We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Is It OK to Skip School for Vacation?

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Maybe a postcard would smooth things over with your child's teacher? ©www.zazzle.co.uk

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

From the looks of things, you are both used to traveling with your children. But I have to ask, do you ever let them miss school to go on a family vacation?

Next week (in 8 days to be exact, but who’s counting?) we are leaving for a cruise with our two children and my parents. For a number of reasons, including the fact that it was less expensive, we chose to do this the week before their school closes for spring break instead of during the actual week they are off.

My husband and I didn’t think it would be a big deal for them to miss five days (at least not in first and third grade). So I was surprised when one of my friends told me that she couldn’t believe I was doing this. She happens to be a teacher and so I guess she has more insight on it than I do. But are they really going to fall that far behind by missing a few days of school? Would you ever pull your kids out of school for a vacation?

–Totally Truant

Suzanne: I’m probably the wrong one to ask, because in my mind an ideal education is the biggest, longest vacation you could imagine. If I had my choice (and the funds to back it up) I would take my two children on a trip around the world, teaching them about history and different cultures first hand. We would learn math in miles and time zones. All that foreign vocabulary would mean something. We might even meet a nice monk who could teach them meditation and then they would become zen little children. But enough about my fantasies.

What you are asking is a valid question, and one which deserves an entirely realistic answer. By taking your children out of school for a few days and bringing them on a family vacation, you are just exposing them to a different type of learning experience. And you shouldn’t feel guilty in the least (even if your vacation is more about portholes than rose windows).

The last time we took a vacation — and took the kids out of school — my son filled 16 pages in his journal without being asked. He wrote furiously as we drove up the southern Californian coast. He sketched his own versions of the 18th century European paintings we saw at the Getty Museum. In the back of the San Diego Mission, the architectural ruins captivated him. We even fit in his first college tour — to USC — as if that wasn’t inspiration enough to keep getting good grades. And in the end, he returned to school with great stories to share with his teacher and the class (but it still didn’t get him out of all of the class work and homework he had missed).

If I were you, I would reassure your teacher friend that of course you have the best interest of your children at heart and that nowhere does it say that the only way a child can learn is within the four walls of a school building. There are endless benefits to a change of scenery, not to mention in spending time with those who are closest to them. Tell her how much you are looking forward to them trying out new things and creating memories with their siblings, parents and grandparents — something that doesn’t get much priority during the school year when there’s homework to do and a full slate of activities. And if she’s still not convinced, you can always invite her to come along.

Amanda: Whatever you do, please don’t pass my contact info on to your friend because she’d probably give me a hard time too — in a few short weeks my family is going on a week-long vacation to DisneyWorld and  like you, we are taking our two older kids out of school for the duration (don’t tell them though — it’s a surprise!).

So obviously I don’t have a problem with it. This upcoming trip is the longest our kids will miss school for reasons other than illness, but we’ve done it before, with little to no repercussions. Maybe their teachers would beg to differ, but my position is, my kids (in the second and fifth grades) are doing just fine in school and although they will miss quite a bit, I’m confident in the abilities of myself and (mostly) my husband to catch them up.

What we’ll do this time (and it’s worked well in the past) is to ask the teachers ahead of time for any missed assignments. We’ll dedicate an hour or so each day to doing what we can to get done — the remainder will be completed on our return. We also try to keep a daily journal and incorporate learning into our activities. For example, the car ride from the airport to the resort may be spent observing and talking about the area we are visiting. Is the city bigger or smaller than where we live? Where do the people work? Where are the schools? What are the similarities and differences between where we currently are and where we come from (things like weather, forms of transportation, etc.)?

Having said all this, in booking our trip we were pretty cognizant of what was going on academically (as it sounds like you were too). The two weeks before we leave my elder boy has standardized tests — I wouldn’t pull him out during that time, nor in the weeks leading up to it. The same would stand if we were looking at a science project that was due or some other important assignment.

What it boils down to for me is knowing what your kids are capable of. If you are comfortable with letting them miss, by all means, sit back in your lounge chair and relax!

