Kids on a Plane

It’s a much discussed topic when it comes to travelling on aeroplanes and most people have an opinion on the subject. What your opinion is may depend on whether you have or have ever had children and if you have, whether you choose or chose to travel with them.

Some people are of the opinion that we were all children once, most of us have travelled as a family at some point and it is just something that everybody has to expect. Other people’s lives are at a different stage to yours.

On the other hand some people favour adult only flights. Some airlines who use the two decked A380 allocate one of the decks as a family deck, keeping the other child free.

I guess there are some people who would ban children from flights altogether, but I’ve yet to meet someone with that strong a view.

I think most people agree that there has to be a sliding scale of expectation depending on how old the child is. If the child is a babe in arms then we must expect that there is very little you can do to control when they feel the need to make noise. However, if the child is three or above then there should be some expectation that the parent should be able to keep them under control a little bit better. Or am I being too harsh now? Both of mine were impeccably behaved on flights from the age of three, not thanks to me, rather thanks to Steve Jobs and his wonderful iPad.

I’ve seen countless incidents on flights where people have become annoyed at the noises children make. Some people get annoyed before a child even makes a noise and throw a stop just because they are sitting within three rows of a baby. I’ve even witnessed people strop out on a two hour trip to Spain! Seriously, you can’t put up with baby noise for two hours?!

Let’s be clear again, I’m talking about noises made by babies, not shouting toddlers or kids whose stupid/useless parents let them kick and grab at your seat throughout a flight. Or people who keep their kids quiet by letting them play with the bloody table, flipping it up and down whist you slowly lose your mind in front.

Babies who don’t understand language or reasoning, babies who don’t know when it’s night or day on a long haul flight, babies who communicate through loud noises when they’re hungry, tired, happy or sad.

I had an instance of passenger rage directed at one of my children. When H, my youngest, was nine months old we took him and a three year old T to Australia. We have friends there and we wanted to take advantage of my wife’s maternity leave and the fact that T had yet to start school. We felt a five week trip would be something we’d never be able to enjoy again with our kids. Hence we took the brave/stupid step to take two very small children around the world.

We had the time so we decided to split the journey up, spending two days either side in Kuala Lumpur. Hopefully this would make the journey that little bit less harsh.

The first leg from London to Kuala Lumpur was 13 hours. T was happy with his iPad and we were happy to let him watch and sleep, watch and sleep as he felt the need. He was as good as gold.

H stayed awake feeding for an hour then fell asleep. We were the luckiest parents in the world, he slept for a full nine hours. When he awoke we made a fuss, telling him what a good boy he was. He knew how happy we were with him which made him happy, he let out a large squeal of delight.

“For God’s sake shut that baby up…”

She was now looking the other way but I knew exactly who had said it. The miserable cow who gave us daggers when we got on the plane first (because we had kids) and then gave us daggers when she realised she was sitting across the aisle from us.

My wife hadn’t heard it but I had, very clearly.

I got up and walked over. The seat in the aisle was free, the next seat was taken up by who I assumed to be her husband and she was sitting by the window.

I put both my hands on the arm of her husband’s chair and leaned over him so my face was as near to her as I could reach.

“Excuse me?” I said, remaining as calm as possible. This is very difficult for me, I am very protective of my children, I am a very nervous flyer, I am naturally short tempered.

She looked round at me, “These flights cost a lot of money and we don’t want it ruined by your kid.”

I was fairly proud of my response, it was more measured than I could have hoped. “These flights don’t cost a lot of money love, if they did, people like you wouldn’t be able to afford them.”

In this context my reply doesn’t make much sense but I had hit the nail right on her head. In an instant I had identified her as a pompous Hyacinth Bucket (bouquet) kind of character and I was spot on. She shut up immediately, lips puckered like a rectum. Her husband looked like this wasn’t the first time she’d been a bitch.

I pushed myself back into the aisle. I then got a tap on my shoulder. I turned round to see a big Aussie bloke from the row in front standing there. He smiled and held out his hand.

