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When Other Travelers have Children…How NOT to be a Karen

Apologies for not posting a blog last week - we left paradise to fly to another paradise (Hawaii) to attend our friends’ wedding. It was a great experience and the kids enjoyed learning about the Hawaiian culture.

We even took some Hula Lessons!

The good news is, you get my first blog! Truth be told, I have been the editor of all of John’s blogs thus far. He has been great at coming up with ideas and getting his thoughts down. Plus his humor is kind of unique (insert eye roll here). He has been not so great at grammar, punctuation and the use of ellipses (IT’S THREE DOTS, JOHN!). So, without further ado…

We’ve always traveled with our children from a very early age. Jack and Fiona are experienced flyers at this point and Rocco is well on his way. That’s not to say it’s always been easy, although I didn’t realize until this week on the first leg of our flight home from Hawaii how fortunate we’ve been to have gracious travel companions on our flights.

We’ve all experienced a flight with a crying baby or tantruming toddler. As annoying as it can be to experience, know one thing, the parent(s) of that child are having a way worse trip than you. I can’t imagine there is a parent of young kids alive that isn’t mortified when their child is the one acting out on the airplane. To add to that stress by seeing another passenger giving you dirty looks, talking about you to their partner, throwing a silent tantrum by aggressively repositioning in their seat, or, in the case of this past week, cupping their hands over their ears, does nothing to quell the tiny tyrant and, if anything, only escalates the situation as the parent now feels the extra pressure to quickly calm and quiet the child which generally has the complete opposite effect.

Mind you, Rocco was not in full-blown tantrum or tears. He is a pretty content baby as long as he has room to roam. Clearly, this requirement poses substantial issues on an airplane with seatbelt signs illuminated and minimal leg room. We usually pay additional for seats with extra legroom so we can ensure that he isn’t able to kick the seat of the passenger in front of him with the added bonus of extra floor space for him to sit and play with toys. Unfortunately, he was not interested in playing with toys on this flight and, if anything, was overtired but refusing to sleep. More unfortunately, he decided to develop on this trip a shrill screech whenever you are doing something to him/making him do something that he doesn’t want to do. The screech is borderline the most annoying and obnoxious sound in the world. He literally discovered this annoying screech an hour into our 8 hour flight to Hawaii. Being only 17 months, he has not developed social skills that would otherwise dictate you do not scream, even for a brief second, on an airplane and, as such, he was delighting (sarcasm) our fellow passengers with intermittent banshee calls during the flight.

Of course, the only noticeable Karen on the flight was seated directly in front of us. I knew there was going to be an issue the moment she got to her seat. I could feel the annoyance exuding from Karen when she laid eyes on us - how dare we pay extra for four seats in the premium economy section. My initial impressions proved correct as the trip commenced. Initially, Rocco was asleep; however, it didn’t last more than an hour and with a 5+ hour flight and him in the midst of dropping a nap, we were not off to a good start. We were able to pass him back and forth and occupy him with cartoons or toys pretty effectively (or at least I thought). However, any noise out of Rocco was met with dirty looks over her shoulder, head shakes of disapproval and the silent tantrum of aggressive repositioning I mentioned before. We tried our best with distractions, but one screech was one too many for Karen who decided she must cup her hands over her ears and look over her shoulder at my cherub of a baby. I mean, look at this kid:

I met her eye and said, “We are doing the best we can, Ma’am.” as I’ve found sometimes confronting the passive hostility with a plea to their sensibilities and possibly similar experiences can sometimes help to diffuse a situation. That was not the case today.

First, Karen tried to gaslight me - “I wasn’t looking at you! I was looking at him!” speaking of the man she did not know seated in the window seat next to her. I called her on it telling her she’s looked back angrily several times and went as far as to cover her ears. Caught in her lie, Karen went off about how loud Rocco was being and how she kept being kicked in her seat (another notch on the lie tally sheet for Karen). I said, “Ma’am, I don’t know if you have children…” but was unable to finish my sentence as Karen went off with “I have children and grandchildren!” Side note to Karen’s kids - I hope she’s nicer and more patient with your kids.

I proceeded to repeat to Karen that we were doing the best we could, and suggested she put on headphones - which, of course, Karen advised she had and they didn’t help and Rocco was preventing her from relaxing! My further suggestion of investing in a nicer pair of noise-cancelling headphones, which I had been using and were helping immensely for my supporting character role in Rocco’s Modern Life (shout out to my 80’s/90’s kids!) was met by Karen’s third lie (which could just have easily been her old age and lack of understanding that not all earbuds are created equal) that the unknown passenger next to her was using them and they weren’t working for him either (although they were Apple, they were the wired freebies you get with your iPhone and, as such, not noise cancelling contrary to Karen’s assertions). Seeing that the diffusion was not going to happen, I ended the conversation with the following: “Don’t worry Karen, we will get through this together!” To which she huffed and turned back around.

Post-Karen Encounter: Sorry for the bad quality...couldn't risk a flash disrupting Karen's peace!

The rest of the flight John and I continued to do what we had been doing the whole time - keep Rocco as quiet as possible. He let out a few more banshee calls during the flight and Karen continued to talk angrily to her husband about us, but she stopped turning around at least and there wasn’t anymore interactions with Karen after that point.

As we were waiting to exit the plane, I thought for sure Karen was going to say something as she said repeatedly to her husband she was going to. Fortunately, Karen decided not to mess with me anymore that day. Of course, John thinks Karen’s husband convinced her not to engage because he was too intimated by John and didn’t want a ticket to the gun show (eye roll). Had she said something, I wasn’t going to engage with her beyond the following: “Ma’am, I hope that when your children are traveling with your grandchildren that their fellow passengers grant them more grace than you gave us today.”

So Karen, if you are reading this, be kind. Be like the ladies in the row directly behind us who made it a point to tell us before we exited how well-behaved our children were on the flight and how beautiful our family is. Kindness doesn’t cost anything and showing a parent some compassion in an already stressful situation may be the greatest gift you could ever give a stranger.

Pura Vida Friends!

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