A Toddler Meltdown on the Plane — And Free-Range Help

Hi fhfseybbik
Readers! Often I post Free-Range outrages. Sometimes, this gets depressing. So here’s a Free-Range success story. Enjoy! L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am the mother of two very small children. My daughter is almost two and my son is three months old. I consider myself to be a Free-Range parent, at least in philosophy.  Though the freedom and responsibility my husband and I can give our kids at this age isn’t that much, it’s growing by the day.  But I recently had an experience that gave me another perspective on the Free-Range philosophy.


I was traveling solo with my kids while my husband traveled for work. The plan was to have my daughter to sit in a seat by herself and to hold my son in my lap. Emphasis on “plan.”  When we got on the plane, my daughter knew exactly what to do. She walked a few steps ahead of me, carrying her book bag, arriving at our row. However, when the time came for her to sit in the seat next to me (instead of on my lap) she proceeded to flip out.


She threw herself on the floor. She screamed. She exhibited every single behavior that a parent of a toddler dreads. I could feel people glaring at me. I was convinced that I would be thrown off the plane, because I could not get her to sit in the seat on her own.


I was on the verge of tears when I heard a voice behind me asking if I needed help. The woman who asked was a complete stranger, but offered to sit with my daughter at least until she calmed down. Then she reached her arms out to my daughter, who leaped at the chance to tell this woman about her family, read some books, and share a couple of snacks. The flight was a about two hours long, and my daughter sat on the lap of this total stranger for the entirety. She was safe, content and quiet.


Being a parent can be incredibly isolating precisely at a time when we need support the most. Being a parent who is afraid of the world and all the people in it (except for those who have had a background check) makes us even more isolated. The gift that I received on that plane when a stranger offered to sit with my daughter on her lap was the gift of not being alone. It was a simple moment, but it was one that I don’t think happens enough. Free-Range Kids means that parents can trust the rest of the world with their children.


Thank you for the work that you do. You have encouraged me, as a parent of very small children, to realize that I am not alone. Sincerely, Kira Dault

107 Responses to A Toddler Meltdown on the Plane — And Free-Range Help

  1. Thursday's Child December 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    I’ve traveled overseas with 3 children numerous times. One the first long leg trip (NY to Istanbul) a man kindly held my 6 mo daughter almost the entire flight. Keep in mind that he was seated next to an attractive woman (NOT me), had numerous nephews so holding a baby girl was a treat, and his biological clock had the alarm going off. 😉

    On another flight, from Lebanon to Kuwait (or maybe back again), while holding baby girl (a bit older now), twin brother wanted me to hold him too and let everyone on the plane know it. A dear lady in hijab and abeya came up behind him, rubbed his head, and sang to him in Arabic. He was in heaven.

  2. Anne Campbell December 7, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Brava to Kira and to the woman who helped her! After all, what’s the worst that could happen – would she parachute out of the plane with your kid?

  3. Selby December 7, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    GREAT STORY!!!!!

  4. lakeline December 7, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    I’ve found that trips to/from Europe have much kinder and more helpful passengers than trips within the US. Perhaps they are less on-edge about children on planes because they’re more willing to help and less worried that offers of help will be shunned by terrified parents?

  5. DB December 7, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    My own mother is fond of telling a story about taking me as an infant on a flight from Boston to New York to visit my grandparents. Apparently, I was crying non-stop for about half an hour with no success on her part to get me to stop, when the man sitting across the aisle said, “let me try.” He picked me up and walked up and down the aisle with me for a few minutes, and then handed me back to her, sleeping.

    This was in 1978. I can’t help wondering…if – in 2011 – it were a man who offered to “help” with your daughter instead of a woman, would you have let him? Would my mother have let this man help with me if it were today instead of 33 years ago? The media has trained the public to think that any strange man who shows any interest in a child must be a threat, so much so that I’ll bet even Free Range Parents fall into that prejudice without even realizing it.

  6. Amy December 7, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    I have had to travel with 4 children on a 15 hour flight on 2 different occasions, and both times strangers came to save my sanity. Once a pair of Mormon missionaries took turns holding and playing with a toddler who just LOVED having new people to talk to. And once I only got 4 seats together so my 7 year old had to sit next to a wonderful woman who read to her and they made fast friends.

    In order for this to work, there had to be a lack of fear on three sides. The helpers had to not fear being accused of harming or molesting the children by interacting with them for hours. I, as a parent, had to trust that these were good people who had my children’s best interests at heart. And the child had to not be afraid of strangers, and not see unknown people are potential ‘bad guys.’

  7. sherri December 8, 2011 at 12:08 am #

    I had taken my then three year old and newborn sons to McDonalds for dinner one evening. The three year old threw a tantrum, in turn waking the newborn. We had planned on eating in, but once all hell broke loose I decided to pack up supper and take it home. Thankfully a nice grandmotherly type volunteered to carry my food and baby to the van for me while I wrestled my tantrumming toddler to the van. At that moment I thought that was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for me. When I later relayed the story to a friend she was shocked that I would put my newborn in jeopardy with a stranger.

  8. Ariana December 8, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    I love this story! What if the woman had felt like people would think she was a creep if she offered to help? I fear that eventually this is where things are going, where strangers are afraid to even offer help. I have had so many people reach out to my daughter, and in return she reaches out to others. My favorite was when we were sitting on a subway in Paris, and she went and sat next to a scowling older gentleman. She scooted close to him and then put her arm around his neck. He couldn’t help but smile, and I wonder when the last time was that someone reached out to him that way. On a flight back to the States from France, we had a couple surrogate grandmas volunteer to have my daughter sit and chat and read to her. I’m sure it made them as happy as it made her and us.

  9. Diane December 8, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    What a beautiful story. It almost made me cry.

  10. Uly December 8, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    I try to live my life by this rule: If somebody asks if you need help, and you do, just say yes! (Also, if you think they need help, and you can help them – ask!)

    It works astonishingly well, I haven’t been mugged, raped, or murdered yet! Except some people ask because they’re sure you’ll say no and they’ll get the moral credit without having to do any work. They’re always taken aback when you say yes, and it’s hilarious watching them try to backtrack without doing that.

  11. Steve December 8, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    My daughter (2 at the time) threw a tantrum in a grocery store. I left her thrashing on the floor and walked away. An elderly woman walked by my daughter while reading her shopping list out loud, “Flour, Bread, A Screaming Little Girl, why here’s one right here.” And promptly reached for my daughter. My daughter jumped up, ran to me and was an angel the rest of the day. Best assist by a stranger I’ve had.

  12. Mike Rich December 8, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    Great story! I am so glad there are still people willing to help. If only there had been a helpful passenger or even an understanding flight attendant for my screaming on a plane toddler story.

    My wife and I were traveling to Florida to visit my parents with our then 18-month old (now 30 year old) son. Our plan was for him to alternate between our laps. When the meal came, since he was sitting on my wife’s lap at the time, we decided I would eat first and then he would sit on my lap while she ate.

    Well, that wasn’t HIS plan. He still wanted Mommy’s lap and screamed bloody murder to go back there. The flight attendant asked, “Is your child in pain?” When I said, “No, he just wants to sit on his mother’s lap.” The flight attendant replied, “Well, you’ll have to keep him quiet then. He’s disturbing the other passengers.”

    My wife is not big on patience toward fools, so she then did something that would probably get her arrested these days — she threw her tray at the flight attendant and yelled, “OK, I won’t eat then!” And took our son back onto her lap. He calmed down and the flight was fine from there on out, with him eventually choosing to sit on my lap on his own later.

    A footnote to the story that goes along with the “what if that friendly stranger didn’t offer to help because she thought she would be considered creepy” aspect of some of the comments. When my son was 14 to 20 years old, he worked as an assistant in a day care program. From his earliest days there, without anyone that I am aware of giving him any such warning, he refused to give the kids hugs or let them sit on his lap when they asked. He said it was because he was afraid of being falsely accused of inappropriate touching.

  13. Leah December 8, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    LOVE THIS! a lovely story, and the stories in the comments are as well.

  14. Carrie December 8, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    I’ve traveled often with a baby/toddler, sometimes alone, and people have always been kind/helpful.

    I think, much like the media sensationalizes crimes involving children, the negative stories about air travel with children get loads of attention. We start believing that all people are intolerant of children and become afraid of boarding a plane with small children. MOST people are decent and sympathize with parents who have to travel with small children. Even the less sympathetic ones usually simply roll their eyes or let out a sigh, but don’t confront or abuse the overwhelmed parent.

