Parents Giving Out Goody Bags on Planes: Please Stop

You don't need to apologize for having kids.
ByAbbie Schiller
Abbie Schiller
Aug 2016
Mom holding baby on plane
Photo: iStock

Dear new parents flying with a baby,

Most people are totally fine with you and your baby. Even if your baby is crying. We will just put in our headphones, turn up the music and hope you’ve got it covered. Because chances are, you do have it covered.

If you’re a parent today, you’ve probably spent hours researching and asking friends about travel tips and flight hacks. You have strategically chosen the best time of day to travel. You’ve probably brought little toys, lugged books, allowed iPads, prepared snacks, packed extra diapers, changes of clothing, and remembered blankies, binkies and anything else you might possible need. Because you’re on top of it!

But recently, we’ve been reading about a special breed of parents who are taking things a little too far and appeasing the few who think that they deserve a little extra something for watching you and your child struggle. These parents hand out lip balms, gum, earplugs and more to passengers as a preemptive apology for their child. They take special care not to offend anyone who gets offended by what babies do when they’re uncomfortable: cry.

But here’s the thing: You are actually making it worse for you and your kid. And for other parents and their kids. You are creating passengers who become entitled. Though at face value, it seems like an over-the-top act of kindness, you are essentially making it harder for parents who can’t afford (or don’t care) to cater to strangers. Jump ahead a few years and you’ll have strangers who make it harder for parents traveling sans swag.

And, let’s be honest, is a lip balm really going to make someone think better of your baby? Likely not. When the piercing scream of your kid is unrelenting, your focus should be on your child, not on your seat neighbors. When things quiet down, you can always sigh big and thank the passengers around you for bearing with you and your brood. And rest assured—you aren’t the only one creating uncomfortable conditions.

On planes, we are all forced to accept an altered reality, forced to smell the curiously consistent gas from the passenger in front of you, or avoid the hacking coughs of the guy behind you, all while awkwardly rubbing butts with a complete stranger standing in the aisle as you try to make your way to the impossibly small loo. None of those people hand out gift bags for making you suffer. It’s just how it is.

In all our travel experiences, we should expect common human decency. Compassion. Patience. Understanding. Tolerance. Kindness. Camaraderie. Forgiveness. Courtesy. Togetherness. These are the things that make up a working society—and a pleasant flight. To achieve those, no purchases should be necessary.

When faced with a crying baby and overwhelmed parents, I often offer to help. On a flight from New York to Hong Kong, a six-month-old was crying for two solid hours and had gone through the arms and efforts of every exhausted family member. He finally fell fast asleep in my arms. I gladly held that baby for four hours while his family (who didn’t speak English) thanked me and then finally rested. It takes a village!

I get that these gift bag-giving parents want to acknowledge the nuisance that they may be. The intent, I assume, is to recognize the inconvenience their child may cause to others. But here’s the thing: Anyone who can’t accept a simple, verbal “sorry, guys” is someone we shouldn’t encourage with gift bags.

Abbie Schiller is the founder and CEO of The Mother Company, which creates thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of the “Ruby’s Studio” children’s video series, along with children’s books, apps, music, handmade dolls, and more.

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