My wife, our daughter, and I just returned from our first family trip in a year and a half. That combined with an experience during my recent LAX-SLC day trip reminded me of a couple of very simple things people can do when encountering families who travel.
Family Travel Can Be Very Stressful
Our little girl has been traveling since she was three months old. And I was a wreck in the weeks leading up to her first trip. And it’s taken me several trips since to chill out.
Why was I so freaked?
I was afraid she’d cry and fuss in airplanes and club lounges. (Spoiler alert: she did.) I was concerned about her infringing on others’ enjoyment of their flights and relaxation.
Plus, I’m rather introverted and don’t necessarily like drawing attention to myself or family. (I know that must seem strange, given I’m a blogger who indulges in snark and writes about trips he takes. 🙂 )
Most people just ignored us when my daughter cried. A few shot us dirty looks. Someone made a sarcastic remark in MSP Delta Sky Club when I carried our wailing daughter out to the F concourse so we could take a walk.
One person downgraded from first class to coach because he didn’t want to sit across from a family with a baby. (Aside from a couple of giggles and a sneeze, our daughter was quiet during the flight.)
Before our next flight even left the gate, my daughter cooed and laughed while people boarded and smiled at her. The person in front of us wasn’t too happy about sitting near a family. He instantly reclined his seat back toward my wife and daughter. Maybe he was trying to punish us for having the audacity to be in his royal presence. However, that only served to scare the heck out of my daughter — who then cried into his ear. (Yeah, reclining back into our row really showed us! Schmuck.)
These memories came back to me as waited for my LAX to SLC flight to board a few weeks ago. Sitting in a nearby gatehouse was a frazzled family traveling with a newborn baby who cried. Loudly. And a lot.
A few people near me rolled their eyes. A couple of them gave disapproving looks to the family.
I don’t know anyone who loves a screaming child (except for the second the little tyke is born). And the problem is made even worse when confined in a tight space (such as, you know, airplanes). But before you’re tempted to throw shade at a family, consider these two super simple things you can do that make all the difference in the world. You don’t even have to say a word or lift a finger.
Genuine, friendly smiles are great tension reducers in almost any situation. And receiving them can relieve some stress for parents traveling with small children. If the kid is screaming, don’t laugh or do anything that makes it seem as though you’re mocking the family. That doesn’t do anyone any good. But a quick, empathetic smile — or a funny one, if the kid seems happy — is usually very welcome.
If you can’t bring yourself to smile, then don’t do anything. Pay no attention to the family. Don’t even look at them. They have enough to worry about; your bad vibes won’t help.
It’s one thing if their kid (or the adults, I guess) kicks your seat, messes with your hair from the row behind, or somehow otherwise infringes on your personal space. Then you should say something. But a crying baby is usually trying to communicate a message hunger, soiled diaper, fatigue, whatever. They’re not crying to ruin anyone’s day.
Family travel is usually stressful. We’re carrying a lot of bags and have to be prepared for any number of scenarios: boredom, hunger, thirst, soiled clothes, faulty tablets, and a bunch of other things. Simple smiles from others — or even no attention at all — can help make the travel experience easier for everyone.
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