expect some interference and comments

  2. Your post is particularly poignant for me right now…we are expecting our first child in August and I too have fears of my child having tantrums in public.

    So many people tell me about how difficult it is to travel with children, and I wonder about how much of that has to do with a fear of one’s child having a tantrum on an airplane, or in another unfamiliar public place? I wonder how many people this stops from traveling with their kids?

    Also, it makes me think about how we can start to build a culture around children even on an a small scale that resembles the “it takes a village” philosophy that you have written about so much in Asia?

  3. Wow! I absolutely loved reading this. I don’t have kids of my own so it’s so wonderful to hear something so honest and sensible from a mother. I think you wrote beautifully and I’ll definitely think twice if I ever feel myself getting frustrated around very young children. My parents had 5 children and when the youngest was 5 years old we travelled to the Middle East and now I wonder how my parents dealt with us! At least they didn’t have to manage 5 babies! Anyway, thanks very much for writing this entry. I really enjoyed it. =) Oh and by the way… your daughters ARE adorable! I don’t think I could ever be frustrated by them . =)

  4. I have to admit I was one of those people (and still am if the kid is of a certain age). But now that I have more friends with children, I WANT them to take their kids out rather than just staying home. And I know how much travel can enrich someone’s life, especially at an early age, so I encourage them to travel with the kids…. unless it’s a girls getaway trip of course 🙂

    1. Oh yes got to leave the kids at home for the girl’s getaway! I think once the kids reach about 6 or 7 they are definitely old enough to know better and the crankiness can be warranted–although most of it should be directed at the parents for not doing better.

  5. I don’t mind crowds, but if you really don’t like kids in an airplane, you can do what I do – drive your car for complete privacy – or buy a first class ticket, where the intrusions of children are less, well, intrusive. When I go to a Myrtle Beach resorts oceanfront property I know there are going to be a lot of kids, and kids run around and holler a lot. That’s why they’re great, and why I can really smile when I go back to my room, or out to the state park – because they’re someone else’s, and mine are all grown up!

    1. I think you have to be prepared for children on a plane. You can’t make them get off so it’s best not to fight against it and just find ways to cope. A first class ticket is a great idea! Sometimes I want to do that myself 🙂

  6. I always feel so much for the poor kids who cry their hearts out on planes. I’m 26 and there have been so many flights where I just wanted to sit in the aisle and scream and cry until the bloody flight was over. I still remember being about 5 and the pain I felt on a descent, I couldn’t stop crying as it felt like my ears were going to burst. I like the comment about wishing you could have given some other mothers a break, I think we should all be more like that when we travel. On our 12 hour flight from Canada to China there was a gorgeous Chinese toddler in front of me who popped his head up and said hello to me every few minutes. It got tiring saying hello back but I was happy that he was happy!

    1. Yes! God love them they can be so tiring. Savannah loves to just stare at people. Most people are really good and stare back and try to make her laugh. I think it is so wonderful when people stop to share the joy with children, but I do know how tiring it can be though.

  7. I see your point, I really do. And I’ve thought about your post for a day now and something about it just did’t sit right with me. I have to say that the tone here was a little condescending. That woman giving you the scornful glance may have not had a good nights sleep in the past 3 months because she’s been cleaning up her husband’s vomit because he is sick from chemotherapy. The old lady who rolls her eyes on the plane might have found out that her house is being foreclosed on and she has no living relatives, she might be heading to an uncertain future in an uncertain situation. Or the adult who should know better who just can’t comprehend your motherly compassion may have grown up in an orphanage and did not receive the unconditional love you speak of. I like your post, you have a good point. But things are not always black and white, right or wrong. It sounds like you often take the high road and you are the bigger person. Kudos to you for doing that. You never know what the story is behind the behavior with a stranger.