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Have you ever had your kids miss school in favor of a vacation? How did the teacher react?

If you’ve got a problem that needs twice the opinion, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com

Best Of: Family Vacation Spots

This was our mountain-top paradise for a week. What's your favorite spot for a family vacation? © We Are Both Right

Was it that cabin at the lake? Or the beach in Mexico?

No matter how close or far it may have been from home, every family has a favorite vacation spot. Or two. Or three.

If you could go back every year, you would. But in the meantime, you can recall the sound of the ocean rolling in as the kids played contentedly for hours in the sand. The whole family still laughs at the mention of a mountain goat, because, well you remember that time at the zoo. And still nothing has ever come close to the homemade ice cream you had three years ago in that sleepy little town in Vermont.

Here we share a few of our favorite vacation spots — all five-star family-friendly rated in our book. Add a few of yours, and we’ll be ready with the bags packed.

AMANDA:
Estes Park, Colorado: Our ultimate vacation, the one we judge all others by. Normally our trips are on the shorter side — four or five days max — but for this sojourn to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, we took a full week. We traveled with Suzanne and her family and then met my husband’s brother and his wife and young son (they are lucky enough to live in the Denver area) there. I have so many wonderful memories from that trip — getting caught in a thunderstorm atop the Rocky Mountains; a stumbled upon, amazing meal in a French restaurant on Bastille Day; watching my kids catch their first fish in a stocked pond — I could write pages upon pages of our wonderful time and still have more to add. A perfect mix of relaxation and activity, made even more amazing that we got to spend it with our dear friends and family, we are constantly promising ourselves we will go back soon.

Cruise to Canada: A few years ago, before our third child came along, we took a cruise to two different ports in Canada with our two school-age children and my parents. We had a ball. While we grown-ups enjoyed the scenery, the expeditions and the country and just being on vacation, I don’t think the kids even cared where we were going. They embraced cruise ship life like seasoned travelers, running from buffet to buffet; going for dips in the hot tub (even though we went in late June/early July it was too cold for the pool); dancing till the wee hours of the morning to the various bands on board and laying out on lounge chairs, sipping their mocktails. They cried — sobbed — when it was time to leave, begging us to stay on board just a bit longer. And whenever we start talking about where we’d like to go on our next trip, I swear they both start humming the theme to “The Love Boat.”

Niagra Falls, New York: One of the more visually-stunning trips we have ever been on, Niagra Falls was also incredibly family friendly. We were lucky enough to have a hotel room that overlooked the falls, so we spent plenty of time just gazing out of our window. We went in April so unfortunately, many things were closed, but we made the most of what was open, going on countless hikes near and around the falls and just wandering through the town. I wasn’t sure if our kids would be old enough to grasp the magnitude of what they were seeing, but one “WHOA!” out of my son and I knew they were able to appreciate it as much as I did.

SUZANNE:
San Diego, California: Sandwiched in between a first trip to Disneyland and a few days in Los Angeles, the time we spent in San Diego this past fall was nothing short of perfect. The glorious weather was the ultimate backdrop for splashing in the Pacific, exploring the enormous San Diego Zoo, and eating at sidewalk tacquerias for dinner. We drove the length of Coronado and saw everything from naval ships to birds of paradise in the Hotel del Coronado gardens. Even the kelp on the beach intrigued my son. It was also the first trip to be seared into my daughter’s permanent memory and to hear her talk about it months later, she just might always equate vacation with California.

Estes Park, Colorado: Since Amanda took up her allotted space but could have used more to talk about this awesome vacation spot, I can pick up where she left off. That tri-family trip we took had fun built in from the start. Our kids could have stayed in the cabin-like condo all day and waited for the bears to show up, and still had fun. But the fact that we took long rides through the national park which was literally outside our door made it all the more exciting. They saw moose and elk up close. We rode above the tree line and had snowball fights in July. They ended each evening with a confection or two from the caramel apple/ice cream shop downtown. And we all got our fill of that pure mountain air — just thin enough that they went to sleep by 9 every night.

