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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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?

Lads Weekends for Fathers

One of my best mates has just invited me on a lads weekend away. To be specific he’s asked if I want to fly out to Spain on a Friday afternoon and come back Sunday. I’m struggling with a few things. Is it appropriate for me to go, is it something I really want to do anyway?!

Let me put some context round it. As I said one person is one of my best friends from school and an ex business partner, so I know him very well. He isn’t single, lives with his girlfriend but he has no kids, has no intention of having kids and I’m not sure if he even likes kids? Three of the other people going are people who I would say I’m friends with, we get on well and I invited them to my birthday party in the summer but I can honestly say that I’ve never rung any of them or even been out with any of them individually. I like them but they are not what you would call, my mates. The last person going out I have never heard of or met.

We’re going out to see another bloke who runs a bar in southern Spain and the plan is to stay in his flat. The five people mentioned above are all close mates with him, I am not. I don’t dislike the guy but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like me. I’m not sure of the reason, I’ve never really been bothered enough to find out. We’re very courteous when we see each other don’t get me wrong, but there is a weird vibe.

The other thing to be aware of is that my wife has given the green light! That could be the most worrying thing of all! As blokes we all know that when a woman says, “Go ahead…” it’s definitely not giving you permission, it’s half a dare and half wanting to see you make the right decision. It’s the classic giving you enough rope to hang yourself situation.

I didn’t beg or try to persuade her, she just told me to go ahead straight away. If you beg to go and she eventually says, “OK” then you are in even more trouble my friend. If she appears to have given in at the end of a long row/discussion by saying “OK” then that means that if you should choose to take that path, then she will be thinking long and hard about how you can pay for it afterwards. Thankfully that’s not the situation here.

To be fair she has said that because I spend so much of my time at home looking after the kids then I should go out and enjoy myself, so in this case I think I do have permission. With the caveat of course that if I do go then it can be thrown in my face in any argument in the future regardless.

When I’m talking about appropriateness I’m lucky enough to not be talking about money. We can afford for me to go and it’s not going to eat into kids/family budgets. Besides at this time of year the flights are only £80 and I’m not going to be paying for accommodation so it’s hardly a trip to Vegas.

Yes it would seem that I am going away and enjoying myself whilst she looks after the kids all weekend after a full week at work, but this opportunity has come up for her before and she has turned it down. I have given the green light when the opportunities have arisen for her and I was completely genuine about it. Her friends with kids have gone away multiple times but she has always said no. She says she works all week and doesn’t see enough of the kids as it is, that’s fair enough, she works far longer hours than any of her friends, all of whom would probably be considered the primary carers in their family lives.

Should I consider leaving my family at all for frivolous reasons, even just for two nights? Well yes quite frankly. That’s not a consideration, having kids is a massive responsibility and number one priority but life is for enjoying for everyone, if you don’t get a break from the norm you go crazy.

If this was a stag do then there wouldn’t be any thought going into it. I’d be there no matter where it was. Stag dos are sacrosanct, we both know that, but unfortunately at our age stag dos and hen dos are few and far between.

If it was just a couple of nights away in the UK it probably wouldn’t be a discussion either. For example if we were going up to Manchester to see a band or watch the cricket then I would be there like a shot. Moneywise it would probably be more expensive considering how much it costs to travel by train in this country.

My last consideration is can I be bothered. It isn’t a special occasion, it isn’t a group of my close friends going. To be honest I think the answer is no, I really can’t be arsed anyway!

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?!

Thrifty Fathers Day

“We only spent £3 Daddy and H’s present cost twice what mine did.”

Back in June we had Fathers Day. Usually spent in the garden, preparing a barbecue for my father and not sitting on my arse where I should be.

My favourite part about Fathers Day is the lead up to it. The boys getting excited about ‘Daddy’s Big Day’, me partly pretending to be excited but also more enjoying seeing them excited. In the week before I receive the best gifts, the ones they make at pre school. A particular favourite of mine was a card made into the shape of a shirt and tie. Definitely a keeper!

Since they are both now in school, however, these little self made treats are no more. Apparently the school prefers to concentrate on such things as maths, English and science, so bloody old fashioned!

Still, one great thing the school does is organise a Fathers Day gift sale. The school’s an academy so this is one of the ways they raise money for themselves. Basically they have all the available gifts laid out on a table, the children choose one, pay for it and they then get given the gift completely wrapped. The gifts aren’t expensive, they range in price from £0.50 to £10.00 from a packet of Maltesas to a small set of cheap screwdrivers.

At the last event I gave T £20 to get me a couple of gifts from H and himself. I gave both boys some guidance,

“Now I’m grateful for anything, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive thing you see but please definitely not a key ring…and no pens..”

I’m not being ungrateful, it’s just that a key ring is only useful when you have keys to put on it. Unless we put a new door or a gate somewhere then we don’t need anymore keys, hence I don’t need another keyring. As for pens, I am not exaggerating when I say we have at least 1,500 pens in the house. I used to own a firm and we were doing a trade show and needed gifts for about 100 people. We decided on pens with our company name on. We left it to the last minute and only then did we realised that the minimum order was 2,000 pens. Fortunately the pens are of incredibly poor quality so we are getting through them at a rate of about 100 a year.

Also, I must admit I would have been more than happy with the Maltesas. It wasn’t a packet, this was a box which I could have probably made last about an hour.

The boys came back after about two minutes of searching for the perfect gift for their Daddy and T placed £17 change in my hand.

“We only spent £3 Daddy and H’s present cost twice what mine did.”

Come Sunday I’m obviously excited to see what my thrifty sons have bought me for £1 and £2 (leaving room for the school to make a profit). Now your probably thinking that I got a keyring and a pen, but you’d be wrong. The £1 gift was actually a coaster with ‘Top Daddy’ written on it. I love it, it’s by my computer and I use it every day!

And the other gift? Yeah, that was a pen…

Maverick?!

“Maverick, get down from there!”

 

So close to a row in Tesco, completely accidental but equally completely my fault.

There was a little kid messing about in the bread aisle in front of us. He was running round, chasing his sister, his mum was getting more and more annoyed but was trying to restrain herself from shouting. We then moved down the aisle towards the jam and the overexcited kid and his sister moved along with us. Finally, when he was attempting to climb up the shelves with the glass jam jars on, right in front of me, his mum rushed over and shouted,

“Maverick, get down from there!”

I could feel my eyes widening, my jaw dropping and before I could stop myself I found myself blurting out,

“Maverick…?!”

I took one look at her reddening face, the tattoo on her neck, and the fact that she outweighed me by a good 5 stone and did the only thing I could…I ran.