Lately, I’ve heard more and more stories about parents handing out goodie bags before flights begin. Usually, these bags have a note pre-apologizing for their child crying, candy, and ear plugs.
The argument against goodie bags
The argument is that this furthers the idea that parents need to constantly apologize for their kids’ existence.
Preparing and passing out little gifts only reinforces this idea that parents, and parents alone, are responsible for their children.
So the author is not only criticizing society for perpetuating this idea, but is also those parents themselves that “perpetuate the notion that children are inconvenient.”
She cites Lizzie Post (of Emily Post relation) on this subject, who says:
I would love for parents to feel like they don’t have to bring a ‘I’m sorry I’m traveling with children kit.’ Come on, people.
But Ms. Post does not say the parents shouldn’t do this. Just that they shouldn’t feel obligated to do this. Which is very different.
The point at which Ms. Strauss loses me a bit is when she suggests:
Of course, even the loveliest infants and toddlers, including those with unlimited access to cartoons and videogames and the attention span to be abosrbed[sic] by them, still turn into horrible monsters sometimes. Should this happen, parents absolutely can and should offer to pay for a drink or a movie for anyone being inconvenienced by it.
So her argument is suggesting you shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for children unless they act up (something children are prone to do because. well, they are children). And then, you are allowed to start buying rounds for all the affected passengers around you.
Why I think that’s wrong
This seems a bit backwards to me.
First, let me start by saying, I don’t think anyone is obligated to hand out goodie bags and I certainly don’t expect it. However, I don’t think we should say they shouldn’t.
Here’s a story. Bear with me, I’ll tie it back in a second.
One day, I looked out of the window of my house and a neighbor’s dog was starting to go in my front yard. I just happened to lock eyes with this neighbor, whom I didn’t know. When she saw me looking back at her, she started yanking on her dog’s leash frantically to get him to move on.
She didn’t know how I felt about the dog using my lawn and started panicking. Honestly, I was wondering if she was going to clean up after it. There was no context or relationship there.
I met another neighbor while he was walking his dog. All we said was “Hi” and “How are you?” Later, his dog also went to go potty in my front yard. (It’s apparently the dog hot spot). I saw my neighbor and waved, and he waved back. Our little interaction beforehand helped build up a relationship and context between me and my neighbor, so we didn’t sweat the small stuff with each other.
Back to the airplane
So how is this story related? I think those goodie bags that are given out aren’t apologies for having children (and in fact, nothing has happened yet to apologize for).
They give the people around you on the airplane context and start to build up trust.
If a baby starts crying and a passenger can’t see the situation directly, he may start building up a narrative in his head about whether or not the parents are trying to do anything about the crying. This narrative will probably be negative. “Why can’t they do something about that?” “I bet they aren’t even paying attention.” etc.
With the goodie bag, the narrative will change. The passenger will think something like, “That parent is trying everything she can.”
The drink solution puzzles me. That’s literally an apology (the thing the author says parents shouldn’t do). At that point, the negative narrative is already building in the fellow passengers’ minds, and sending them drinks would work to repair a situation.
The goodie bag would give fellow passengers context to the situation and would start to build a relationship. Because of this context, fellow passengers would give the parents a greater benefit of the doubt. I don’t think, however, that the goodie bag is perpetuating the negative thoughts that people might have about children on the flight. I think it is actually preventing them.
Again, I’m not saying parents have to do this, but I think they should do it if they want to.
What do you think? Do the goodie bags make the situation worse overall for parents?