Flying with a Cry-baby #MondayMusings

Last week, I took an early morning flight from Bangalore to Delhi for which I had to reach the airport at an unearthly hour. Sleep deprived and tired from the hectic work schedule, I reached the airport on time and requested the lady at the counter to give me a window seat. Thinking of catching up on my missed sleep during the two hour flight, I boarded the aircraft, only to see a young mother with a child occupying my seat. Sitting next to her was her old father (or father-in-law). Without a word I occupied the vacant aisle seat. Yes, it seemed silly to ask her to vacate the window seat for me.

I settled in my aisle seat and dozed off even before the flight took off from the ground, only to be jolted awake from sleep a few minutes later by the loud screams of my little co-passenger. The face of the lil baby was all red and his eyes all scrunched up but no tears trickled down his cheeks. The mother held him close, rocked him back and forth, and softly repeated some words in his ear, but the child refused to calm down and showed us all his super power of screaming really loudly. And as if one uncomfortable child on the flight was not enough, another one wailed from the back seats. By this time, I gave up on my plan to sleep during the flight.

I smiled at the mother and she smiled back with gratitude. I looked around and saw the other passengers having expressions ranging from disdain and irritation to anger and exasperation. And memories of a flight taken some 13 years ago flashed in front of me when a 45 day old baby shrieked and howled in my arms. There was absolutely no difference in the reactions of the passengers between these two incidents which spanned more than a decade.

We all know that babies do what they do when they want to do it. The babies don’t know how to deal with air pressure and the pain it causes or any uneasiness that they might be experiencing. The only way they know to express their pain is by crying. What’s new or different in that? I am sure every single person and their children have cried like that in a public space whether in a plane or a train or a store or a cinema hall or at a restaurant.

While at a restaurant or a store, one can still go out and distract the crying child in some way, but how does one do that while sitting in a aircraft when seat-belt sign is still on? The parents have limited ways  to manage the cranky child.

Oh, I know it can be very frustrating for the co-passengers, after all it is not their child, but show some empathy to the parent who is all stressed and even more frustrated. She is trying her level best to calm and soothe the baby.  

Imagine, how unnerving it would be to hear the exaggerated sighs and sense the irritation and stares from co-passengers while your baby is howling, wailing and shrieking his guts out in your arms. How guilt ridden you would be when you know that you and your child are annoying other passengers and some are even judging you for it.

I wish people know that they can’t have library-silent, no-wails-allowed flight. It should not be difficult to understand that a child being a child is not the parents’ fault, and to realize that making someone else feel bad will not make you feel better or improve your flight. So, instead of giving a death-stare to the mother and the child, show empathy, practice patience and put on your noise-cancelling headphones and simply deal with it minus the negative drama from your end. Deal?

Linking this to Write Tribe’s #MondayMusings


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57 thoughts on “Flying with a Cry-baby #MondayMusings

  1. Oh how much I would give for people to have empathy in so many similar situations. Sadly, that’s more lacking than apparent these days and I doubt it’s going to change any time soon. Well, we can hope.

  2. I agree Shilpa…I guess we just don’t have the patience or the courtesy to understand the situation anymore…What can the parent(s) do? It’s not easy…And more importantly it is also a public space and we can’t get the peace and quite that we want all the time..Least we can do is not make them feel worse than they already are!

    • True. Cranky children can get on your nerves, but when you see that a parent is trying and is unsuccessful, I guess, we can show a bit of empathy.It is perhaps the one thing that people need the most!

    • Oh yes, it is the air pressure in the air among other things that could be troubling a lil child. Yeah, agree with mother’s nervousness rubbing on to the child!

  3. I once read about the idea of separating parents travelling with infants – that might not seems such a bad idea to a tired out traveller looking for some peace on a long flight. You were exceptionally patient. Most passengers are quick to get annoyed. Since memories of travelling with noisy babies haven’t faded just yet for me I can completely empathise with that mom and can well imagine how grateful she would have been.

    • I think I remember reading somewhere about making the parents with kids sit at the far end of the aircraft. I wonder, which airlines practices it. Aah! We all have gone through the agony and mortification of having a howling baby in arms despite best attempts to calm him. And since, I remembered my experience pretty vividly, I could empathize with the mother big time! 🙂

  4. There was this talk by a thought leader where he took an example of a mother and a 2 yr old child. The child was throwing a tantrum and everytime she did that the mother used to say..”Jennifer Control yourself” and child used to get even more naughty. Again she said “people are watching control yourself”. A man seeing all this was curious. He approached her and asked the mother why she was talking to the child like to an adult and she said “Jennifer is my name not my daughters” 🙂


  5. Yes, Shilpa we must be more tolerant in such circumstances.The poor mother would already be feeling embarrased, and if co travellers show their intolerance,it will amount to insulting the mother.