Acadia National Park, Maine: This was a road trip for us the summer our son turned two. Not knowing just how much he would get out of it, we were pleasantly surprised. The sailboat ride we took found him nestled between two of the captain’s golden retrievers, playing tunes with spoons as he watched his Daddy try his hand at hoisting the sails. The car ride through the national park was one of the more manageable we have taken in any part of the country, since it really only took an hour or two to stop along the way at the scenic overlooks and enjoy a lunchtime picnic of lobster rolls. And since it’s always the unexpected experiences which make a trip for us, we reveled in the freedom to walk through downtown Bar Harbor at night, sampling lobster ice cream and letting off some pre-bedtime steam with the little one at a concert on the lawn.

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What about you and your family? Where is your favorite family vacation spot? Comment below or visit our Facebook page and read where others like to go when they get away.

If Driving a Minivan is Lame, I Don’t Want to Be Cool

I love being a mom. Even the dorky parts. I embrace them all. The jeans. The hair. The car.

© Volkswagen

© Volkswagen

I drive a minivan, and I’m proud.

I must confess that I am a minivan convert — not because I didn’t like them though. A minivan was never in our vehicular plan because we never we thought we needed one, not when we drove a big SUV.

In fact, with a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, we thought maybe our days of big, boxy autos were done. Gone were the days of carting around Pack N’ Plays and strollers and booster seats and other assorted baby gear.

Heh.

During the summer of 2008, when gas prices were at their peak (the first time), in the name of being eco- and wallet-friendly, we traded in our gas-guzzling SUV for a smaller sedan. At the time, it was a responsible decision. A family of four did not need a vehicle that could seat eight, tow a small building and transport all of the contents of a mid-sized country around with them. So after ten years of driving a truck, we downsized. And we were happy.

And then we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant. What was I saying about cars and mid-sized countries?

For a while, T. and I were in denial about our car needs. Our car, a mid-sized sedan, would hold all of us just fine, we reasoned. Sure the back seat might be a little cramped with three kids in it and we might have to sit on the trunk to get it to close, but we’d manage.

About two months before S. graced us with his presence, as part of our getting ready for baby undertakings, T. decided to install the car seat in order to a) be prepared and b) make sure we had enough room. At first everything seemed OK. Despite their very close proximity to one another, the kids were getting along just fine. Great!

Then five minutes later the novelty wore off.

“He’s touching me.” “She looked at me.” “His butt is touching my butt.” As the litany of complaints went on and on, T. and I realized we had only a few options:

  1. Ignore them and hope S. could sleep in the car despite the squabbles.
  2. Invest in one of those privacy screens that you find in limos.
  3. Buy a new car.

Option one was incredibly tempting (heck, we started to price out option two), but we realized we probably weren’t being very fair to C. At the time he was eight years old, 4 feet, 8 inches tall (and growing) and weighing in at about 75 pounds (and growing). Tall and lean, with long legs, he was literally folded into his meager space like a Jacob’s Ladder, crushed between two car seats.

Minivan city, here we come.

I loved it the second I sat in one in the showroom. The extra space. The third row seating. All the randomly placed places to put things. Anything — your cup, your change, an industrialized size tub of butter. (The kids were excited too, until they discovered that we in fact, did not order the model with the space-age entertainment system.) I loved it all. And now, nearly two years into driving it, I could care less about the stigma that a minivan carries with it (along with its stow ‘n go seating).

I love that when we go on road trips, I can pack with reckless abandon, bringing whatever it is I think we may need. That I can go to the wholesale club store and not give a second thought to whether or not the ultra-big package of 100 paper towel rolls on sale for $5.99 will fit. That I always have a private place to change S.’s diaper (or get changed myself if need be). Breastfeeding on the go was never a problem, as I positioned myself way in the back, tinted windows working their privacy magic. When it rains at C.’s little league games, the minivan is our (large) refuge, with plenty of space for toddler S. to move around.