“Well done mate, that was awesome, your kid’s alright!”

That kind of ended the incident on a happy note. I would have been sitting there paranoid that the rest of the flight felt like this woman. Instead he made me feel very happy and proud of the way I’d handled it. I thanked him and sat back down.

What are your thoughts? Any particularly nasty encounters with people moaning about your kids on a plane? Been affected by bad behaviour by kids on a plane? Let me know in the comments below?

 

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(Vegi) Chilli (Con Carne) Recipe (Basically have it your way!)

 

Mexican food is awesome. Tortillas, tacos, refried beans, guacamole and salsa. But the king of Mexican food, the absolute pinnacle has to be the chilli. Lets face it, you can have some mince, chuck whatever you like in it and call it a chilli. When have you ever been to two different places, ordered a chilli and had exactly the same meal? I’ve even been to a chilli cooking competition and one of the ingredients on offer was chocolate. Chocolate in a chilli? No, not for me either.

Since becoming a vegetarian I have had a few worries about things that I may miss with a chilli being one of them. A chilli con carne has great emphasis on the meat, obviously, but I wanted to make a chilli where the meat could easily be replaced, because it wasn’t necessarily the main event. Plus I was worried as a chilli has been the kid’s favourite for a while now. Here’s the recipe I came across where I replaced the beef mince with vegi mince. This is so chock full of veg, it remains the kid’s favourite and they haven’t even noticed the switch!

 

Ingredients

  • 500g of vegi mince or 500g of minced beef
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 1 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 400g tin of kidney beans
  • 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander – remove le
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Method

  • Peel and finely chop the onions
  • Chop carrots in half widthways.  Chop each part in half again lengthways.  Slice into 0.5cm chunks all the way along
  • Chop the red peppers into chunks of approximately 2cm squared
  • Chop the celery in slices approximately 0.5cm thick
  • Remove leaves from coriander and save then finely chop stalks and put to one side
  • Take a large, deep casserole pan and put it on a medium heat
  • Pour olive oil into the bottom until the whole base is covered
  • Tip in all of your vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, red peppers)
  • Add the chilli, cinnamon and cumin and plenty of salt and pepper
  • Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring continuously until the veg has softened up a bit
  • Chuck in the chickpeas, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, mince (vegi or beef), chopped coriander stalks and balsamic vinegar.  Season generously to your taste
  • Fill up one of the empty tomato tins with water and pour it in.  Mix everything together
  • Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer
  • Put a lid on the pan and leave a little gap on the side
  • Let simmer for an hour, thoroughly stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened

If using vegi mince then it will likely take less than an hour for the liquid to evaporate.  Feel free to stop cooking when it’s at a consistency you desire.If using beef mince, ensure you cook for at least the full hour.  There will be more liquid than the vegi mince so you may need to cook for longer.
Serve with rice, pitta bread and whatever other accompaniments you like, tacos, tortillas, guacamole, salsa or sour cream.

Wallop!

It’s the end of my youngest son’s first half term of school. It’s been largely uneventful save for a couple of minor issues, oh and there was a little problem with a bit of a fight.

My dad was one of those dads who always told you,

“If he hits you, you hit him back”.

I’ve not said that to either of my children. It’s not that I don’t believe in punching someone in the face if they’ve just done the same to you, far from it, I just believe that you should judge every situation as it comes i.e. How big is he? How much did it hurt? Did I deserve it?

In any case that belief is for adults only, not for children, especially 4 year olds like my H! Instead we have adopted the approach,

“If someone upsets you go and tell the teacher.”

We haven’t even mentioned ‘punches’, as far as my kids are concerned no-one wants to punch them in the face. That’s how it should be!

Despite all this I got called aside by H’s teacher at the end of one day and she spoke to me while a sheepish looking H cowered around my legs.