  15. Mollie Michie-Lepp December 8, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    My son was all of 2 when he threw a tantrum on an LA metro rail between Hollywood and the Valley. The people surrounding me were all kind and gave me the “aw, poor momma look”, but no one offered to assist. I’d like to think it was because they didn’t think it was their place, they didn’t want to encroach, etc…but I was thankful that no one gave me dirty looks while I let him cry it out. Then from the other end of the car, this man walks over and turns and squats down by my son and gruffly says, ” WHAT. WHAT IS IT?! WHY YOU CRYIN’? WHAT YOU GOT TO CRY ABOUT?!!” And that shut my son up, not in a scary way, in a curious way. The man smiled and said (in a much nicer, and yet still GRUFF voice) “See?! Nothin to cry about. You’ll be allright.” and walked away. Instantly I was totally afraid, thankful and offended. What I took away from this teachable moment was that sometimes getting pulled out of the comfort zone when parenting in public is absolutley necessary, and although I wouldn’t use the same approach as the man who got my kid to stop crying, I am encouraged to make a better effort to those moms and dads who are on the go with fussy kids. we have all been there, haven’t we??

  16. Alex December 8, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    My husband is (fairly) frequently that stranger on the airplane who offers to comfort the crying baby. He loves to do this for three reasons: 1, he helps a mother (or father, but it’s always been a mother) in distress; 2, he looooooves little babies; and 3, he gets to show off that he is a experienced and accomplished parent! So everyone wins.

  17. hineata December 8, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    @Mollie – he sounds like a nice fellow though, doesn’t he? Good on him for getting involved. So few men will. I remember my husband getting looks for telling off a little brat in Kuala Lumpur who was kicking his Indonesian maid, with the parents standing feet away (for some Malaysian Chinese, the Indonesian maids are on the level of livestock – disgusting!). The parents saw no particular problem with said ‘darling’s’ behaviour, but hubby has no desire to live in a world populated by spoilt little psychopaths, and fortunately had no problems about saying a word or two (or three!). (I would have said something myself, but as I don’t speak the language much, it would hav been less than useful!).

    I was wondering myself this morning why I still feel a need to be around the place for my now teenage children, not all the time but a lot of it. Then I realised that although my mum worked when I was an older child and a teenager, there were lots of other adults around our small town who kept half an eye on us and were apt to tell us off, or, horrors, our parents, if they didn’t approve of what we were doing. Just doesn’t happen like that nearly enough now. Let’s, as Mollie and the original poster intimate, all get more involved, even if it does cause a few raised eyebrows. It’s beyond time we went back to caring for people beyond our immediate family circle….

  18. Jenny Armitage December 8, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Great story.

    About help from strangers, yes it’s often very useful. I think the reason people are more helpful outside the U.S. is because they are less afraid, or not afraid at all, of being accused of child molestation.

    @ Mike. No tolerance for fools? Crude and rude is what you mean. There is no excuse EVER for throwing things at stewardess, waiters, or other staff—-EVER EVER EVER unless they physically assault you. Shame on your wife. And shame on you for being proud of her.

    What should you have done? Taken the child for a walk up the aisle perhaps? Asked the stewardess how she would keep the child quiet.

  19. Tara December 8, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    What kills me is how often I am turned down by other moms when I offer to help. I am a mom. I have four kids, often have at least one with me (though I AM more likely to offer when I don’t), am not “scary looking” and often even just offer to carry their bags or whatever while they deal with a screaming kid. Turned down 99.9% of the time. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE DANG IT!!! Thank you. I feel better.

  20. Stephanie December 8, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    When someone asks if I need help, I say YES. Traveling by yourself with one, let alone two children, is hard! I am always grateful when someone offers to grab one of my bags or make sure my daughter doesn’t run off. This story brought me to tears.

  21. ThatDeborahGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Tara, I was just writing to say the same thing. I can’t think how many times I’ve seen mom’s that I know needed an extra hand and there response, “I’m fine” or “we’re ok”.

    I back off immediately, because I don’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers, but the moral of this story is also…if someone offer’s you help, accept. The world can be a kind place sometimes.

  22. Kristi December 8, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    We were stationed in Germany when I gave birth to my twins in 2002. I am twin, whose mother is a twin, whose grandmother is a twin and whose great grandmother was a twins. Five straight generation of twins, and from the moment we found out we were having twins, all I could think about was being able to fly home to my great grandmother and place those precious things in her arms. Two weeks after they were born, we received the call that she wasn’t doing well, and that if we were coming, it needed to be now. My husband was training so unable to accompany us. I boarded a transAtlantic flight with two nursing newborns & a heavy heart. They both started crying at the same time & as I was fumbling trying to comfort two infants in the limited space of coach, I see a pair of hands reach over the seat take one of my babies and procede to walk up & down the isle singing to her as I feed her sister. It wasn’t until the third lap of coach that I got a good look at the stranger who had my baby. He was the oddest little man wearing a wide lapeled suit coat, boots with heels and a pompadour, while singing “You Are My Sunshine”. To this day, my girls still love to hear the story about the time James Brown sang them lullabies!

  23. Brooke Link Jones December 8, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Great post! It is difficult to parent in public, but I think part of that is because parents feel like they are constantly being judged by the Public whether they are or not. It’s unfortunate, I too have found the most helpful people while traveling are always foreigners.

    I had two exact same experiences happen to me while flying from Beijing to here a few years ago, my 2yo daughter ran away from me while we were entering security as I couldn’t carry her and retrieve our passports at the same time. She immediately darted away from both times. In Beijing two young security guards caught her played with her while I went through security. In San Francisco I had a security person scream her head off at me and chase me as I ran to grab my daughter. It still rings in my head as one of the most horrible instances of public humiliation I have ever been in.

  24. Mike Rich December 8, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    I didn’t say I was proud of her or even that I approved of her slamming the tray down (“at the flight attendant” was an exaggeration on my part – my wife was in the window seat and I and a number of seat backs were between her and the flight attendant). My phraseology was to tell the story without chastising my wife for something that happened 28 years ago. I was annoyed at the flight attendant and didn’t have time to ask about or think of alternate solutions at the time.

  25. Heather G December 8, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    Last year my family attended a the baptism of a dear friend’s twins. Both my children go to bed fairly early and time coincided with their usual bedtime. Afterwards we stopped in at the reception hoping to get a few minutes with our friend. (We don’t get to see this friend often because he lives in another state and can’t travel that often). The only people we knew there were our friend and his parents. The other 150+ were complete strangers. My daughter, being only a few months old was fussy as can be due to being up late. My son was in what I lovingly refer to as the hyperactive zombie state, where he pretty much is insane in order to keep himself awake. If it weren’t for the help of the wonderful people there we never would have had to leave before we could spend a few minutes with our friend. A woman named Mariana (I think, I couldn’t quite catch the name) held my daughter and sang her the most beautiful lullabies while rocking her to sleep. A group of older kids took my toddler to a playground and took turns helping him go down the slide and swing. Had any of these people been afraid to offer some help to strangers, or had we been afraid to accept help, we would have missed an important time for our friend and would have missed our only opportunity to see them in person for who knows how long.

    I have never believed that the phrase “it takes a village” referred to the notion that the mainstream dictate how all children were raised, but rather that as a community we offer help and understanding when parents need it (while still letting them call the shots). If we as parents did more of this then think how much our children would benefit.

  26. Anji December 8, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    As a mother of two boys and a frequent traveler I can definitely identify. Now that my boys are older and I travel quite a bit for work, I have a different perspective. I feel for parents with small children traveling because they are so worried about how “we”, the other passengers, are feeling. I can tell you when I am seated near a toddler/baby with a breakdown, I have nothing but sympathy and if the mother doesn’t need my help, I will simply tune it out and keep on reading. Don’t worry about us we’re fine. And don’t pay attention to anyone “glaring” at you, those bone heads don’t need a two hour mid-day nap anyway.

  27. Jenny Armitage December 8, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    @ Mike I’m glad to hear it was an exaggeration. I might have taken it as such but for the comment that you though she might have been arrested if she did it today. Slamming a tray is quite a different thing.

  28. EricS December 8, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    It’s great that the mother realized “stranger danger” is over used and a paranoid way of thinking. And the stranger was kind enough to help. However, I wouldn’t have stayed the whole flight. Just long enough for the little girl to get calm. Then I would have said I had to go back to my seat and tell the girl it was great meeting and talking with her. Indulging her the whole flight, will only have instilled in her that whenever she takes a hissy fit, she gets what she wants. Doesn’t matter from who, just as long as she does. Which isn’t a good thing. But the mother is taking baby steps in regards to FR. Which is always a positive thing for her.

  29. Nicole December 8, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    Just wonderful. Many years ago (when my mom was much younger), she chatted for the whole flight then asked how she was gettign down the stairs (not jetway) – she wanted to be carried, but it was quite obvious her mom would be carrying her infant brother 🙂 My mom carried her down. I read on fb yesterday the response to a really horrible kidnapping/murder story (yes, of course it was AWFUL), was to teach your children to be afraid of all strangers (her wording). Strangers helping out will make this a safer, not less safe, world.

    Oh how I wish someone had helped me when I was flying with two toddlers.

    @Eric a flight with one parent and two little babies is not the place to teach or learn a lesson.

  30. SKL December 8, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    This is a great story. I always ask if I can help when I see a mom whose child can’t seem to calm down in a stressful situation. Usually there’s nothing tangible that I can do, but at least the mom feels that one person in the room is empathizing instead of criticizing. (It can also snap the child out of his craziness at times.)

