Traveling by air this summer when a crying baby interrupts your reverie? Don’t be surprised if you become the instant recipient of a goody bag — complete with candy, earplugs, and a note of forgiveness from a mortified parent.
More and more parents with little ones are taking action like this, apologizing for their babies when they make a peep. In some cases, they’re handing out gift bags as a preemptive strike even before the baby opens its mouth.
“That goody bag would certainly calm down any frustrated passenger,” said one mom, laughing.
Babies cry — especially when their ears are stopped up and aching. Smart people get that. So what’s to apologize for?
Not a thing, really. But in this age of parental insecurity — when moms routinely consult their pediatrician, Facebook friends, social media, and parenting tomes before ever even purchasing a pacifier — perhaps these goody bags shouldn’t come as such a surprise.
“These well-intentioned gestures aren’t done out of kindness. They’re done because parents fear being judged, shamed, and glared at for the behavior of their child, even when that child is a baby and the behavior in question, crying, is completely natural,” Madeleine Summerville wrote this week in The Guardian. “Is this [the goody bag gesture] really necessary?”
Lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann of San Diego, California, said that while the gesture is nice, it needs to be followed up by concrete action.
“I think it’s a thoughtful idea, to come up with something in advance and thinking of others,” she told LifeZette. “I have three core values — respect, honesty, and consideration. This is a considerate idea — and it’s interesting and creative, too. The goody bag isn’t a license to not put forth any effort beyond that, however — people appreciate seeing parents actively trying when a baby is crying.”
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“Fellow passengers appreciate a mom or dad’s attitude of, ‘Please bear with me — I understand that my child is being a little disruptive, and I want to be as considerate as possible,'” she continued. “The goody bag shouldn’t be bribery.”
Karen Cahill, 54, of Weymouth, Massachusetts, flies frequently. She thinks that, while it’s a nice idea, it is certainly nothing a parent should feel he or she has to do.
“People naturally know there may be babies on their flight,” she said. “Parents should instead get a goody bag of toys and activities to occupy the child — they pay enough for the flight without [needing to make] up treat bags for complete strangers. That’s what headphones are for. And that’s on the stranger to bring aboard, not on the mom or dad to provide.”
A flight attendant with Continental Airlines for 10 years, Swann has seen her fair share of parents trying to console a fussy baby. “Babies can pick up agitation, so sometimes if a mom is nervous about the baby’s crying, the baby can get even fussier,” she said.
Her tip if parents do hand out goody bags? “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself heading down the aisles — just limit it to the people right around you.”
Patrea Anderson, a mom of two from Melrose, Massachusetts, jokingly says it depends on what’s in the goody bag. “Those little ‘nips’ would certainly calm down any frustrated passengers,” she told LifeZette. “I did hear a good idea recently, though. Airlines should provide family flights — strictly for families with children — a few times a week.”
“On the scale of undesirable public behaviors, is a baby crying really so terrible?”
There are times when it’s best to put the others around you first — namely, Sunday Mass.
“I was at Mass recently where a small child was screaming and crawling up his dad’s neck, and the dad was completely oblivious,” said one Boston-area mom. “Even the priest seemed to glance at him, like, ‘Really?’ I should be more gracious in my attitude, particularly since it happened at church — perhaps he was utterly exhausted from working two jobs.”
“People see a lack of consideration in that scenario,” said Swann. “Pick your toddler up and take him to the back. We should always put forth the effort so that others don’t feel upset, uncomfortable, angry, or frustrated. You can’t control a baby, but you can control yourself — you have feet to walk away on.”
Perhaps a little pre-planning and a commitment to work with a fussy baby the entire flight would go much further than pre-takeoff goody bags that apologize for a baby’s mere existence.
“When we choose to emerge into the public realm, we agree to encounter all manner of people we wouldn’t necessarily choose to spend time with otherwise,” Summerville wrote in The Mail. “And on the scale of undesirable public behaviors, is a baby crying really so terrible?”
She added, tongue-in-cheek, “For the deliberately child-free, a crying baby can serve as an affirmation of your life choices.”
Bill Melley, a father of three from Reading, Massachusetts, echoed a phrase first coined by newly minted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Unnecessary,” he said of the cloud-bound goody bags. “It takes parents to handle this — not a village!”