Apparently a kid in Year 1 (year above four year old H) was saying horrible things to him and generally being verbally abusive. My seven year old eldest would be very upset and tell the teacher immediately, H smacked him in the face without a word.

Now I don’t know if it’s being a dad as opposed to a mum, but I felt a pang of pride swell up from somewhere inside me that I just couldn’t control. Of course on the outside I was horrified, I said all the right things and chastised H and told him that was not the way to behave. And on the whole I agree with my outside appearance. But that pang inside remains whether I like it or not.

A few days later I was telling one of the other dads in the school playground. A bespectacled fellow who doesn’t appear to have any aggression in him whatsoever. His response to the story was.

“Good on him!”

I didn’t agree with him openly and still towed the party line that I was shocked and appalled. But inside I felt glad that I wasn’t a monster.

I found out through the grapevine later that the boy who H walloped is known for being a bit of a bully. Apparently getting a slap from a four year old has brought him down a peg or two and he’s treating others with a bit more respect now. My outward words of warning for H have certainly taken effect too and I don’t think he’ll be walloping anyone again anytime soon. Perhaps all’s well that ends well?

The Late Kids

 

I was once at a customer’s house and he was discussing his young grandaughter’s first couple of weeks at school. He wasn’t a fan of her headmistress and complained,

“She stands in front of the school once the bell goes in the morning and tells the late parents they must make more effort to be on time, can you believe that?!”

My response,

“Yes I can believe that, your daughter is obviously a very selfish person and it sounds as though she has been late on a number of occasions already within the first two weeks for you to know that this is something the headmistress does every day. Does she think it’s a good thing that she’s teaching her child that it doesn’t matter about being on time and that everybody will just wait for you because the whole world revolves around her. Does your daughter care in any way that somebody has to take time out of their day to take your grandaughter to her classroom, where her teacher has to stop what she’s doing with the twenty nine other children just to accommodate your grandaughter and her selfish mother?”

Well that’s not quite true, he was after all a customer and I was trying to secure payment from him for services rendered. I believe my true cowardly response was something along the lines of,

“No, that’s terrible”.

There is one child in my older son’s class whose mother doesn’t have time (can’t be arsed) to feed him in the mornings. So she stops at the bakery opposite the school and buys him a sausage roll which makes him ten minutes late every day. He then spends the first twenty minutes of school wandering round the classroom eating and dropping said sausage roll all over the place. The other children aren’t allowed to eat in the classroom and this child can’t possibly start work until he’s finished his sausage roll so everyone ends up disrupted. The child is behind in terms of learning and is well known as a child who frequently misbehaves in the classroom. I’m not qualified to suggest there’s any link.

Now, I appreciate that getting children ready for school in the mornings is a nightmare and there are going to be some mornings where there are catastrophic failures in the process, so I am not talking about parents who are occasionally late with their children. I am, however, talking about mums who are late at least four out of every five days, week in week out.

There’s one mum at our boy’s school who is on time perhaps one day every two months and lives a one minute walk from the school.

The link between all of the mums at least is that they are immaculate, hair like they’ve just stepped out of the salon, make up that could have been done by Estée Lauder herself and smelling like they work behind the perfume counter at Boots. We’re not talking usual effort for a day at the office either, we are talking an effort that most women would only make if they were going to a black tie do or out to the races. Surely some of that preening time could be used to help your very small child to get ready in the mornings or is that too obvious?

Is it just me who this bothers. Does anyone give a toss about being on time anymore?

40 Things That Make Me Feel Old

I was born in the mid seventies. To me the olden days are kind of from the Second World War backwards. Everything in black and white. I have never been able to watch a black and white film because I cannot relate to it it any way. I have never referred to the seventies or even the sixties as the ‘olden days’. Nineteen sixty nine was only seven years before I was born! It therefore shocks me as to what my seven year old refers to as the ‘olden days’.

Me: Got a film for you to watch T, Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
T: Is it a new film or from the olden days?
Me: Newish film I suppose. Not the olden days.
T: How many years ago was it made?
Me: Twenty six.
T: That’s the olden days, daddy.