  31. Jynet December 8, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    I’m with you SKL. When I fly I ALWAYS pack a couple of juice boxes and prepacks of cookies. Not for my daughter anymore (who is now 17, lol), but for the screaming toddler that is sure to be on the plane. Moms are so amazed when I ask if it would be ok to give thier child a snack, but the child almost always is so happy with cookies that they settle down. Yes, I know gluetin, peanuts, etc, etc. That is why I ask the mom first!

    I also will always switch seats with anyone who wants to get away from the screaming child/baby. They don’t bother me, I dealt with my own for years, what is a couple hours on a plane? LOL.

    @Eric, I agree with you in theory, but the child DIDN’T get “what she wanted”, she might have gotten attention but not from the person she wanted. Children are smart, that difference would have been apparent to her. Children in stressful situations deserve to have thier needs met and for all we know the ‘stranger’ enjoyed spending time with her after she settled down, why would you deny any two people having a good time together the right to have a good time just to ‘teach a lesson’?

  32. Nancy [Spinning My Plates] December 8, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    I’m glad you said “yes.” I travel frequently for my work and come across other parents in frantic frustration while traveling solo with kids. Usually my offers to help are met with suspicious refusals, despite my tidy business appearance. I’m glad you had the confidence and and faith in humanity to accept the help when it was offered.

  33. dmd December 8, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    What a lovely story. I can remember boarding a flight with my son when he was under 2 and could sit in my lap for free. This extraordinarily well-put-together woman walked down the aisle and I prayed she was not sitting in the middle seat. (There was already a someone in the window seat and I was in the aisle.) Sure enough, she approached and said she had the middle seat. Even though my son had always been a good traveler, I was sure he would have a melt-down and throw up or throw food on this woman who looked the essence of style. She didn’t look like she had ever come within 20 feet of a child.

    I learned never judge a book by its cover that day. This fashionable and poised lady had SIX children, including a set of twins! She told me a story of traveling on her own with a couple of them and having one of the twins throw up on the man next to her. I realized that they could not have put me next to a *better* person! And true to form, my son was a happy traveler who caused no trouble.

    Now, I wish I had stepped in on another flight when two parents were struggling to calm their twins who were probably a year and a half. They were the most upset I’ve ever seen kids and they could have had some neurological issue. Other passengers were upset but I could only feel bad for the parents. I wanted to ask to help, but I didn’t want to intrude or make them feel worse. Reading the posts here makes me wish I had acted.

  34. justanotherjen December 8, 2011 at 2:53 am #

    What a wonderful story. Much nicer than my experience with a toddler on a plane. Luckily it wasn’t my kid. He was seated behind me on our flight from Orlando to Kansas City on our return from our honeymoon. I didn’t have kids of my own at the time and thanks to this one kid and that flight I’ve decided I’ll never fly with my kids (I now have 5). This kid was so loud and unruly. he screamed and jabbered the entire flight and the 30 minutes we sat at the terminal waiting for repairs to be done. Fine, I get kids are like that (trust me, I had 3 toddlers at one time…I get it). But then he proceeded to kick my seat for most of the 4 hour flight.

    My issue wasn’t with junior. It was with the parents who just sat there reading their newspapers and ignoring him. Apparently they thought a toddler being a toddler was an acceptable thing on a crowded flight. The mom never said a word to the kid and the dad told him to be quiet once or twice and then gave up. Neither tried to stop him from kicking my seat–hard. If they had at least tried, gotten him out of his carseat (which was probably why he was throwing a fit) or any number of things I wouldn’t have been so mad.

    On the flip side I was the kind stranger offering assistance to a mom in need back in the day. In college I regularly rode Amtrak to and from Chicago (where my parents lived). On one trip I was seated behind this woman and her two little girls (around 3 and 5). From listening to her chat with other passengers I learned she was moving cross country from LA to NY with her 2 girls. In COACH. The girls were sharing one seat and it’s a 3 1/2 day trip, sleeping in the seats and using those itty bitty bathrooms (although those long haul trains have a dressing room for women with area to change and wash up).

    I felt so bad for her. By the time I got on she was in the middle of day two and obviously at the end of her rope. The girls kept peeking over their seats at me and she kept trying to get them to stop. She looked exhausted so I got out my coloring book and pencils and started humming to myself. The girls got interested and little by little they started talking to me and eventually climbed over the seats with a little nod from me. When the mother tried to call them back I told her it was fine, they could color with me. I ended up with one 3yo in my lap and the 5yo in the seat next to me. We colored, chatted about this and that, ate lunch (that the mom ran to get them while I watched the girls) and I think one of them fell asleep.

    Eventually they went back to their own seats (much to my relief at the time–I was 19 but they were a handful) and the mother thanked me profusely for giving her a much needed break. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I had the coloring books, the girls were bored and needed something to do. Seemed like the nice (and right) thing to do.

    Now that I’m a mother I completely understand how monumental that moment was. There was this time I was traveling alone (by car) with my 3 oldest kids. They were 3, almost 2 and 8 months at the time. We had to stop and eat which meant getting a baby and 2 toddlers out of their carseats and maneuvering everything into a restaurant. I had no idea how I was going to do it and I had to pee something fierce. The kids were bouncing off the walls, the baby was wailing. I ordered and tried to feed the baby a jar of food while the other two threw crackers (provided by the waitress) at each other, climbing under the table and were generally out of control.

    The food came and they went nuts. I was too busy dealing with the baby and trying to keep the other 2 quiet to eat anything myself (I think I took 3 bites of cold food then got a to-go box). Through the whole thing not a single person offered to help an obviously struggling mother. Everyone just glared at me and whispered loudly about how unruly my kids were and how I had no control over them. And they woke the newborn in the booth next to us despite me repeatedly telling them to be quiet and to leave the baby alone so she could sleep.

    I felt horrible, shamed and judged by everyone around me. No one knew that the kids had just spend 3 hours cooped up in the car, hadn’t eaten since breakfast (since I couldn’t pass out snacks and drive at the same time) and were bored, tired and hungry. On top of that I had a raging migraine. Using the bathroom was also an adventure with the baby in a stroller and the other two tagging along. Because of their age they all had to come in the stall with me (the handicap one) because I couldn’t trust them to just stand there with the stroller–they were just too out of control at the time.

    What’s really sad is there have been several times I’ve related that story and the response was: if you can’t handle them you shouldn’t have had them. Because, apparently, no mother of multiple small kids close in age should ever have a bad day. Those kids are now 11, 10 and 9 (plus I have a 5 1/2yo and a 17mo) and they are *usually* the most well behaved kids any where we go. Even on their bad days I’m complimented on how well behaved they are which probably says more about other kids than my own. Society is so used to kids out of control that even misbehaving ones seem behaved.

  35. Shauna December 8, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    My then 3.5 year old daughter and I flew across country last year. She’s a great traveler. On our second flight, she settled into her seat, feeling independent and proud, with her backpack full of toys, ready to directly answer the flight attendant and be a big girl. Immediately the large man sitting in front of her turned around and, looking like Herman Munster, leaned down and gruffly told her that she better not even think of kicking his seat. It was done is such an over the top fashion that I can only assume he was trying to be funny, but was clearly trying to scare her into compliance. It terrified and embarrassed her, and immediately she lost her confidence and felt like she’d done something wrong. She clutched to me for the next 30 minutes. At the end of the long flight, during which she’d behaved perfectly, he turned around and gruffly said “not bad kid.” I could have punched him in the face because he clearly felt like he’d encouraged her to behave and seemed to think he was being the ‘fun’ stranger. On another long flight that year, we sat in open seating on a SW flight, and immediately the young woman next to us changed seats to avoid us. Eventually an older woman took the seat, saying she was a grandma. After my daughter fell asleep, the woman noticed my daughter needed to stretch out further (her head was on my lap, but her body didn’t fully fit in her own seat) so she told me it was okay if my daughter’s legs were on her lap. Later she helped me get a seatbelt on my daughter without waking her. She was perfectly helpful without being the creepy overly-friendly type. You never know what you’ll get on a plane, but I sure wish people would give kids the benefit of the doubt.

  36. Emily December 8, 2011 at 3:11 am #

    On the very day that I went into labor with my son, I went shopping at our local Target and encountered an overwhelmed mother with a baby and a toddler who was having a meltdown. I could sense the disapproval from everyone around that this woman couldn’t control her child, but I saw how close she was to the edge herself. She was pleading with her daughter that they needed to go grocery shopping and could she please just sit down in the cart.

    I asked the mom if she needed any help and I held her baby for a moment while she tried to calm her little girl down. I wondered if no one else offered to help because they were judgmental, afraid of being considered creepy, or what. Since I was so very visibly pregnant, it was pretty clear that I was “no threat,” but I’d do the same thing now even without my son in tow. And since I was so pregnant, I could see that the mom was uncomfortable having me hold her son–it was pretty clear that I shouldn’t be lifting anything heavy, although the kid probably weighed less than 15 pounds. It did make me sad that mine was the only offer of help that this woman fielded.