    1. Thanks Priscilla. Point taken. Thank you for taking the time to think about it and pull me up in a nice way. I appreciate it and have listened to what you say. Cheers

  8. Fantastic I can totally relate to this. By the time our daughter was 2.5 she had flown to Spain, Scotland …started shorthaul then, Morocco, Bali, Bermuda and Thailand. She was a dream. Lots of comments from people upon landing about how amazing she was.

    My husband and I were, I hate to admit, a little conceited.

    Ah ha…payback coming….Little man (now 18 months) makes me want to jump out of the plane (half way to Greece from the UK) two or three times higher than my skydive over Lake Taupo. Wriggle, cry, wriggle, cry, scream, kicking, cry.

    NO WAY is he hitting Asia until he is 3 or so.

    Just found your blog researching nkhata bay Malawi where my friend is working for Butterfly project. Came across the amazing photos of your little girl meeting the little girl at the fire dance. Love your blog, I’ve been on here an hour, totally forgot what I was researching!

    1. Oh thank you Nicola! I’m so glad we’ve been able to keep you entertained. Are you going to Nkhata Bay? It is such a special place. We so loved it there.

      We understand the payback too. Kalyra was a dream traveller and child, Savannah is our wild one. I love her cheeky spirit but geez does she give me heart pains!

  9. I traveled with my girls from day one…well, we’re still traveling together and now they are both married. Hopefully, it will be with children someday….anyway. I think people who travel and travel with kids do a great job. Their kids are used to being bored. However, there are those that never subject their child to boredom, waiting, and really I think that is a disservice to the children. All kids need to learn to be bored and just deal with it. Have you noticed that most cultures in the world let their kids do anything, and no one thinks anything of it. It’s just a few of our uptight western cultures that get all bent out of shape when a toddler is running around a restaurant. I love your post. Very well put!

    1. Yes I certainly have. When Savannah was running around the restaurant in Thailand the waitresses told us to sit down and they chased her around giggling and squealing! They all had great fun together.
      I so understand the boredom thing. So many of my students would complain how bored they were out on the playground, learning lessons or even watching really cool Planet Earth documentaries. All they wanted to do was sit and play video games. They rarely could entertain themselves. It used to make me sad.

    1. I agree. I think compassion are the eyes we should all be looking through. I was reading last night how compassion brings about the highest state of happiness–proven by science!

  10. I love this blog, I have been on both sides of the fence and appreciate both sides of the travelling tale. I have had a similar experience to Lee pre-having my own children. Ultimately we all love a holiday the chance to relax get away and immerse ourself in new surroundings. You start counting down the days till you depart and then the day arrives. The last thing you need to start off your holiday are children out of control, screaming, shouting, kicking your chair. You spent so many months saving up for that seat that you are now wishing you could get out of.

    I totally love children and I am a parent toomy kids are a real credit to me. The problem is not the child but the role models and parents that they are exposed to. You hope to instill the best in your child they are the future and we need to teach them to be respectful as well as being fun loving knowledge sponges.

    I do appreciate that some time parents need to remind their children to be mindful to others. Its unpleasant having to tell off someone elses child when the parent is with them overlooking their behaviour. On the up side when we flew to disneyland my pre-schooler entertained a fellow traveller all the way. The guy had just lost someone close and my child seem to perk him up.

    1. Thanks Shaz! A really thoughtful and balanced comment. I think it always comes down to each of us choosing kindness and compassion and teaching our children to do the same. It’s that simple and makes a huge difference to the lives of everybody!

  11. I don’t have kids, but the truth is I have flown many fights with little kids aboard and most of the time they don’t make so much as a peep. I feel sorry for the ones that are having a rough time (and their parents).

  12. kids are used to being tired. However, there are those that never topic their kid to dullness, patiently waiting, and really I think that is a detriment to the kids. All kids need to understand to be tired and just cope with it.

  13. Traveling with childern its really irriated because they are destroy the peace and not understand anything…kids are really dispointing the plan and doing others things which are very irrtiated with others peoples…

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