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?

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!

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…

Embarrassed Daddy or Embarrassing Daddy?

“Oh, by the way daddy, I told Miss Smith how pretty you think she is”

My four year old has finally started school. He was more than ready and his confident stroll in without looking back on his first day gave me the full confidence that he was going to do fine!

His teacher is very nice, to make this story less embarrassing (for her in case she ever read this) let’s call her Miss Smith. Now Miss Smith is in her early twenties and in her third year of teaching. Her first year was spent teaching my eldest in year one and we were very pleased with how he got on that year. Also, Miss Smith is hot. As I am now forty there is no way to say that that doesn’t sound pervy. It’s just that out of all the teachers in the school she is noticeably the hottest. It wasn’t just me, all of a sudden I had a lot more dads to talk to at school pick up time…

It would of course be completely inappropriate for me to convey that I think Miss Smith is hot to either of my boys of four and seven. They wouldn’t understand at this age. However, I was tricked by H into revealing the tiniest piece of my thoughts on the subject, a lapse I now regret.

I should reveal at this stage that four year old H is a ladies man. He’s a bit of a lad and loves playing rough with the boys but if a big girl comes along his head is turned and he spends all his time trying to impress them. This manifests itself in the most part as him being a bit of a ‘mummy’s boy’. He’s absolutely obsessed with his mummy, bringing her presents, calling her a princess and taking the opportunity for a cuddle every five minutes.

At nursery he was consumed with getting a ‘Superstar’ rating every day, the rating they achieve if they have gone out of their way to be good that day. If he didn’t get noticed for being good then he would make sure that they knew.

“Charlotte, I’ve tidied the home corner”
“OK H, but you did that yesterday”.

So the next day he would try something new.

“Alice, I’ve put all the books back on the bookshelf”
“OK H, but there was only three books on the floor, I don’t think that warrants you being a superstar”.

But then he cracked it.

“Kirsty, I’ve put all the dressing up clothes back into the box. Also, you look very beautiful today.”

Bingo…

So with this in mind the following conversation wasn’t a surprise.

“Daddy, Miss Smith is very nice.”
“Yes, she is H.”
“Daddy, Miss Smith is very pretty.”
“Yes, she is H.”

That was it. I had hardly gone over the top, merely agreed with the opinion of a big girl obsessed four year old.

The next day I dropped H at the school gates. It was the first day he had to walk into the main gates and make his own way to his classroom. I put his huge book bag on his shoulder, kissed him on the cheek, gave him a hug and whispered in his ear.

“See you later matey, have a great day at school”
“Bye, daddy.”

He turned and took a few steps towards the gate, then he turned and said.

“Oh, by the way daddy, I told Miss Smith how pretty you think she is.”
“Thanks, H.”

Shit. H’s teacher thinks I’m an old pervert.

I did share this info on my Facebook page to much laughter and piss taking.

“Is lingerie inappropriate to give as an end of term gift?”, was probably my favourite.

“It’s going to make parents evening a bit awkward”, was another comment.

No it’s bloody not, it’s going to make school pick up time bloody awkward, in four hours time! Then it’s going to make every pick up on every day awkward. When parents evening comes round it will be beyond awkward!

I have to admit that I’ve not been completely honest at this point. It isn’t the first time I’ve been embarrassed in front of Miss Smith although it is the first time it wasn’t my fault. When T was in her glass he had a gymnastics lesson after school which meant a later pick up. As he was getting changed he excitedly told me that Miss Smith’s dog had had babies and that she had brought them in to show the class. Just then Miss Smith walked through the hall where T was getting changed and said ‘hello”.

“Hi” I said, “T was just telling me how much he enjoyed his day”.
“Oh that’s lovely” she said “Yes I showed the class my puppies today and they loved it.”

The snigger rose up like a volcano, I tried to suppress it but it teared up the back of my throat and roared out of my nose before I could help it. The noise lasted a millisecond but it was enough for a chest tightening awkward moment.

“That does sound like a good day” I finally croaked.

After the latest slip the only option for me now of course is to emigrate.