  37. becky December 8, 2011 at 3:23 am #

    I remember the first time flying with my twins, they were 2 at the time. I had one sitting in the middle seat, the other one was with his dad. We were late because the airport doesn’t have a very good security setup (long lines, takes consistently over an hour) and got on the plane late. So here we are, two adults with two two year olds getting on the plane late. We got such glares. Then when I sat my daughter down, I smacked her head on the overhead bin and of course she started crying.

    The lady in front of me said, “Oh, of course, a crying kid, it’s *always* a crying kid.” I told her that she’d be crying too, if I had just smacked her head on the overhead bin. She calmed down quickly, sat down, and started watching and asking questions. At any rate, the guy who was sitting on her other side ended up playing with My Little Ponies and coloring with her. She had a blast!

    My son, who was with his father, got such good compliments on his behavior, and the lady who was in the seat in front of me said to me after the flight was over. “I’m sorry I was rude about your daughter. She was an absolute pleasure to fly with.” The guy that was sitting next to her told her goodbye and told me that she was a doll. I felt so relieved.

  38. Rebekah December 8, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    What a sweet story!
    I wish I had been so lucky in my travels with my daughter. Once I was flying a midday flight with my daughter. I was happy bc my daughter was happy while I was reading her books. The passenger in front of me passed me a note telling me to be quiet so she could sleep. I don’t like confrontation and didn’t know what to do. So I had to basically whisper the stories innmy daughter’s ear so a grown woman could get her nap.

  39. Laura Noble December 8, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    what an encouraging story, that made me smile 🙂

  40. Library Diva December 8, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    It’s sad how many people get upset about babies crying. They don’t have the words yet to say “I’m cold” I’m hungry” “This hat is annoying my head” “This is boring” or whatever they happen to be feeling. No one likes to hear crying babies and toddler tantrums, and that includes the parents. But you know, that’s the risk of leaving your house. You’ll see something you may not like. If it’s not a crying baby or a toddler tantrum, it’ll be two frat boys having the most inappropriate conversation ever, someone on his cell phone loudly trying to show off how important he is, or my favorite at the grocery store, an elderly person using the cart as a walker and going extra-slow so you not only feel annoyed, you then feel guilty for being annoyed because someday that will be you.

    You’ve got to keep your irritation at all of these things to yourself, though, unless they’re directly doing something to you. If the toddler throws something at you, by all means, speak up. Otherwise, if you’re not going to help, just vacate the area, or put your earphones in. Don’t go making a bad situation worse. And believe it or not, I say this as one with NO CHILDREN.

  41. Cass December 8, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    Love this story.

  42. Tiffany December 8, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    I love this story. I have often wanted to offer to help, but I do hesitate because of the climate of our current society. I do provide general offers of assistance and most often the are rejected,

  43. Dolly December 8, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    This is awesome. I am that woman. Unless I happen to be on a rare evening out with my husband or something, I am always willing to help with someone’s cute kid. I would totally be cool with someone’s kid sitting on my lap and playing with them. At library storytime the other day a little girl can and sat on my lap when her grandmother had to take her baby sibling out of the room because he was crying. I asked the little girl if she wanted to sit with me because she looked scared like she was about to cry. She just trustingly sat on my lap. She sat there awhile before getting up and then wanted to look for her grandmother so I walked her out the door to her grandmother. She trusted me 100%.

    It was nice. Kids are usually very much like that with me. I have the looks and demeanor of a Disney Princess so kids seem to respond to me. I have the long hair and big smile and the sweet voice and kids seem to just respond to it. I always get a little nervous though that some parent might freak out on me for being like that with their kids, but no one ever has. I sometimes get a look, but most are good about it. The way I see it, if you don’t want someone to help your kid, then you need to be there for them. Otherwise I will step in and help. I can’t just stand there and do nothing when I see a kid that needs help.

  44. katrina December 8, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    When my kids were 5 & 7 we flew oversees on an absolutely packed flight. It did not occur to me to panic when my son ended up next to an older man. After an hour, I looked back to see my son fast asleep with his head on this man’s shoulder. I thought is was sweet, not creepy.

  45. Lollipoplover December 8, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    Hooray for nice strangers and good stories like this! I feel instant sympathy for any parent traveling with kids- it’s probably my least favorite part of the trip. I tend to make funny faces to entertain babies seated near me, but crying doesn’t bother me unless it’s my own.

    My favorite “lend a favor” story is when my sister flew up to visit, and the elderly lady seated next to her requested a blanket as she was cold. The airline told her there was a charge, and the woman declined so my sister offered this woman the new parka she just bought as a makeshift blanket. The woman gratefully accepted and wrapped it over her lap. She then took out an extra large bag of FRIED CHICKEN that she had packed for the trip and proceeded to eat it over my sister’s new jacket, greasy fingers and all!

  46. Havva December 8, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    Good story and discussion. I have such a hard time accepting/asking for help with my baby. I expect people will be annoyed with me for asking, and for a time, I though I would be looked down on if I accepted. As though the question really was, are you incapable of being a mother?

    Recently I went to a weekly event with with my baby. And rather than nursing to sleep as she typically does, she wanted to grab everything in site, especially the pizza cutter. Another lady offered to hold her, and being with out any help for the day, I said yes. The lady took my baby, and said to her: “there we go, now mommy can get a bite to eat.” I was so glad I let this lady help. I hadn’t actually planed on eating since I knew I had to manage my baby alone that day. But it was nice to finally see that an offer of help could just be as simple as a person trying to make a mom’s day a little easier. I decided to have some pizza after all, and it was one of the most relaxed meals I have had with my baby around. Baby meanwhile had fun clapping a paper cup and styrafoam plate together.

  47. Claudia Conway December 8, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    A good story that shows what happens when people help parents facing difficulties rather than judging them! A lesson to us all, there, I think.

  48. Melanie December 8, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    We travelled from Australia to Europe with our six and three year old boys last year. I was incredibly apprehensive heading into the flight having heard all the horror stories about people hating kids on planes and knowing that my boys, while well behaved, are the definition of boisterous.

    The boys did behave well – although neither quiet, nor still – and both my husband and I were there, so we didn’t need any help on the plane . . . but what made an enormous amount of difference to me were the different passengers who came up to us after each leg of the flight to tell me how well my boys had done. It allowed me to stop worrying and enjoy the flight. And it’s something everyone can do without fear of parental suspicion or accusation.

    Oh, and on the way back the male flight attendant slipped me something wrapped in a bag and whispered, “For you. It’s hard to be a mum”. It was a spare goodies bag from business class and it (and he) made me feel a million dollars.

  49. Holly M. Barringham December 8, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    I love this story, and it’s obvious this FR Mom planned ahead, and devoted her time and attention to her children. She deserved a helping hand. Unfortunately, most of my recent flights have been a different story. I am unlikely to reach out when the parent refuses to purchase an extra seat and appears to be able to afford one. When I see the i-Phone, expensive handbag, designer clothes and large diamond rings on your fingers…. don’t tell me you “can’t” buy a seat for your child. Stuffing an almost 2-year-old in your lap is a recipe for disaster.
    I’m disinclined to help parents who don’t help themselves. On our last international flight a very pregnant Mom with two young boys sat diagonal and two rows behind us. The 2-year-old had several loud screaming fits strapped into his car seat and no wonder. She ignored both of them! She sat there drinking Coke all night, turned on the video screens, and made no attempt to help them (or her) get some sleep, no stories, few toys (none for the younger one), and zero interaction. Worst of all, no diaper changes for 12 hours! He was tied down from take-off to landing. I’d scream, too.

  50. Taradlion December 8, 2011 at 6:32 am #

    When I see a struggling parent, or even one trying to eat while holding a baby, I offer to take the baby. I hope they won’t refuse for fear of imposing, so instead of saying “Can I help?”, I say, “Can I hold him/her?”. I may even add “I miss having my own” or “I love babies I can give back”…

  51. Tracy December 8, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    awwww, sweet….

  52. Maureen December 8, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    @Lollipoplover….I have to ask – were the (fried) chickens free-range?

  53. olympia December 8, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Steve- Love your old lady story! That was definitely an awesome stranger assist. Sounds like it was effortless on the lady’s part, too! Talk about a pro.

    And I love the original post, too. While not a parent, I did accompany my newly adopted brother, along with our mother, on a flight from Bucharest to NY, and that experience solidified my sympathy for anyone who has to deal with kids for an extended time in public. Going into the flight, I know I was at least as horrified at the thought of dealing with other people’s disapproval as I was with the prospect of dealing with the 4-year-old himself. Kids can be really HARD, no matter what you do, and other people’s disapproval make it so much worse. I’m an aunt, too, and while I’ve never gotten to do a plan ride with my sister and any of her kids, just going to a restaurant with them is also pretty hard. I really do think that most parents do the best they can to keep their kids in line in public- some may act like they aren’t, but it’s entirely possible they’re just too exhausted to do more. Tune out skills and compassion are extremely important.