(That I can’t hear the children fighting when I’m driving and they are sitting all the way in the back.)

What kind of car do you drive? Suzanne drives a minivan, but she’s less than thrilled — it reminds her a bit too much of her teenage years.

Finally Saying Good Bye to the Minivan?

To borrow a segment from Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others, by the time I finish my song (blog post)?”

High school senior. New driver’s license. Cruising with friends. Minivan.

Clear as day, huh? So was the oversized windshield on the late model maroon Chrysler minivan my parents let me borrow for my road test and every weekend after I got my driver’s license. I guess I was lucky just to have a car to drive, but a minivan? Way to torture a teenager.

I’m trying to recall if my friends ever insisted on spending their own gas money, just to avoid the humiliation of pulling up in a minivan. Then again, I do remember picking up and dropping off enough extra passengers that I occasionally missed my curfew.

Some good fortune changed the tide though. I got a full scholarship to college and my parents were able to justify buying me my own car because, as my father put it, I wasn’t going to cost them anything more.

Glad to ditch the minivan for a somewhat cooler blue four-door sedan, I never looked back. My new wheels saw me through college and ended up being our ride home the night of our wedding. A few years later, we traded that car in for a used Ford Explorer (my all-time favorite vehicle) just in time for our cross-country road trip. Then came the GMC SUV and a Saturn sedan, which was the car M. drove the day we brought our son home from the hospital.

No sooner was our firstborn walking that my husband decided a minivan was in order. I can’t tell you exactly how he talked me into it, despite my insistence that we didn’t need a large family car, with just one small child and plans to wait at least a few years before trying for a second.

But then I got a call at work, asking what color I wanted our new Toyota Sienna to be. He was standing in the dealership. The next night we picked it up. I didn’t even have time to make peace with my new status — because before I knew it, I was a full-fledged suburban soccer mom. Aggghhhhh.

At least the color was sophisticated — a charcoal grey. But really nothing could disguise the sloped nose and bulk of my automatic-sliding-door-equipped mom-strosity. I was far from sleek or chic, or any other form of hip mama that I strived to be.

I can swear that I got sideways looks at our day care center of all places — the kind that insinuated I was out of my mind to have one child and be driving a seven-passenger car. On the way to work, I would have flashbacks to my high school days and calculate how soon we would be through this phase, only to realize we were in it for the long haul. We had bought, not leased this car — er, minivan.

Seven years later and 134,000 miles in, I am still a mom with a minivan.

© Sean Dreilinger

In hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad call on the part of my husband (who had wanted a minivan ever since we were in college — only because his hockey bag full of equipment was a tight fit in the trunk of his two-door coupe). I’ll give it to him that the minivan did make it easier to travel with our dog in her crate, as well as a car seat, stroller, and all of the other paraphernalia that comes with a baby.

And before we knew it, Baby #2 had arrived. I still remember piling into the car at the hospital, looking back at our two children, and saying to my husband, “We’re finally using this car to its fullest potential.”

But before he could utter an I-told-you-so, I reminded him that he also doesn’t drive it every day. He’s not the professional woman whose first impression screams “mommy” when she picks up a consultant, visits a prospect, or heads out to a tour — all with a portable potty in the back seat. As if the spit-up on the shoulder of my suit didn’t already give me away, the minivan sure did.

And so my love/hate relationship with the minivan is still going strong. There are days when I praise its functionality, like when I can hop into the car during a blowing rainstorm, buckle in the kids, and climb into the driver’s seat without getting drenched. It also holds our groceries snuggly in the well behind the third row of seats, so that I never have to worry about a gallon of milk knocking around and busting open like I do when driving our SUV.

My favorite thing about our minivan is that it’s a room on wheels. We can use the aforementioned potty seat at football games and while out shopping, all in the complete privacy of our folded-down seats turned bathroom. I can also let S. run around and play in the same space when L.’s football practices turn especially cold and she’s had enough of being cooped up in her car seat.

