Kids’ karma on long haul

The Weekend Australian - Life - - LIFE - RUTH OSTROW @OstrowRuth

It was a hor­ror sce­nario for me. A long-haul flight from Rome to Syd­ney sur­rounded by ba­bies and tod­dlers in ev­ery seat, in­clud­ing a tod­dler right next to me who climbed on me the mo­ment I sat down. Most were cry­ing or noisy be­fore we’d even taken off.

Be­fore any par­ents ac­cuse me of po­lit­i­cal in­cor­rect­ness, I flew with my child all over the world. But I still al­ways felt sorry for those around who had to en­dure the tears (in­clud­ing a busi­ness­man who had her banana pushed into his suit) and al­ways felt anx­ious.

The child in the seat in front had de­cided to put a mushy bread roll be­tween the seats which landed on my leg; and her sis­ter was hit­ting the man next to me on the head with an empty plas­tic bot­tle.

“A two-Val­ium flight,” I thought to my­self. But to my ut­ter sur­prise it was the op­po­site. Per­haps one of the hap­pi­est flights I’ve had in re­cent times.

The sur­prise started early. As I rolled my eyes, not one per­son rolled them back. Rather, they smiled in de­light at be­ing sur­rounded by all those chil­dren. Per­haps I should clar­ify now. It was my first long-haul Air In­dia flight and filled with In­dian fam­i­lies. Their at­ti­tude to chil­dren on flights was so dif­fer­ent to our own that I was amazed.

Even while on the tar­mac, peo­ple be­gan get­ting out of their seats and play­ing with other peo­ple’s chil­dren. One older wo­man (they re­spect­fully call all older women “aunty”) had brought cakes on board to hand out to other peo­ple’s kids and was walk­ing down the aisle giv­ing fam­i­lies sweet­ies to the glee of all — with par­ents say­ing, “Thank you, aunty.”

Dur­ing the flight a cry­ing child was of­ten en­ter­tained by men and women in front, side or back. Bot­tles on heads were en­dured with laugh­ter and play.

With so much com­mu­nal sup­port most chil­dren set­tled quickly, and when one woke or be­gan cry­ing they seemed to calm down eas­ily.

Un­be­liev­ably, the flight was rel­a­tively quiet. Not only that but the joy around me was in­fec­tious.

I felt like I was part of a big fam­ily, as I al­ways do when I’m in In­dia.

Some on­line com­ments com­plain that on this air­line chil­dren run about kick­ing seats and dis­turb­ing ev­ery­one. Yes, there were a lot of kids be­cause In­di­ans are very fam­ily ori­ented and there were cer­tainly mo­ments of chaos, but it was re­mark­able to ob­serve how the group dy­namic changed things.

In the end I could just see happy faces, in­clud­ing cabin staff, and the pos­si­bil­ity of how it could be when whole com­mu­ni­ties brought up kids, not just a cou­ple alone be­hind picket fences with post-par­tum depression. It was a re­ally nice experience.


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