  54. susana December 8, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    It truly does take a village to raise our children. And as soon as our society gets back to that, the world will be a better place.

  55. Lollipoplover December 8, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    I highly doubt they were. Free range, cruelty free- my sister was horrified as each chunk of greasy flesh hit her new jacket!
    We still laugh about this story and how dreadful travel is these days. Any nice story is truly appreciated!

  56. Donna December 8, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    The first I flew with my daughter she was 6 weeks old. Some really nice grandma-types offered to hold her while I went to the bathroom (thankfully since juggling an infant in those tiny bathrooms would have been impossible). They were real disappointed when I came back out. I now wish that I had let them hold her for longer but I was a brand-new mommy. I hope there are some really nice people on our 20 hour flight next week.

  57. dawnrachele December 8, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    I also love it when strangers help me out when I need help with my kids. Sometimes I’m on the bus with both kids and my 5 year old isn’t holding on for a moment, and someone reaches out and steadies him and helps him to hold on again.
    Sometimes I need help getting my stiller up the stairs when the elevator is broken.
    Sometimes a sales clerk will ask to watch my stroller sleeping child while I try on clothes in the back room.

  58. Lea December 8, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    That was an amazing story that touched my heart. Sometimes I see a mom or dad struggling with a crying baby or toddler or even an older child and I want ot so badly just walk up and say I’ve been there let me help. I find myself hesitating a lot though because I’ve done that before. and keep finding myself turned down and often looked at like I just offered to swing their child around by the ankles instead of just hold them or a bag. Your story reminds me not everybody sees and offer of help as a scary thing so i thinkk I might hesitate a bit less now.

    My oldest daughter, 17, works at a grocery store as a bagger/carry out person. A few weeks ago she took out a rather large cart of groceries for a mom with a toddler and a baby. After the groceries were in the woman was trying to get the toddler into the carseat but the baby was fussing a lot. A bit overwhelmed she asked my daughter if she would mind holding the baby while she got the toddler in. My daughter happily agreed because she’s nice, a people person and loves the babies. When telling the story to others people have been shocked and many found it wrong, that the mom asked my daughter, a stranger to hold her baby. They often make comments like what if the person they asked wasn’t nice or just took the baby. I’m so proud of my daughter for being willing to be helpful and not thinking twice about it. I’m just as saddend that people aren’t seeing the good in people helping people but are instead seeing the fear and thinking the mom crazy for asking for help from a stranger.

  59. Denny December 8, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I have to wonder – have any of you (OP and commenters) stayed in contact with any of these people that you met on planes or stores or subways or other places like that? I’d love to hear those stories too!

  60. Ewok December 8, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    I work in a hospital and a mother with a fussing baby needed to have some blood taken. She couldn’t hold or rock the child while she was having her blood drawn, so while another tech took her blood, I rocked the infant. After that, she needed to go to the washroom and asked if I wanted to hold the baby. 😀 Now, I am not a mother but I love being able to be a caring person (hence a life in healthcare). The baby didn’t fuss at all while I was holding him, although he did spit up.

    I didn’t mind because scrubs wash off easily and I was happy to give this mother a break so she could get all her lab work done and so the baby wouldn’t fuss.

  61. Tom Witt December 8, 2011 at 9:42 am #


  62. wendy December 8, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    That is a wonderful story. I’ve heard some bad ones from folks but generally have always had a good experience flying solo with my two kids. I held kids before for folks though I admit, never for the whole flight. That is impressive.

    On the flip side of the coin there are also overzealous people who react to me passing on their offer of help as a personal judgement on their soundness as a human being.

    Sometimes other people just don’t know what is going on and I’m moving as quickly towards a solution I know will work. I’ve had people actually yell at me when I say no thank you which is so so helpful when I’m already dealing with a meltdown.

    I think this in particular happens with autistic kids when people don’t realize.

  63. Kenny M Felder December 8, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Weren’t you worried that this stranger might grab your daughter, leap out of the airplane with your daughter in one hand and a parachute in the other, land safely, drive off in the getaway car she had planted on the ground below in case of just such an opportunity, and then send you a ransom note?

  64. namastemama December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    This is a wonderful story. Including the praise for this blog and the movement created.

  65. Dolly December 8, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    This reminds me of when I was about 7 and my parents took me to Jamaica. The plane got horribly delayed because they forgot to fill the plane up with gas or something and had to land to put in gas and then take back off again. I don’t know, something crazy. Anyway, I was starving and crying from hunger. A nice lady gave my mom a mini box of Frosted Flakes to give me. I remember that years and years later. She probably just wanted me to hush, but either way it worked!

  66. Michelle Potter December 8, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    So many stories of people helping each other out, this just makes my day! I’m a mom of 7, currently aged 3 to 13, so I definitely know what it’s like to be outnumbered by small children in public. Many times wonderful people have offered help, though I’m sad to say I have almost always turned them down. (I have Social Anxiety Disorder – one of my very unreasonable but very strong fears is that someone will offer me help just to be polite, and be annoyed if I accepted.) I do try to express how grateful I am for the offer!

    I do have one story about a mom needing help in public, though not while traveling. A dear friend of mine has Meniere’s Disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo, nausea and vomiting, hearing loss, and tinnitus. The first time she had an attack, before she knew she was ill, she was alone with her young son in a department store. Suddenly she was sick and dizzy, could barely stand much less walk. As she stumbled to the bathroom with her little boy, not a single person stopped to help or even ask if she was ok.

    I so wish that one of you fine people had been there to help her. I’m glad to know you are out there!

  67. LRH December 8, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    It is great when strangers help, rather than criticize, and that’s the point of this post. If possible, that is what fellow citizens should do, although I say that with some reservations (to come).

    At the risk of hijacking the thread, though, I have to disagree with Mike Rich and Library Diva. In my opinion, the flight attendant was CORRECT in asking the mother to have the child sit in her lap if that would quiet the child down, because other people were bothered by the noise. She was RIGHT. She was NOT a fool. You have to take your responsibility seriously as a parent in terms of doing whatever you can within reason to keep your child quiet out of respect for other people who had nothing to do with the creation of your child & thus are not in anyway responsible for doing any of the grunt work and ESPECIALLY having to listen to noise if it can be helped.

    Before I became a parent, noisy kids in public (especially places like planes, waiting rooms, nicer restaurants, weddings, graduations etc) was a real touchy subject with me, and even as a parent now it still is. I take it VERY SERIOUSLY my responsibility that my child not bother other people in public if it can be helped. Asking someone to wear earplugs is an insult–it’s noise pollution (yes, a child’s crying is noise pollution to others), and I as the parent of the child am the one responsible for handling it as best as I can, AND if a flight attendant is asking me to do something that is going to quiet the child, the flight attendant is RIGHT in doing this. I have NO RIGHT to inflict my child’s noise onto the ears of other people. If they are bothered by it, it must be dealt with on that level, NOT dealt with by telling people to “get over it.” No, no, no.

    I am NOT accusing the original poster of negligence or laziness in ANYWAY AT ALL. I will say, though, that with my own kids, I have always taken a hard line–no noise in public. Period. Whenever they acted up, once they got past infant stage and were 18 months of age or older, I dealt with any such whining swiftly & decisively–even from a discplinary manner if need be. Sometimes I would placate whatever quieted them even if I disagreed with it, other times I discplined, but when I found myself in such situations, the priority was convincing the child to be quiet for the sake of other people

    No parent is perfect, and that includes me, but let me tell you–when we go out to eat or go to purchase groceries, they are quiet and composed. Always. I kid you not. I have not ONCE had one of them do the “throwing themselves on the floor” deal. I have not ONCE had one of them whine because they wanted a hamburger but we were out eating Chinese or Mexican. Maybe I’m lucky as much as anything else, but I tend to think a large part of it is because I’ve always taken a very rigid stance with them–in public, you WILL mind, or else.

    We can even walk by the toys section or the cereal aisle & it only takes the slightest clearing of my throat, and they immediately calm right down–if they were even agitated at all to start with. It’s because I EXPECT it of them, I don’t give a damn that they’re young children, I expect it ANYWAY–and they say children will rise up to the level of expectations you set for them. That goes for behavior AS WELL as being free-range, I think.

    When someone mentioned the problem of judgmental stares or something like that, I think part of the problem is this–people are not only judging you in terms of “are you ever going to quiet that child?,” but they also are very quick to condemn if you are discplinary with the child to make it be quiet. (That’s why, if discipline was the response I chose, I always took the children to the bathroom as opposed to doing any correction in public.) How ridiculous is that–they expect you to make the noise go away, but then they also are prone to criticizing you because they don’t approve of HOW you made the noise go away. Talk about “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

    No, I’m not hear to toot my horn & suggest I’m better than anyone else. That is NOT my intetion. All I am saying is this–expecting people to be tolerant of your noisy child is wrong. You ARE responsible for doing whatever you can within reason to quiet your child down, because other people are under NO OBLIGATION to hear that bratty behavior & have it polluting their ears. Yes, if they are helpful, that is most certainly good, and people should offer to help–and the help should be appreciated if the help isn’t offered in a snotty “holier than thou” judgmental way. People aren’t just trying to help you, they’re looking out for themselves too–they want a quiet flight (and I concur), and so they’re offering to help towards that very appropriate goal.