But lately, I find myself cursing its shortcomings. Both passenger doors always freeze in their tracks, conveniently on the way to work when I don’t have time to wait for a car to defrost. It’s not the best ride in the snow, and I can’t continue to justify driving 50 miles a day by myself in a car made for seven.

As much as I’ll hate to give up my fully paid minivan when it bites the dust, I’m thinking along the lines of an all-wheel drive sedan — a Subaru maybe. Not exactly the fast pass to being a cool mom, but at least I’m making progress.

Amanda’s more at peace with the idea of a minivan than I am. At least for now.

Is a minivan your dream ride or more like your worst nightmare?

On the Road Again…No Entertainment Necessary

© Chrysler

© Chrysler

When my husband T. and I decided to buy a minivan nearly two years ago, a few weeks before our youngest child was born, my two older kids were unbelievably excited. Like jumping up and down, cheering, high-fiving, getting along with their sibling, overjoyed.

I was happy about the purchase too, but I couldn’t figure out where their enthusiasm was stemming from. We were buying a minivan, not an ice cream truck (how cool would that have been?), a fact I reviewed with them more than once. I never knew kids could be so invested in a car.

Anyway, the big day arrived and off the four of us went (nine months pregnant, I waddled) to the car lot where we picked up our newest vehicle. We settled into our seats and T. and I expectantly turned to our sweet children, waiting for their celebrating to really begin now that they were actually sitting in our new wheels.

Heh.

They were sitting in silence. Not pleased.

Apparently, when our kids heard us say “minivan,” what they actually heard us say was “minivan entertainment system with built-in DVD player, headrest speakers and dual swivel LCD screens.”

Trust me, we said minivan. I don’t think I’ve ever said “dual swivel LCD screens” until just now (and technically, I typed it).

Not to go all “back in my day we walked six feet in the snow uphill both ways and we liked it” on you, but unless we are driving more than two hours (and mind you, that’s two hours after we spend an additional two hours in the car getting past the bridges and tunnels that connect the region where we live to the rest of the country) then my kids can read, or play video games or gasp! talk to their parents. (And honestly, we have to be in the car for at least an hour — the car ride to grandma and grandpa’s house before I allow them to break out their DSs.)

I just don’t see the need for some form of entertainment when we are driving, especially when we aren’t going very far. (And trust me, with the way I get lost,  I’m entertainment enough. Plus, I sing along to the radio and of course I’m awesome.) I want my kids to see where  they live. To be aware of what’s going on. To see how their community changes and stays the same, even in the short time they’ve been on the planet.

And when we are on vacation, I want them to see where and how other people live. We talk about the difference in locations, how where we are compares to our town and the major metropolis closest to us. We look at the homes that people live in, the stores they shop at and the schools they go to.

Besides, what’s a road trip without a few heated rounds of License Plate Bingo and I Spy?

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As it turns out, when we go on long car rides with Suzanne and her family, our kids are all miserable together. Where We Meet Week continues, as Suzanne explains why if Jack Kerouac didn’t need a portable DVD player, than neither do her children.

Look Out the Window. The World is Your TV.

© We Are Both Right

John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac got by without the portable DVD player. And so can my kids (and I).    

When another mom asked Amanda and me recently where we stood on the subject of portable DVD players on car rides with kids, we each responded with a number. It represented the minimum number of hours our kids would have to spend in a car before being eligible to watch TV during a trip.    

Eight was my answer.    

My husband and I have done our fair share of road trips with the kids and have been on both sides of that number.  

Twenty-three hours in the car with our son when he was three was the longest.  I think we watched Wiggle Bay twice and maybe a snippet of Finding Nemo on my husband’s laptop, but otherwise he was busy looking out the window and fishing with the magnetic pole I surprised him with as we were leaving the house in the wee hours of the morning.  Filling the gaps were letter searching games, 20 Questions, and quizzing Daddy on how many dinosaurs he could name in thirty seconds.   A break (or three) at rest stops carefully selected for the presence of a Dairy Queen and we were good.     

