strasser

Kid-free flights and restaurants? Where do we sign up?

April 18, 2011 at 12:30 PM ET

So, childless people want to enjoy restaurants and air travel without screaming kids? So do parents, trust us. One mom of an 18-month-old suggests that "separate but equal" might be the solution.

Teresa Strasser and her son -- who we're sure is an absolute angel at restaurants.

By Teresa Strasser, TODAY Moms contributor

This might be upsetting, but I have to be honest. I’m all for segregation.

Certain people should have their own seating areas, restaurants, parks and airplane flights. They shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with the general population. They are a menace, often filthy and carrying germs. They're loud, unruly, even dangerous.

I’m talking about children.

Lots of folks want sticky, screaming, jam-handed, germ-infested, seat-kicking, endlessly word-repeating, chicken-nugget-flinging little pipsqueaks to be segregated. Families should have their own facilities, which would be totally separate, but equal.

A Facebook page called “Airlines should have kid-free flights!” says it all. I’m surprised they don’t have more fans, because I agree. Kids are indeed a “constant and annoying disturbance,” as the page says. In fact, Qantas settled a lawsuit from a woman who said she lost hearing after being seated near a screaming child on a 2009 flight.AirTran kicked a family off a flight to Boston after the family’s 3-year-old daughter was, well, a constant and annoying disturbance.

A Skyscanner poll found that 59 percent of fliers support segregation or, as they would put it, reserving a section for families only.

As a new mom, someone who has only recently crossed over from eye-roller to the lady getting the stink eye, let me explain that being a parent doesn’t inoculate you against the sound of crying or the feel of kicking. No, being on a plane near a baby, even your own, can be a fleeting but fiery little slice of hell.

You think you got screwed, being seated next to or behind a baby or toddler in the air, where there is no escape and no peace? Well, if you’re in a hostage crisis, so are we parents -- only our yellow ribbons are never coming off and no former president, or even Lisa Ling, is showing up to liberate us.

Now, I don’t expect you to feel bad for us. We chose to have kids, and we chose to take them on a plane or to a restaurant or to Target or wherever. But know this: We also have ears. And we have nervous systems. And on top of the grating sounds and smells and harassment our kids provide you, we also have the incredible guilt, fear and shame that we ruined your good time, or even your trip to the regional sales conference. Excluding those of us who are tuned out or just downright selfish, we feel terrible about our terrible kids, or our good kids who are understandably terrible because their crayon dropped or the air pressure dropped or both.

Personally, I avoid air travel with the family for this reason, and I try to stick to family-friendly restaurants. I steer clear not just to avoid the theatrical sighing, passive-aggressive arm-crossing, neck-craning and actual moving away of non-parents, but because it’s the right thing to do. If you are on a date at a fancy Italian restaurant, you deserve the right to stink-eye me before stage whispering, “This is NOT Chuck E. Cheese's.”

Believe me, when it comes to dining, we moms know every joint in our neighborhood that welcomes us. Restaurants that stock crayons, paper placemats and high chairs and have changing tables in the bathrooms. We know exactly where you are, shining beacons of other jammy-handed tots shrieking and tossing forks.

Yes, we could never leave the house. But being home with a toddler does something to contract the space/time continuum. I’m telling you, time actually stands still, so you really have to let us leave and join the outside world. You have to let us travel and eat in restaurants. You have to let us grocery shop. I, for one, would not mind doing these things without you hating me for it.

That’s why I’m not up in arms. My arms are up in the air, where you should be flying, in peace.

Teresa Strasser is an Emmy Award-winning writer and two-time Los Angeles Press Club Columnist of the Year. Her memoir, "Exploiting My Baby: A Memoir of Pregnancy and Childbirth," was optioned by Sony Pictures and is available now. Dr. Phil says it "will make you laugh until you're sick, I swear."

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