  68. LRH December 8, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    A quick PS.

    I think part of the problem, and the original poster deserves credit for not being one of these, are parents who refuse help when it’s offered, or become defensive when a suggestion is made towards the goal of keeping a child quiet, even when the suggestion is NOT made in anger or with a judging type of tone with it.

    What the woman did for the mother was great. I have no problem with it, her doing that was certainly a whole lot better than some angry person yelling “WOULD YOU MAKE YOUR CHILD BE QUIET!!” The thing is, though, the parent was apparently trying to quiet her children first, and she was receptive towards the help when it was offered. She wasn’t one of those that let her child be noisy & bother other people & do nothing at all about it. All of that made all of the difference in the world.

    I’m not typically the judgmental snotty “holier than thou” type, but this is one of the exceptions I suppose. I absolutely cannot STAND a parent who has a noisy child & does nothing whatsoever to try & quiet it down. The world isn’t perfect, but a parent should expect quietness and decent behavior from their children, and make efforts towards that end, not ignore it and tell other people to “get over it” or to wear earplugs. And too often, if you offer to help, even with a very nice tone (not yelling “would you shut that child up” or whatever), your offer of help is harshly rejected by a parent who’s too self-defensive.

    Praise to the mother for making efforts towards quieting her child, praise to her for accepting the help from a stranger & not being self-defensive about it, and praise to the stranger for offering to help with no harsh judgmental-ism.


  69. Cheryl W December 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    LRH, thank goodness you haven’t had a baby or toddler with sensitive ears when the pressure changes while going up or down in a plane! The babies/toddlers don’t respond well to the “don’t cry” commands when they hurt! 😉

    Planes are a kind of special situation when it comes to little kids. They are unusual, new and somewhat scary. Add in discomfort, and parents who are upset due to being under pressure that the kids pick up….

    I do my best to prepare my kids for what to expect when we go places. We have discussions (at age early enough to understand) that when we go out to eat we will get led to a seat, sit down, be given water and menus. Then we will decide what to eat. Then the waitress will take our order. Then we wait. And wait. And be quiet. And wait. And finally we will get our food. Then we eat. When kids are done eating, adults will want to talk. Kids have to wait. And so on. So that the kids know EXACTLY what to expect.

    I do the same for flying. But when they are below the age of actually understanding what I say, it really makes no difference.

  70. Regina December 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    First, let me say how very grateful I am to have found FR…I used to be a FR mom when my first round of kids were little, and the result is my daughter is a solo world traveler, backpacking through Asia, one son is in the military and the other is a paramedic. Now once they reached high school, we decided to start all over again and have adopted four children and for some reason this time around, I bought into all the fear and hysteria nowadays and OMGoodness started becoming a Helicopter Mom! Finding FR and you all here has FREED me immensely and brought me back to my senses. THANK YOU! Just yesterday I let my 8 & 10 and 5 y/o walk 4 blocks to the $ store to buy Xmas gifts and they were so proud of themselves! But I digress.

    Traveling oversees for our adoptions has shown me also how very much culture plays into this hysteria. We had just adopted our 5 month son in Vietnam and were eating out and the waitress offered to hold him. Well she practically insisted and I was too tired to argue so I handed him over and was able to enjoy my meal. She went off about her duties, carrying our son around like he was a prize. She passed him off to another waitress when her hands got full and they all took turns till I finished my meal…at one point they even disappeared into the kitchen with him and I must admit I initially felt freaked a little bit with that, but within moments she returned, still smiling and holding our son. And this was not an isolated event. EVERY single time we ate out, the waiting staff would offer to hold our son while we ate. After 6 weeks in Vietnam we got so used to it that when we left our hotel one morning and the girl at the front desk decided it was too cold to take out the baby, she insisted I leave him with her while we ran for more diapers…and uhhmmm.,.we left him with her.(Crazy I know, but that is the culture there and we had been at this same hotel for a month already and knew the staff well) For the flight home, due to circumstances beyond our control I had to travel alone with my son. I wore him in baby sling and he was generally not fussy, but we had an extremely turbulent flight and he kept losing his feedings…all over me. The flight attendant was worse than not helpful; she acted like he was doing this on purpose and was very agitated with me. A very kind Chinese woman (kindness needed no translation) offered to hold my son while I changed and I was so grateful. She held him a number of times on that turbulent flight and then helped me with my carry on bags when we landed. Then once in Chicago…what a night and day experience. It was very difficult for me to pull my luggage off the baggage carousel while holding my 5 month old in the sling, and then go through customs dragging all my bags, yet not a single person offered to help for the rest of my journey home. I guess it must be the paranoid fear we are being fed here in the US and it is so sad. But this is one Mom who always offers to help!

  71. LRH December 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Well Cheryl W, I can appreciate what you are saying. I like it that you threw in the “wink-face,” although I’m not into emoticons. It helps keep the debate pleasant and “light-hearted.”

    You don’t have to explain the lengths you go to for preparing your kids to behave in public, although it’s fine you did and the thing is this–you’re doing your part, you’re preparing your kids for the reality of what those situations are like. Since you are doing that, and not just ignoring it & expecting others to be tolerant of the noise, that’s what I look for. I’d have no problem with someone like you most likely. You may well be doing it the best way also.

    My way has always been based on simply this: I’m the father, I know everything, compared to be you know nothing at all, I’m the boss, I expect you to be quiet, and that’s it. I don’t owe you an explanation as to WHY, you are to not whine for one reason–because I said so. That’s it. Believe me, I am not shy about backing up what I say, they know I mean business. Obviously I don’t abuse, I do NOT condone it nor do I do it, but within what’s appropriate, it’s fair to say that I respond to unnecessary whining the way a wrecking ball responds to a glass window pane. That is: they know beyond any doubt I don’t approve and I won’t have any of it, it doesn’t matter how you feel. Period.

    Obviously you have to be age-appropriate about it (I never expect a newborn infant to be that way obviously) and if they whine for an understandable reason (they bumped their head, took a fall etc) you comfort & comfort abundantly. Give affirmation that you care about what they had happen to them. But unapproved whining over petty stuff? Not even.

  72. Rebeckah December 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    While dating my now husband , he stopped by my work one day on his lunch . ( I worked as a nail tech in a small town salon ) had great relationships with all my clients and “knew” them well . He stepped in the salon and well talking with me ( while working) got a “wiff” of a well baked gift a clients child had freshly made , with no break in conversation he visually seen the dipper bag …swooped up the infant and dipper bag , spread out the changing pad in the salon. Changed the messy dipper , cleaned up the baby , powdered the bum , replaced the infant , washed his hands and as he left kissed me and said he would see me later taking the hot dipper out to the dumpster. About 7 woman sat with mouths a jaw not knowing what to say . ( because think about it so many people would not know how the mother felt … there was an odd feel to the room ) then the eldest of the woman in the room ( apx 68-72 ) said WHO”SSS man was that ? To my reply as I proudly claimed him ( as if the kiss was not enough ) she said I hope you plan on marring him !!! I smiled and said “working on it ” as the rest of the woman chimed in singing his praise ohhh and ahhhing over him.
    He has never been a father , he just seen a need , both for the child and the mother with wet and freshly polished nails !

  73. LRH December 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Forgive me for overposting, but to get back more on topic–Regina, that is great. It is great that you are realizing that there is no reason for the free-range you did with your now grown children to not also be applied to your new child. As Lenore always says, times AREN’T any different than a generation ago, it’s just that the PERCEPTION is that it is. You deserve a big “way to go” for recognizing this & seeking to apply it.

    I have heard many others echo what you’ve said–other cultures seem to be more relaxed than US culture. I have found that Hispanics/Mexicans who live here are much more relaxed and free-range than their US counterparts, right in the same area. Whenever I see kids splashing in the edge of the lake without the parents yelling “get back here!” or hovering within 2 inches of them, 98% of the time they’re Hispanic. The adults are watching about 80 feet or so away talking to each other, totally relaxed and at-ease–but not in a negligent way.

    I’ve seen this numerous times. I make a point, when I see this, to commend the persons for being that way. I think they deserve to be told as such as much as others are deserving of criticism (those who would call social services over a free -range disagreement, etc).


  74. MR December 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    My husband and I were on a flight with our 3 kids, then a 2.5 year old and twin 6 month olds. My twins were still exclusively nursing but my husband and I ended up seated several rows apart (too many to pass babies and even easily talk if we needed to). The people on the plane around us were so great, passing babies back and forth, holding one so each of us could go to the bathroom, and many people told us as they got how well our kids had done. On the flight home near the end the ride was terrible. The plane bounced around in the sky like a boat in a storm and my toddler began to get scared and felt air sick. She cried and cried and cried, and i felt so bad for everyone around us and was worried about being judged as well. After the flight ended several people around me just told me how bad they felt for my toddler and how they all felt like crying too because the flight was so horrible. I felt on both flights everyone was very kind.

  75. gap.runner December 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I never had any problems with my son on airplanes or trains when travelling solo with him. But I’ve relied on the kindness of strangers for “bathroom duty.” When my son was around 4, he refused to go into women’s bathrooms anymore. There were often times when I was out alone with my son and he had to use the toilet. I would ask a man going into the bathroom if he would mind keeping an eye on my son and helping him reach the sink if necessary. My first choices were either men going into the bathroom with a child or someone who looked grandfatherly. But sometimes I didn’t have those options and I asked the first man I saw going into the bathroom for help. Every man that I asked for for assistance was willing to oblige. In Europe people are used to having their kids be more independent at an earlier age. But they also understand that little boys (and girls too) sometimes need help reaching the sink faucets, soap dispensers, or paper towel dispensers in public bathrooms.

  76. Ren Höek December 8, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    In the defense of Mike, not that I advocate screaming kids (believe me I don’t), but it seems as the flight attendant was stating the obvious in a likely dissonant tone; additionally it seems as Mike and his family wasn’t showing any dissrespect to the riders on board (ex: shut up, wear earplugs, showing disregard, etc. I for one hate it when others offer no assstantance other than denouncing you in front of others. It just causes more of a scene and nobody gains anything other than feeling worse than the situation started.

  77. Betty Rich December 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    As Mike’s wife (still!) and the mother who “threw” the tray “at” the stewardess – I didn’t throw it at her – I did slam it down out of sheer frustration that the flight attendant couldn’t have waited to serve my meal a little after my husband was served his so that I could hold our son. One thing Mike didn’t say was that I think our son was bothered by pressure in his ear and was howling – and I was indeed very uncomfortable about disturbing others AND that the flight attendant wanted me to shut up our son. It simply isn’t that simple – but yes – I was angry at her – embarrassed after the fact and very hungry! No excuse – our 30 year old son is a really nice man now – and I’m still a little embarrassed!

  78. Myriam December 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Don’t worry Betty, I’m sure a lot of us sympathise. And the thing that is often not taken into account is that the carer of the screaming child is usually equally stressed if not far more so than the other people in earshot who are not the child’s parent.

    By the way, lovely to read comments that are all about compassion and helping other parents out. It certainly makes a refreshing change.

  79. Dave December 8, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    Wonderful story. One more success to push back the fear that everyone is out to get everyone else. Thank you for posting this.

  80. Library Diva December 9, 2011 at 12:08 am #

    @ LRH, see, I don’t think people have any sort of “right” to much of anything when they’re out in public. They have a right not to be assaulted or made to feel unsafe. They don’t have any sort of right to be shielded from offensive language, crying babies, cell phone d-bags, couples who are arguing, etc. Yes, it’s true, none of these ways are ideal ways to behave in public, but there also aren’t any laws against acting like that.

    You also don’t know the backstory of every single person you run across. They could be having a difficult enough time without some random person feeling the need to chastise them because they can’t stand the fact that things in the grocery store aren’t exactly as they are in their own living room. I just think people need to lighten up about others’ conduct, and stop taking such personal offense to everything they run across that they don’t like. Go about your business, you’re not the judge and jury of everyone you run across, and find better things to worry about than the behavior of one of the other 7 billion people on the planet whose life happened to overlap with yours for a few moments.

  81. K December 9, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    @LRH – You are describing an authoritarian rather than an authoritative parenting style. You might look into the literature on providing choices and empowering kids to make good ones. You might find some ideas.

    @Kristi – your story is amazing, James Brown!!! Wow!

    To the person that carries extra juice boxes for kids – you must not have flown recently. You can’t carry much of any fluid on board now, unless you buy it after security.

    We have traveled extensively with our three. One observation: my husband always got the knowing and kind glances in unfortunate circumstances (no pants due to accidents, children hungry or sloppy-looking or whatever as can happen during travel). When we passed the same child to me, I got accusatory glares. Culturally, any father doing his best (even if not perfect) is to be sainted, but our expectation is that mom will have enough spare pants/snacks/wipes/etc. for any circumstance.

  82. Johanna December 9, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    I have 10 month old twins and their dad is a very active local musician. I have always taken the girls to gigs when they were at appropriate venues (he plays a lot of coffee houses). When they were 4 or 5 months old, we were at a gig and it was time to give them their bottles. While I was feeding the first one, the second one flipped out on me. A very kind gentleman whose name I never learned offered to feed the first girl while I got the second one. When he was done feeding her, she sat on his lap and stared at him, eventually smiling, and they sat and listened to the music together for 20 or 30 minutes. At a break, she and her sister got shuffled around the band and eventually returned to me. It never once occurred to me that this would be somehow unsafe or inadvisable and I have since repeated the basic scenario at many of my husband’s gigs.

  83. tdr December 9, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    These are all great stories. I especially like the one about James Brown!

    This comment really irks “if you can’t handle them you shouldn’t have had them”.

    I guess it’s hard for non-parents to take it when kids act “as individuals” (euphemism for “can’t be controlled by their parents).

    When someone says something obnoxious like that to me, I think to myself “Twenty-five years from now perhaps the grown version of this person will save your life in the emergency room.” I bet if they knew that M.D.who saved their life was the same toddler who annoyed them on a plane 25 years earlier they would take back that thought.

  84. LRH December 9, 2011 at 2:29 am #

    Library Diva I SOMEWHAT agree with you except for the crying baby thing. I DEFINITELY think people need to lighten up about so-called “cell phone douche bags.” Unless they’re yelling so loud you can hear them in Italy, it’s none of your business.

    But I do think noise pollution is a serious problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially in the US. From what I’ve read places like Europe take it more seriously, so much so there’s a city in Italy (I forget the name) where you can go to jail if your dogs bark & you don’t control them. I say “right on” to that. People LOVE to make excuses for how they can’t help what their dog does. Nonsense.

    Also, Harley Davidson has to make their motorcycles quieter in Europe vs here, things like that. Dishwashing machines have to be quieter. I’d like to see that sort of thing here.

    All of that said, though, again, I like it when you have helpful examples such as the one that’s the topic of this thread. Community is a great thing.

  85. forsythia December 9, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    When I was boarding for Boston to Dublin, there was a rather large family in the boarding area.

    They sent the older kids to an empty gate where they would not bother anybody, and those older kids started playing energetic chase games with the little ones.

    Shortly before boarding, the parents came over and fed the youngest ones.

    Shortly after take off, all the small children were sound asleep.

  86. forsythia December 9, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    I’ve taken little ones on multiple cross-country trips. The best way to prevent as much squalling as can be prevented is to pack something for them to suck on.

    You don’t have to bring the liquids, just cups and bottles. Fill them after you pass security. Give them to your child during take off and landing (if you aren’t nursing or can’t hold onto two at once).

    Pack gum for yourself and older kids.

    Too many people are unaware of this, and that it is far worse for the kids. Leaving Phoenix once, the pressure change was brutal and the poor mom next to me was so exhausted from flying from India to LA to Phoenix that she was dead asleep. When her 3-year old woke up in pain, I quickly retreived his sippy cup from their travel bag and he quieted immediately.

  87. Krista December 9, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    LRH, I understand your position on children and noise, but I do have issue with your authoritarian style of parenting. And, yes, I am going to preface this with the fact I was raised in a very similar environment that you are explaining. It was very hard growing up with the knowledge that my parents thought my experiences and emotional reactions were worth less than complete strangers that are expecting developmentally inappropriate expectations of children. Having to completely conform to my father’s wills and wishes just because he said so has led to a decade of intense depression, the cutting off of my dad from my children because he will not allow them to deviate from his control, and landing myself in therapy because I feel like an utterly worthless human being.

    No, I’m not a huge whiner, contrary to what you might be thinking of right now. I am and always have been a person, but my parents decided to not treat me like a real live person because it made them and others more comfortable. I take issue with that.

    My children (newly 4 and almost 2) are well-behaved in public, but I wouldn’t dream of expecting them to suppress a natural response to strong emotions. We removed them from the situation until they’re able to carry on, and we do not shame them for feeling something out of their control. It is possible to respect your children and others around you.

  88. LRH December 9, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Krista So be it. I mean no disrespect, but my children will be expected to behave in public, air pressure in the cabin notwithstanding (if that were the situation). Period. It does NOT matter how they feel, how they feel is IRRELEVANT to what is acceptable behavior. And to me, screaming your head off in the airplane for any reason other than, say, your hair is on fire, is not acceptable & thus not allowed.

    Even if they were, say, sick with a tummy ache, even THAT does not give them license to whine endlessly the entire flight & make life stressful for other people who had nothing to do with your sickness. A little bit of expression at first, sure, you don’t expect them to smile like they’re at Disney Land. However, license is not granted for them to whine the entire flight coast-to-coast either.