In the three years since my daughter was born, our car trips haven’t been as long.  A few times a year we take a weekend trip about four hours from home.  It’s punctuated with a ferry ride at either end, but the same rules apply.  No portable DVD players.  And we certainly don’t own a car equipped with headrest monitors — not that my son hasn’t sat in a dreamy state in a fully loaded minivan on the floor of a car showroom on more than one occasion.    

Between this and my ban on handheld video games, you might think I’m willing to sacrifice my sanity before I give in to an electronic babysitter. But that’s not quite the case. 

I am at the ready with my credit card when it’s time to swipe the TV monitors on board an airplane.  In fact, my husband insists we only fly airlines that offer in-flight satellite TV.   Amanda knows what I’m talking about.   When our families took a four-hour flight together two summers ago, we couldn’t reach into the row in front of us fast enough to activate the TVs where the three older ones were sitting together.  Nobody cared who was paying for it.  We just ran those cards through as quickly as possible.   And that’s because we didn’t have the option of singing Kumbayah and searching for license plates while flying through the clouds and worrying about the tolerance level of our fellow passengers.    

But as soon as we landed, and set out for the driving part of our trip, those kids were busy with everything but portable devices (well OK, maybe they had a little fun with the walkie-talkies — when the could pry them away from their CB-calling fathers).  As we spent hours driving through a national park, they searched for wildlife that they would never see in our neck of the woods.  We chugged up to elevations where snow was still piled high in July.  There were cabins to spot and streams to follow along the road.  And then there was always an hour or so of cartoons to satiate them when we returned to the condo at night.  

It’s not that I’m trying to prove a point that my kids don’t need TV.  We certainly don’t live a TV-free life. 

It’s just that when we are somewhere new and there are things to soak in and experience, that’s what I want them to be doing. My ulterior motive — and the reason I’m priming them this way — is that we will soon take a road trip that will be the grand-daddy of them all. 

My husband and I did a coast to-coast-and-back-again road trip over three weeks before the kids were born.  In a few more years (when our youngest is in first grade and the oldest is in sixth) we’ll set out to prove that with good old-fashioned creativity, a family road trip of any length can be managed without bringing along the TV. 

 

Amanda and I agree where it really matters, like how to keep SpongeBob out of our cars.  See what she (unconsciously) promised her kids and didn’t deliver.

 

Now Boarding: The Plane for Grumpy Adults

Cieleke/stock.xchng

Child free flights? Either that or sedate kids before flying.

Far from my opinion, but that was the suggestion of one passenger on a cross-country flight my family and I took in October. My blood pressure had just about recovered from his diatribe when The New York Times ran an article that elicited some wildly fanatical comments and got me all stirred up again.

There’s no disagreement — on this site at least — that child-free flights are a stupid idea. Do we really need to complicate the already inhumane experience which is modern day air travel, just to appease people who think the world should stand still while they walk through it?

You know the type I’m talking about: those who live only for themselves and have such rigid schedules/diets/habits/pristine living spaces that nothing disruptive shall dare ever stir. Nary a child, nor another creature of any kind.

No, I’m not resentful that my walls bear the wrath of ketchup hands and my days (and nights) have not been my own since 2002. I just wish that some people would understand that life isn’t meant to be always perfect, predictable, and peaceful.

Maybe someone walks slower than you, speaks loudly, hums while they read, eats too fast, or drinks only hot water all day long. We’re all peculiar in some way — adults more so than children in my opinion. If you can’t tolerate the fact that not everyone is going to behave exactly as you wish — then don’t come out of your hole.

And if it’s children who especially make you twitch, might I ask how old you were when you were born?

That’s what I should have asked the middle-aged guy on our flight who got on his soapbox in the middle of the aisle as we stood cocked to one side waiting to deboard. Speaking to everyone and no one at the same time, he stated flat out that all children should be sedated before coming on a plane.

Seems that the crying baby two rows behind him had made him absolutely insane, enough so that he complained repeatedly to a flight attendant and she actually went over and instructed the father to walk up and down the aisle to make the baby stop. It was a turbulent flight, and I felt for the father who was clearly flabbergasted and reluctantly obliged.