Now granted I was completely unaware the Honey I Shrunk the Kids was made back in 1990. I freely admit that twenty six years ago is a very long time in the mind of a seven year old. I am also prepared to confess that if you said that something happened over a quarter of a century ago to me that I too would have to concede that the event does seem like it happened a long time ago.

But if you tell me that something happened in the nineties then in my head it happened very recently. The nineties wasn’t that long ago. OK, so this might actually be my problem.

The eighties and nineties were my era, this is where I spent my childhood and the formative years of my adulthood. Anything after the millennium has passed in a flash so I am consistently shocked when I hear just how long ago things happened, especially films. Here’s 40 things which make me feel old.

1. Ralph Macchio, The Karate Kid, is 54 years old. That is three years older than Mr Miyagi was when the film was made.

 

2. Ghostbusters is 32 years old. I remember being taken by my scout leader with two other eight year old boys to see this. Can’t see that happening nowadays!

 

3. The year 1990 is as far away as the year 2042. I’ll just leave that one hanging.

4. Britney Spear’s ‘…Baby One More Time”, was released 18 years ago. I don’t like any music after 1999, I must therefore love Britney.

 

5. Mario has just been released as a download on the Apple App Store. Mario first appeared in the game Donkey Kong, thirty five years ago in 1981.

 

6. Who remembers watching Wacaday with Timmy Mallett during the summer holidays? Seems like only yesterday…wrong! Wacaday hasn’t been on for 24 years…

 

7. Where were you when you first played on a Playstation? We were blown away by it, Resident Evil, Destruction Derby and the like. This console was released in 1994. That’s 22 years ago!

 

8. If Bart Simpson aged like the rest of us do he would be 37 years old. Maggie would be 24.

9. I remember my wife coming round my house to watch The Simpsons on a Sunday night when she was first my girlfriend. The Simpsons is now in its 27th season.

10. Who remembers Maude Flanders dying on The Simpsons? She fell off this mortal coil 15 years ago.

 

11. Children who are starting their second year of GCSEs or first year of A Levels were born after the year 2000.

12. The first episode of Friends was 22 years ago.

13. Remember the anticipation and the sadness after the last episode of Friends? That was 12 years ago. The characters would now be between 46 and 48.

14. Courteney Cox is now the same age as Rue McClanahan was when she started making The Golden Girls.

 

15. Remember growing up with John Candy being in every comedy? National Lampoons Vacation, Home Alone, Cool Runnings, Uncle Buck? He’s been dead 22 years.

 

16. If The Wonder Years was shown on tv today it would be talking about the year 1996.

 

17. Similarly, That 70s Show started in 1998 and was set 22 years before. If it was on today it would be taking place in 1994.

 

18. The first Harry Potter book was released 19 years ago. The LAST Harry Potter book in the original series was released nine years ago.

 

19. The baby on the front of Nirvana’s iconic Nevermind album is now 25 years old and has tattoos (including Nevermind across his chest).

 

20. Remember the littlest and cutest daughter from The Cosby Show? She’s 33.

 

21. Kids born in 1998 can now drink.

 

22. Macauley Culkin is now older than Daniel Stern who played Marv (one of the crooks) in the movie.

 

23. The premier of the Twin Peaks series was 26 years ago (1990).

 

24. Remember The Sopranos? One of the greatest TV programmes ever made. Remember the youngster, Christopher? The actor that played him is now 49 years old.

 

25. How about Newt, the little girl from Aliens. She’s 40.

 

26. Remember how weird it was when Lisa Marie Presley married Michael Jackson? I’m surprised, that was 22 years ago!

27. Who went to the cinema and jumped out of their skin when the velociraptor jumped through the ceiling in Jurassic Park? That popcorn went flying off your lap 23 years ago.

28. The baby from Look Who’s Talking is now 26.

 

29. Still don’t really get karate performing reptiles aka the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? You’ve had quite a while to get them as they’ve been around since 1984.