    That is not to say their feelings are irrelevant, but merely that they aren’t a license to go ballistic & put others through needless pain in the process. And as for them vs strangers, the point is this: you are my child & I love you, to me you’re special, but to the world at large, you’re nothing special whatsoever. You’re no more important than anybody else out there–if anything, you’re a child in an adult’s world so in a way of sorts that actually would make your concerns LESS important.

    To do otherwise is to spoil them, in my opinion. That you feel the way you do is fine in & of itself, but it’s irrelevant to me personally. I don’t mean to be nasty, if I am then please accept my apology. But just because your response to your father’s style of parenting is to cut him off out of bitterness 20-odd years after the fact is not an indictment of that style of parenting in my opinion.


  89. Krista December 9, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I understand your world view, LRH. However, I did not cut my father out due to bitterness, I cut him out due to abuse and the potential for it getting worse. But you can see it how you need to.

  90. LRH December 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Krista No problem. You were there, I wasn’t, so you could know.

    Also, I have no problem with respecting a child’s feelings. I don’t intend to be like a military sergeant, all gruff etc. The thing is just that, their feelings aside, and yes you do need to grant some latitude of it being acceptable within certain boundaries for them to EXPRESS how they feel, nonetheless it’s not a license to go totally crazy with it. I certainly recall how when, when I was young, if I was taken to a hospital in pain for something that happened & I was yelling loudly, they would take me to a back room so I could express my pain all I wanted but not bother other people. Sure, based on what had occurred, I didn’t deserve a lecture per se, but the people not wanting to hear all that drama obviously still mattered, and was catered to.

    On a plane, if one can’t be secluded to a “scream room,” they just have to learn to squelch it. Others would say the others can just get over the fuss. A respectful difference of opinion exists there, nothing more. Regardless, when you have persons coming together to help a parent who’s trying the best they can, that is definitely a good thing.


  91. Krista December 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    LOL, I am pretty sure we’re agreeing. I take my kids out of public situations if they have to express loudly. And if I were on a plane I would do my darndest to soothe a screaming child out of respect of others. In my childhood situation it was unthinkable for my father to even allow us to feel anything but happiness. We weren’t allowed to cry, even in private. My sister was once told by my dad that is we were in a hostage situation and she were crying he would kill her. So I am sensitive to children being treated like that, like robots.

    I truly believe you and I have had a misunderstanding. I am sorry if I offended you. I was doing my crusading thing, but I really didn’t mean to step on toes. I have a strong belief that parents get to raise their kids as long as abuse (emotional, spiritual, and physical) and neglect aren’t present.

  92. Jennifer December 9, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    This summer, I worked as a Forest Service naturalist on the Alaska ferries and there were several times I tried to come to the rescue of parents. I offered up crayons and coloring sheets, even a short kid’s program although I didn’t have one scheduled, trying to help get kids settled in especially if they were visitors.

    A few parents alone were regular ferry travelers – one mom had a two year old and a six month old. She set them up to play together and popped in and out for the six hour trip – smoke break, food, change a diaper for the baby, potty break for the older one and folks would keep an eye on the baby while she zipped out. One new mom happened to sit near a group of 50-something women traveling together who offered up to watch her baby while she took a short walk or got something to eat. The little girl slept most of the trip, each women taking a few minutes to play grandma. They were all complete strangers. I’ve been asked to hold a little one while a solo parent made a quick bathroom run or to grab something to eat or watch a sleeping baby for the same reason. Granted I’ve been through a thorough background check and the uniform carried weight but as a mom who has also traveled solo with my daughter, I want to repay past kindness.

  93. victoria December 9, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    @Kristi — that is the BEST story!

  94. LRH December 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Krista It’s fine, no harm/no foul. I do agree, also, about parents being left alone to parent as they please so long as there is no abuse, and so long as it isn’t significantly publicly disruptive.


  95. SabsDkPrncs December 10, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    As a childless person, I now always avoid contact with children, because I’ve been yelled at by parents too many times. Fetched a ball for a group of kids over the fence then made a joke resulted in a passive-aggressive note on my car the next day. Allowing a 4 year old to put my groceries on the belt at the checkout resulted in his mother grabbing him and yelling at him for talking to strangers (although we didn’t speak at all). A kid at an airport yanked on my hair to get my attention and I made a couple shadow puppets on the wall for him, until his mother put her magazine down and moved to another seat. So if a child was screaming on an airplane, I’d ignore it. Now, I’m not creepy looking, I’m an average sized 30-year old American female. But if I can avoid interaction with children, I will, and it’s not because of the kids, it’s because of their parents.

  96. Michelle Potter December 10, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    SabsDkPrncs, how sad that those parents are cutting themselves and their kids off from the rest of the world due to completely baseless fear. 🙁

  97. fuingala December 13, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    “I have never believed that the phrase “it takes a village” referred to the notion that the mainstream dictate how all children were raised, but rather that as a community we offer help and understanding when parents need it (while still letting them call the shots).”

    ^^ THIS.

  98. oaflet December 13, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    At Petra, in Jordan, we sat down to eat at the hotel restaurant.
    With a fussy 6-month old baby. The waiter picked up the kid,
    carried him overhead around the dining room, passed him to
    someone else who shuttled around the hotel with him (maybe
    passing him off to others — I didn’t see) and as we finished
    dessert returned him, fast asleep.

  99. baby-paramedic December 13, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    I fly a fair bit, mostly domestic flights.

    When I was 16 I was on my first ever solo flight (as in, sans parents). Our plane got horribly delayed, and ended with an emergency landing (brace position and all), as we overshot the runway and landed in the field.
    It was a flight with a few different stops to small towns along the way to drop off supplies (it was flood season, so various towns had been cut off, and the airport and hospital are always built on the highest bit of land). And there was a screaming toddler behind me.
    I don’t mind crying babies. But, even the most tolerant person is going to be a bit over screaming/crying/loud fussing after three hours.
    But then I found out something about this little toddler.
    This toddler (and the mother) had spent the previous three days fleeing the country the father was posted in, as it erupted into war. The poor mother had had to leave her husband, in order to keep their child safe. The child had been awake and travelling for three days.
    I would be unhappy too!

    So, since then, I offer help to anyone struggling with the small ones in airports. I have been refused, I have been yelled at. But mostly I find greatful parents!

  100. Mel December 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    I did this a few years back. Two young girls had to sit apart from Mom and Dad and there are 3 kids and only 3 seats to the row. So these 2 youngens were with me. The fight was delayed on the tarmack and mom was loosing her patience with the 3 kids since they would take turns freaking out. I started to talk to the 2 girls and kept them busy so Mom could keep the littlest calm. I’m a mom too so I was missing my girl and this was a wonderful way for me to help out another mom.

  101. Nikki January 18, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    If I was ever on a plane with a screaming toddler I would help other passengers by having the kid removed from the plane. My version of a happy ending here is if parent and kids had been removed from the plane without a refund.

  102. KrystalSkye January 18, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Ah the neverending drama of having to suffer being a parent. You were on the verge of tears, and a woman behind you helped. How about first, considering if you’re a parent, and a tantrum from a child brings you to such a crippling level of hopelessness, that the help of a stranger appears as a worthy of a Lifetime Movie event, you most likely need psychiatric help and depression meds.

    The only people who appreciate these histrionics, are other equally histrionic parents. Children die every day from starvation. Yet here you are practically in a fetal position, sucking your thiumb, because your child has a tantrum? Which one of you is the parent? I don’t think it serves your child to be raised by a parent, who meltdowns herself because her child behaves like a child.

    What’s next, your post about the dramatic experience of pleading with your child not to open candy, the way a wife begs her abuser not to beat her again. i saw this in person, the mother was holding up the line, while acting as if she didn’t give her child candy, when they got home the child would belt her.

    How about we start expecting age appropriate behavior from parents. Such as, not having hysterical fits out of seemingly nowhere at the grocery store. To putting on your big girl panties when you go on the plane, and trying not to end up as a pathetic sobbing heap should your child get upset over somethng. You can play Scarlette O’hara whever you wish at home, but in public people don’t want to see an emotionally unbalanced woman appearing to be raising a child. Most people don’t want to think that child has to go home with a mother who has wild mood swings that frightens their child.

    If you’re curling up in a ball just because your child has a fit, I don’t think you’d be strong enough to raise him free-range and send him out into the big bad world. What if he gets a boo boo, then you’ll have to come back and talk about how the scrape made you sob in uncontrollable heaves, as you struggled desperately to put a Band Aid on it.

  103. Krista January 19, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    Really, Krystal? Being on the verge of tears is the same as “curling up in a ball,” “pathetic sobbing heap,” “emotionally unbalanced,” and being “practically in a fetal position, sucking your thumb…” Wow, I never knew. Thanks for the emotion lesson. [/sarcasm]

  104. Pismo January 19, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    How about you just don’t have any kids to pack on top of the billions already here to save us all this, and a host of other problems?

    Whenever I see this sort of behavior, I just wish that the mother will shoot the kid(s), and then herself (so as not to have any more, and to keep the justice system costs down.)


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