Oh how I’ve been there — you feel trapped, but at the same time know you’ve made every effort to appease your child, and yet there’s nothing rational about talking to an uncommunicative infant or toddler who is just plain uncomfortable, stir-crazy and ear-achy. My longest hours have been lived on seniors-only flights to Florida at midnight with an overtired infant and on descents that felt like days because my screechy toddler had just plain had enough.

The baby on our flight eventually settled down, maybe even fell asleep. But I knew her parents were probably holding their breath, hoping for a quick landing and escape. And just when they thought they were in the clear, our in-flight Parenting Guru got up and inflicted his opinion upon us all. Another father seated nearby ended it by telling him that a fussing baby was all part of life (his included), so he should get over it.

All I know is that I will never be one of those grumpy people. On the one and only round-trip flight I’ve taken sans kids in the eight years I’ve been a parent (which just happened this past January), I actually felt downright guilty to be reading a magazine while other parents wedged their way down the aisle with car seats and diaper bags. I wanted to tap them on the shoulder and say: “Just so you know, I get it. Don’t worry about changing your baby’s diaper in your seat, breastfeeding during the flight, or muffling baby’s cries. I’m OK with it, even if no one else is.”

That’s when I came up with this vow for my later years: I will never care if a child cries or fusses on a flight that I’m on. As long as I’m not responsible for them, nothing will stop me from napping, reading my book, or staring into space.

I promise. (Or you can kick my seat.)

Child-free Flights? Only if There Are No Grownups

 © iceneweb/stock.xchng

© iceneweb/stock.xchng

Couple of things before we start:

  • Kids cry.
  • Sometimes they behave badly.
  • You were a kid once.
  • When you were an aforementioned kid, you cried.
  • You probably behaved badly sometimes too.

Ready?

So in our latest installment of “How Children Ruin Everything,” there seems to be a new movement — a push for child-free and/or family-friendly flights on airplanes.

I guess the thinking is that because kids are more likely to be disruptive on a plane — tantrums, kicking of seats and other assorted annoying behaviors — isolating them with their parents on a flight of their own would be for the greater good.

Except that is some seriously flawed logic going on.

Why do people think that kids have a monopoly on bad behavior on an airplane? I don’t fly all that often, and I’ve had my fair share of talkers and kickers and too-much-to-drinkers and shoulder sleepers and seat-recliner-all-the-way-backers and from what I could tell, every single person seemed capable of dressing and feeding themselves and none of them drank from sippy cups, wore diapers or were big fans of Elmo. Can we give them their own flight?

And practically, how would that even work? What if you need to fly last-minute with your family and there are no designated “family” planes available?  I’m lucky enough to live in an area where there are literally hundreds of flights coming and going every day, dozens per hour. But what if you are from an area where there are only one or two departures? Will one be monopolized by a bunch of loud, snotty-nosed, brats?

And then when will the kids fly?

(See what I did there?)

What happened to empathy? Flying isn’t easy on adults, imagine how it must be for a child who doesn’t understand what is going on. You wait on long lines only to go and have to sit for a while. Then you wait on another long line and then sit again in a enclosed space with lots of people you don’t know. Then all of a sudden it gets noisy and bumpy and your ears start to hurt. And you aren’t allowed to get up. Or play. Or stretch your legs.

I dread air travel, for all of those reasons. Why would a 5-year-old think it’s fun?

And sure, there are some parents who don’t do the best job of keeping their kids in line. Kids who scream and cry and who make their presence very well known. But that’s a small number and you are going to find them everywhere — airplanes, libraries, restaurants, life. Should we have kid-free towns too?

Babies cry, toddlers have meltdowns and preschoolers throw temper tantrums. (You know what? Sometimes I do all three of those things too.) Is it unfortunate when it happens on a plane? You bet. But until grown-ups starting behaving perfectly all the time, we shouldn’t expect our kids to either.