30. Remember the scandal when German Halloween left the Spice Girls? That bombshell was dropped on us 18 years ago.

31. Still think of Diddy as Puff Daddy? He hasn’t gone by that name in 15 years!

 

32. I know that we can remember a time before mobile phones, but even the game Snake on Nokia Phones is now 18 years old!

 

33. The Office ended on a poignant moment when Dawn and Tim finally kissed. That happened 13 years ago.

 

34. Recall learning about the nine planets of the solar system and the order they are from the Sun. Not any more, Pluto isn’t a planet and hasn’t been considered one for nine years.

 

35. One of the defining moments of our time, the falling of the Berlin Wall, happened over a quarter of a century ago.

36. As did the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

37. Princess Diana has been dead 19 years.

 

38. 9/11 was 15 years ago.

39. On a happier note the classic Christmas tune Do They Know It’s Christmas? It’s 32 years old this Christmas.

 

40. Last but not least, don’t forget we remember a time before the internet! The internet stemmed from developments initiated in the 1960s, but initial public and commercial use started in 1989. However, when I first started work in 1998 my office didn’t have the internet at all! How much has changed since then?!

Ignoring your Kids

“when your child starts talking I’m afraid you have to ditch the headphones”

One of my major pet hates is parents wearing headphones whilst they are in the company of their children. Now, I see ladies in the park doing their exercises with their prams, that’s awesome, what a great idea, exercise classes dedicated to mums with babies in prams! My wife would also like to personally congratulate any mums who have the physical and mental capability to do that within the first year!

However, when your child starts talking I’m afraid you have to ditch the headphones. The reason is obvious to most but I’m afraid not all people. Your child is just starting to learn how to communicate, they need to practice, they don’t know anybody else to talk to, you are stunting your child’s development – are all the things I want to shout at the parents who walk along with their kids whilst completely absorbed in whatever they are playing through their earphones. Granted, most of the time it is the mums of the two and three year olds who have dropped their older kids at school and are deciding to ignore the younger ones on the way home which is bloody awful, but some of the time it is mums of the school kids, aged between four and ten. They completely blank them out all the way to school, when they could be hearing about the day ahead, what they are looking forward to to, what they are apprehensive about. Then they completely ignore them all the way home from school, when the child may want to tell them about their day.

I took my sons to a school holiday sports coaching session in the summer and one mum stuck in my mind. She walked all the way in with her son, who looked about eight years old, with her headphones firmly stuck in her ears. Not a word passed between them all the way in. At the drop off the coaches said hello to her son, made a fuss of him and tried to tell her about the day, she wasn’t interested. She just held up an ignorant hand and walked away without so much as a goodbye to the people who would be looking after her son for the next six hours, but more tragically there wasn’t even a goodbye for her eight year old. Poor kid.

This leads on to another more minor bug bear, people who pick up their kids whilst on the phone. At our school the teachers bring the children out in a line and send them off to their parents one by one. My kids come running over excitedly, I’m their dad and they are pleased to see me, this is the same for the vast majority of children who come out of school. However some parents are deep in conversation on their phone, not just their phone but maybe with another mum who they haven’t seen since the morning. Their children go running up, but then slow down as they see they aren’t to be acknowledged, again. Quite often the mum will start walking away on the phone and the child will just be expected to follow behind, without even so much as a smile in their direction or a whispered “I won’t be a minute”. If somebody calls whilst I am picking up my sons I find it perfectly acceptable to say “I am picking up my children from school, I will call you back” because it is a perfectly acceptable thing to say.

Yes kids are a pain in the backside, yes they talk a lot and half of it it absolute nonsense. Yes you need time for your own thoughts. It is very easy to train your ears and brain to be a filter, to ignore all of the nonsense and just let in the pure gold. Sticking headphones in is not the answer, it stops your child talking to you altogether and makes them think that this behaviour is actually appropriate. It is not.