Why I Refuse To Give Out Goody Bags To Apologize For Flying With My Baby
“On a Ten hour flight from Seoul Korea to San Francisco, a mother handed out more than 200 goodie bags filled with candy and ear plugs, in case her 4-month old child cried during the flight.” This was the non-plussed comment that accompanied a picture of said goody bag on a post on Reddit last week. It’s got the social media trifecta of cute baby, humans being nice to each other, and exotic travel so it’s not surprising the picture has garnered over 16,000 upvotes (the Reddit version of likes) and over 1,000 comments. What did surprise me? How much I hate this picture.
As a mom of four kids, all of whom went on airplanes as babies, this feels so incredibly wrong to me. Let’s start with the note that the sweet mom included in the goody bags:
"Hello, I’m Junwoo and I’m 4 months old. I’m a little bit nervous and scary because this is my first flight in my life, which means that I might cry or make too much noise. I will try to go quietly though I can’t make any promises. Please excuse me."
Welcome to global travel, Junwoo! You are adorable. Now: Why are we forcing a 4-month old to apologize (via mom) for what is not only completely normal baby behavior but also completely normal behavior for many adults going on their first (or 27th) flight? The goody bag from Junwoo’s mom also included ear plugs and some Korean candies, all in the hopes of making people not hate them. While I will be the first to say it’s a kind and generous gesture, I’m wondering why so many new parents now feel like this apology goody bag is a necessary gesture.
Here’s the thing I think a lot of people don’t understand: Babies are people. Just like drunk people, people with diarrhea, coughing people, people who want to use you as a pillow, and people who insist on listening to their music without headphones are all, ultimately, also people. People do weird and sometimes really irritating things on public transportation and even though we wish they wouldn’t, part of sharing public spaces with other people is learning how to deal with stinky farts, loud noises, and any number of bodily functions. But you don’t see a wife of an alcoholic passing out earplugs for when he inevitably starts loudly badgering the flight attendant. Or a woman with traveller’s tummy passing out nose plugs because she can’t hold it in for six hours. So why are the rules different for moms of babies? Why aren’t babies allowed to do their normal people business on planes without bringing down the wrath of society on them and their exhausted parents? Why are baby noises and smells considered so much worse that they warrant a preemptive apology? With a gift??
Look, I’m not excusing bad parenting. I’ve been on flights where parents have completely ignored or neglected their children which leads to a lot of unnecessary seat kicking and aggravation. That’s not cool. But these goody bags are apologizing for baby-people who haven’t even made a peep yet! And consider the fact that Junwoo’s mom was so worried that her baby might be annoying that she spent the precious days leading up to an intercontinental flight making two hundred treat bags. Isn’t it enough she had to pack for herself and an infant? Now she has to pack something for every passenger on a plane?
Plus, that’s a lot of pressure for someone who likely isn’t getting a solid night’s sleep yet. These goody bags tell moms that they can control their babies or, failing that, that they can control the reactions of everyone around them. Neither of these things are realistic or kind.
I get it: as moms we don’t want our children to be disliked. We don’t want them to be annoying. We don’t want to be yelled at or judged for our parenting. I remember being so afraid of this that I drugged my rambunctious toddler with baby benadryl, hoping he’d sleep through his first flight, which in hindsight breaks my heart. Sure, he slept, but he also missed looking out the window when we took off and eating pretzels out of a tiny bag and playing with those weird seat buckles!