The more I travel with my family, the more I become convinced that all children—even my own two girls—fall into five basic categories while traveling on planes:
Cries, wails, caterwauls, shrieks, groans and other loud and obnoxious noises characterize kids who fall into this grouping. In many cases, Screamers do their thing repeatedly, for extended periods of time. In almost as many cases, the little animals continue screaming (or actually increase the screaming), even after they’ve been reprimanded (by parents or strangers).
Children in this category care about one thing and one thing only—the screen in front of them. Whether it’s a game (as the category title suggests) or a movie, Mr. iPad or Tablet is their best friend, prompting behavior akin to a stupor or trance. The good news? These children usually stay quiet. The bad news? (Depending on age,) Brain development might suffer, too.
Some wonder if Prefontaine got his start running up and down the aisles of a moving airplane. If so, he would have been the founder of this category, a grouping for those kids who simply can’t stay in their seats. Flight attendants have cracked down on these behaviors in recent years. Still, especially on long flights, offenders might get in a few laps before order is restored.
Seat-back tray tables are the enemy for kids in this category, who insist on kicking what they see in front of them. Most often, the kicking is a sign of nervous energy; it increases in frequency during take-off and landing, or when the fasten-seatbelt sign is on. Still, some offenders simply do it because they’re bored
Kids in this category are the ones about whom everyone will be talking; the kids who are so pleasant and silent and well-adjusted that flight attendants give them extra goodies, just because. When the kids need to pee, they do so quietly and uneventfully. When they get antsy, they color another picture or (politely) ask Mom and Dad to read another book.
It’s worth noting that no category placement is permanent; a child may start a flight in one category, then move into another category before ending in a third (or fourth or fifth, I suppose).
Personally, my wife and I don’t expect perfection; a good flight is any trip during which our girls spend more than half the flight as Saints. Provided we minimize their time as Screamers, we like to think we’re good. At least until their legs get longer.
Have I missed a category? Do you have a different assessment of how we might group and describe kids on planes? Leave a comment.