I write this on my first business trip in quite a long time. It was kind of strange to walk through the airport to catch a plane for work. I’ve done it so many times in the past, but not in the last several years. In fact, the last time I was on a plane was two years ago - and that was with my family. For someone who has collected a lot of travel reward points in the past, the routine of trudging through the airport quickly came rushing back from the recesses of my memory.
My wife and I have two younger kids. The last time we flew, I remember packing two car seats through the airport along with dragging the luggage, and the excitement that it was. After that, I said no more until the kids are old enough to haul some of their own junk. While I don’t mind being a Sherpa of sorts to those in the “my people” category... it was more than unwieldy on that trip. And to cap it off, the airline temporarily misplaced some luggage on that trip... which was the third trip in a row. (And much to my wife's chagrin, I refused to get one of those luggage carts you can rent).
For work, I had no reason to fly anywhere, so that experience was the end of air travel for awhile. Recently I have had the desire to get on a plane and fly somewhere. I had this urge to rack up some frequent flier points. My stash was looking depleted and forlorn. And so here I am, boiling in Texas for work. And the reality of my new role? I’ll be on a plane a bit more going forward. So the rewards point stash can start growing again and I can work towards some free travel and drag the family along! They will be pretty excited about that - and it will be fun to have them along on a relaxing visit somewhere.
So why write about this on a personal finance website?
Well, in this case, there isn’t a big reason other than I wanted to just share a gentle reminder with everyone who flies with kids. And to those who have never had the pleasure.
On the flight down last night, a family was sitting in the row behind me. They had their son who was somewhere between 18 months and two years old. As we were taking off from SeaTac, he started crying. Soon screaming was interspersed with the crying. I felt so bad for him - and I felt so bad for the parents.
I heard the mom apologize to someone. Shortly thereafter, I looked back at them to survey the scene. The parents apologized to me.
The reality is the crying wasn’t bothering me at all. It might have bothered a younger version of me, but no more.
I simply looked at them and told them not to worry about it, that it wasn’t bothering me. And then I told them I understood - because I’ve been there. I won’t forget the relief I saw in their face. And I completely meant it.
On the return flight on that 2016 trip, my youngest son cried and screamed for most of the flight. I truly get what it’s like to be a parent in that situation. You are worried for your child, you can’t really help them, and then you are worried that you are bothering everyone else.
It’s not fun. None of us want to be “those people” - but then we have kids of our own and we are those people. It changes our perspective.
I want to be blunt today - very blunt. If you are a parent, and you go through this, know that so many of us have been there. We get it. Truly, don’t worry about it. Focus on your child. That is what matters - our children are the most important things/people in our lives. That’s it.
And to all the other passengers... get over it. You can get annoyed and mad and all that, but there is no point. The child can’t just turn it off. Something is bothering them. Their ears might hurt. They may not like the loud engine. But we are talking about a child here. Show compassion for the child and their parents. Be kind.
We need more compassion and kindness in this world. We need to recognize what the important things really are - and it boils down to the need to simply care for other people rather than get cranky, annoyed and pissed off.
Kids can teach us so much. They will absolutely test our patience. But showing a little more kindness and love toward others will go a long way to make the headlines seem just a little bit better. A society that cares well for children is a society we can all be proud of.
So next time you find yourself wanting to give an annoyed look on a plane to a parent with a screaming kid, put yourself in that persons shoes and take a deep breath and realize they are doing the best they can do. Move on from it, show some kindness. It will change your mindset a bit, and it’ll help others feel a bit more compassion.
And on the personal finance front... make sure you earn your points when traveling and use them wisely!