Thursday, July 2, 2009

Babies on Planes

Just read a light-hearted and amusing article in the Times online concerning travelling on planes with small children, and boy! Did the comments reveal an abyss-like divide in opinion!
Basically they fell into two camps: those who didn't understand what the fuss was about and those who apoplectically raged against parents who insisted on 'inflicting screaming babies' on their fellow-travellers. What was really disturbing was the amount of naked hatred on display in the latter group, and not just from people who didn't have children. It just confirms my opinion that western nations have become so distanced from the natural rythmn of life and procreation that they see themselves as exempt from participation in any of its correlations. Obviously, if the future of civilisation was left in their hands, mankind would probably die out within the next couple of centuries! (and if they were representative of it, thank God! some might say)

We've always travelled abroad with our kids since they were a couple of months old, not because we're 'selfish' (in requiring a holiday: apparently that is selfish), but because the only way to integrate a child into society is by letting him or her be part of it from birth. Not that it's easy - but it is a damn sight easier on the continent than it is in the UK. By gradually accustoming children to new situations and gently increasing their duration it is quite possible to habituate (don't I sound pompous and po-faced?) your child to something like sitting at table for a three course meal, or through a concert, or a reasonably long car journey. Like most exercises, this requires progressively increasing the activity in length and - very importantly - being prepared to cut it short if there is any adverse reaction, and try again later. But that's easier said than done on a plane, so initially diversionary tactics are best employed: a new toy whipped out of a handbag, lolly, 'talking' hand-puppet etc. Put yourself in your child's shoes...what would appeal to you? And actually, it does seemed to have worked - we might be just lucky, I suppose - but ours are incredibly sociable and relaxed, and able to sit still without figetting for reasonably long periods of time. Now they are older and will read or amuse themselves with their music whilst travelling, but I can't say we've ever dreaded making a journey with them - ever. Nor were they ever disruptive.

Imagine if children were customarily excluded from the adult milieu: how could they ever know how to behave when eventually allowed to participate? Children learn by observing their parents. If they are unlucky to have parents who keep them metaphorically locked in the nursery whilst they themselves go about their adult lives, berating others who include their children in their activities, they no doubt will grow up espousing the same views!

No comments: