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Editor's note: TODAY Parents editor Rebecca Dube penned this back in 2014, but it's just as relevant today as similar stories — of well-meaning parents sharing bags of candy with their fellow passengers to apologize for having babies on board — continue to go viral.
The kind act of two first-time parents went viral this week after they handed out goody bags to fellow passengers on a flight, apologizing in advance for any disturbance their baby might cause.
That’s sweet. It’s thoughtful. It’s also wrong.
Babies are babies, and sometimes they cry. Everyone needs to just accept that reality and get over it.
No offense to these new parents, who are almost certainly lovely people. They did a nice thing and made people smile. But they’re part of a dangerous trend: People apologizing, or being made to feel they should apologize, for having children.
Trust me, first-time parents: You will have plenty of opportunities throughout your child's life to apologize on their behalf, to model proper manners and to teach them courtesy. As the mother of two rambunctious boys who are still learning to use their indoor voices, "sorry" is an integral part of my vocabulary.
But when I board a plane with my baby on my hip, don’t get your hopes up. You will not be getting a lollipop for sharing airspace with my family. You want earplugs? You should have packed them in your carry-on. Mine contains about 50 pounds of baby gear, compressed so that I can shove it all under the seat. Not included? Candy for grown adults who understand the concept of noise-cancelling headphones. You don’t get a special treat simply for not being a jerk.
It’s true, parents have a responsibility here. I’ll do everything I can to stop my baby from crying on a plane. Trust me, I hate that sound even more than you do — plus it’s four inches from my ears. When all my tricks fail, I will walk him up and down the aisles, bouncing and humming. If you make eye contact with me, I’ll give you the “So sorry, what can you do?” apologetic smile, and you give me the “It’s OK, hang in there” sympathetic look. It’s called a social contract, people. If instead you roll your eyes or give me a nasty glare, then you are breaking the contract.
Because the baby can’t help it. Maybe his ears hurt, he's teething, SkyMall terrifies him, or he’s just not happy about spending four hours in a metal tube. If you feel you must say something, “Awww, poor baby. Can I do anything to help?” is a fine choice. “What is WRONG with that baby?” is not.
I’d be thrilled if someone gave me a bag of treats. I’m not one to turn down free candy. But we’re at a weird cultural place in America now where some parents are so entitled and clueless they do things like letting their young children poop in the middle of a restaurant, while other parents are so scared of offending anyone that they go around apologizing for normal kid behavior. Surely, there’s a middle ground here called common sense.
New parents, let this be my public service announcement to you. Throughout their lives, your children will cry, throw temper tantrums at inopportune times, be too loud, too smelly, too wiggly, too… childish for everyone around them. Hold your head high. Smile and be polite — but don’t apologize.
To the child-free: I fully understand that not everyone finds my little rugrats as delightful as I do. You don't have to love us. But you do have to tolerate us and treat us with basic human respect, even if I don't give you candy. Perhaps, instead of a goody bag, you could hold on to the knowledge that you were once a baby who cried, and your mother was once in my shoes: Walking up and down with her child, bouncing and singing and looking into the eyes of strangers, wondering if she would see sympathy or contempt.
This story was originally published on Dec. 22, 2014.
Rebecca Dube is the TODAY Parents senior editor and mother of two. She dreams of one day reading a magazine on an airplane flight.