Dear parents, please STOP apologising for your children’s behaviour on flights

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  • Another day, another story of a set of parents feeling like they have to apologise for the existence of their children when flying as a family.

    This time, it was the mum and dad of little Caoimhe, who were travelling with their baby on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Washington Dulles.

    Anticipating that their child (to be fair, like many adults) might not enjoy the sensation of take off and landing, they dutifully handed out bags of sweets and earplugs, along with a note which read: ‘Hi, my name is Caoimhe. I’m usually smiley and sweet, but I can’t promise I won’t make a peep.

    ‘Here are some earplugs and treats for you to keep! Enjoy your flight :)’

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    They’re not the first to fall prey to the trend for these bribery bags – they’ve been going around the internet for years, and in principle, seem pretty harmless. Handing out gifts is generally a kind, thoughtful gesture, and hey, in antithesis to everything I’ve ever taught my own child about stranger danger and personal safety, who doesn’t love free candy?

    My issue with it is (creepy personification of a baby that cannot yet speak aside) that it sets a precedent for other parents to apologise for their child’s behaviour in any public setting. And that, frankly, just ain’t happening.

    My daughter is generally polite, well-mannered, and easy-going – but she is also only three, and still learning about the world. Sometimes she chatters. Sometimes she cries. Sometimes she grabs my hair and pulls it like it’s not attached to another person and screams in my face until I give her a box of Smarties, which she will then graciously accept in exchange for a blissful 75 seconds of silence.

    Honestly, I never know which one I’m going to get, but any of these options are normal for children, and not something we as parents should feel we have to compensate for.

    If she’s being a pain in my butt and yours on public transport, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m doing everything within my power to shut her the hell up, but newsflash, you’re on public transport. The clue is in the name.

    I’m only human, and so is she, and so, more to the point, is everyone who’s ever rolled their eyes or tutted at a baby going for it at peak decibel in a crowded space, and they could do well to remember it.

    Is the guy with the super long legs going to apologise for kneeing you in the back for four hours? Is he heck. Is the woman who has taken off her shoes and cropdusted the cabin with her sweaty feet smell going to say sorry for grossing you all out? I’d put money on no.

    We don’t tell them off for it, because we’re grown ups, and we make allowances for other people’s flaws. I just don’t see why I have to pay them in sugar to offer my little one the same courtesy.

    Of course I’ll toss you a sympathetic smile if my girl is howling, and I’m not going to say that it’s super fun being in earshot of her when she does, but there are enough things things for me to potentially forget when packing for a holiday for both me and a smaller human, without stopping to prepare presents for everyone within a five foot vicinity of her vocal chords.

    And if you’ve ever handed out one of these flight favour baggies, I get it – I really do. No one wants to be the one on the plane that everyone dreads getting lumbered with.

    But the next time you feel the need to say sorry for a behavioural crime that your child hasn’t even committed yet, remember that you’re the one that has to sit in the seat next to them no matter what. And that my friends, is punishment enough.