  6. This also happens in trains, but it’s easier to handle kids in trains I guess, because I don’t hear the sounds after a short while. But everyone needs to learn the art of sleeping irrespective of external circumstances — I used to be an expert in that art. Zen Sleeping 😛 😀 😛

    Destination Infinity

  7. This kind of a situation is not easy for anyone, not the child, not the parents, not the co-passengers. Why make it even hard with accusing glances? A smile says that it’s okay and makes it easier for the parent to deal with the crying baby.

  8. Being a mother of two, who are well past this stage, Thank God, I remember those death stares and looks of disapproval when my baby decided to throw a fit. I felt so embarrassed and inadequate, and stressed out. It was awful. I don’t remember anyone being kind enough to smile at me as you did that lucky mother. Bless you Shilpa, most people simply are not that nice.

    • I know the feeling too well, Kathy. I have experienced it too. Thankfully, the passenger next ti me was very patient and understanding. But the ones in front and behind me made me all the more miserable!

  9. My first flight was at age 2 from Bombay to Singapore. Those days it took about 10 hrs and apparently I screamed my head off all through the flight. My kids on the other hand were sweet little angels – lollipops work a treat.

  10. Ah! I can understand that mother’s plight since I just went through the that situation. We could not calm the baby no matter what we did. Finally he got tired of crying and slept. Imagine calming babies on an 18 hour flight! 🙁

  11. Ah! I have gone through those stares, and suddenly you are made to feel like its your fault, that your baby won’t stop crying! And the only thing you wish is for someone to give you an understanding nod or smile!

    wait….you were in Bangalore? arre, we could have met!

  12. I do not know about India. I know about USA. I fly 2 times a week. If a child cries in the plane and the mother/father tries to do something about it, she/he will be looked upon sympathetically. There are some parents who will be reading books or do something else ignoring the crying child. Those parents will be hated by other passengers.

    When everyone is allotted a particular seat number, the chutzpah of this young lady to sit in your window seat. I would have called the air hostess to make her move to her allotted seat.

    • That makes sense. If you see somebody trying their level best to stop the child from crying, you can understand. But there are parents who simply ignore the misbehavior of their kids. That gets on my nerves too.
      I know what you mean, if it was somebody without a child, I would have definitely taken my allotted seat. But this lady looked like she was traveling by air for the first time and may be I was in a generous mood that morning 😀

  13. I shamelessly admit that about a month ago I was one of those passengers who stared at the mother of a crying baby. But then I thought I shouldn’t ever feel angry. I then tried to smile at the kid and offered chocolates. 🙂

  14. The same thing happened when we were flying abroad and my kid was just a few months old.As the flight took-off,she started crying relentlessly 🙁 .We just couldn’t think how to console her with 1000 eyes staring at us and I staring back at them 😀 .

  15. ohhhh, been there – both in the shoes of the mother and in the shoes of a passenger seated next to a mum like that… and can only say: (even as annoying it is now travelling hoping for peace and quiet): Bless you! May there be more people with empathy out there. A kind word, a smile, an offer to help: means the world!

  16. Done that! When my kids were small few of the flights were harrowing exprience. Once I had an old lady sitting next to me. I can honestly say we ended hating each other for life 😀 I suppose as a parent I did all I could. But my little one was suffering, what we later came to know as pharengitis, and her throat was paining. Well but I do remember that lady’s face till today. 😈

  17. Well said. I have to admit I hate it when there are wailing babies aboard a plane (or train or bus), but I know that it’s simply nature and that I can’t do anything about it. My best remedy? Getting lost in a book. 😛

  18. Wailing babies can be truly annoying specially on a flight or on a train. But if the baby is very young, it is perhaps unavoidable and you grin and bear it. What’s even worse is when parents let their children run riot and they are running around screaming and shouting as if they own the place! 👿

  19. Poor parents. My toddler didnt trouble during travelling earlier but now he can run around rioting & causing me embarrassment. All I can do is give him his favorite toy or books, but you cant make them sit beyond 30mins max.
    Thankfully I have encountered angel co-passengers who play with him or just smile & nod at me.

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