Flying with children as a solo parent can be daunting and scary. When flying with children, the kindness of strangers is not to be underestimated because it is so hugely appreciated. To be outnumbered by your children and have to worry about everything from their care, their safety, their comfort as well as all the other practical stuff that goes with flying with children like passports, immigration, collecting your bags and hoping that your baby won’t scream the whole flight and upset everyone etc., let’s say it can be very stressful and can cause anxiety. Especially if it’s the first time, or if your children are very young. As someone who has flown with my young children alone, I wanted to share with you why strangers’ kindness when travelling can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
Flying with the girls this time around was a much easier experience than it has been in the past. The first reason being their age, with the eldest being nearly 7 and the youngest being nearly 5. The other was the kindness of strangers.
As I have said before, I have flown many times with the girls. Most of that has been done on my own, solo parenting. This can be a very daunting responsibility for a parent, especially if the children outnumber the solo parent!
This time around I can honestly say it was easier. Not perfect, but definitely easier. Here’s why:
- They listened when I explained that they needed to stay right next to me at all times!
- No rush. We gave ourselves plenty of time to go through check-in, Immigration and boarding so there was no need to rush and cause anxiety from unnecessary stress.
- They carried their own little backpack so that meant I didn’t have hand luggage to haul around in addition to my handbag and laptop bag!
- No push-chair, buggy or stroller!!! None! It was awesome!
- They understood and cooperated when I said “Please go to the loo now because we can’t go later”. They also understood with regards to the limit on the liquid intake, to avoid having to go to the loo every 5 minutes.
- I was patient.
- They are used to the process now and respect the seat-belt rules when in-flight.
The Kindness Of Strangers
Another very good thing this time around was the genuine kindness of strangers. I was helped by strangers on a number of occasions. From picking up things the kids drop on the floor to swapping seats on the plane.
People who travel with kids are often made to feel like a scourge on society like we planned to have our kids kick the back of your seat the whole flight. I assure you, we did not.
We also did everything we could to ensure there were no tantrums, but kids are not robots! Let’s be honest, if they were robots we’d leave them at home to clean the house whilst we go off on holiday and enjoy ourselves. And let me assure you, no one is more uncomfortable, aware of their children’s behaviour, or sorry, than the parents of those kids!
This perception by intentional travelling parents has led us, the parents of kids when families travel, to having an increased level of anxiety. We are more aware than ever that our kids might be annoying you. This awareness and increased anxiety make the whole experience incredibly painful, and difficult.
Fortunately, what I want parents to know from my experience, is that Yes, there are a few people who have no empathy. People who lack the ability to consider other people’s situations in life. Selfish people.
But, the majority of adults who travel actually are parents themselves, or grandparents or at least remember that the whole world doesn’t revolve around them! The majority of adults in the world are empathetic and kind people.
The kindness of strangers on this particular trip has somewhat renewed my faith in the world and the human race. So I just want to say, Thank You, to the following people. People who showed us a moment o kindness, just because:
- The lady with the dog who let my girls pet him, they loved him!
- The guys who wrapped our suitcases for joking that they were going to wrap the girls up.
- The guy who checked us in at the check-in desk, for taking a moment to ask them where they were going, and the other meaningless chit-chat whilst he processed our paperwork.
- The Home Affairs guy who understood that mistakes happen and believed me enough to go the extra mile to trace my Permanent Residence Permit instead of just being mean, nasty and threatening (like the woman who originally checked my documents).
- The woman who welcomed us to her ‘office’ – the toilet attendant! The girls thought this was the most impressive office they’d ever seen! lol
- The man who gave up his seat to squash himself into an uncomfortable position for two hours so I could sit next to my girls on the flight. He really put himself out! He kindly offered to swap with me, and after I declined his kind offer, he then insisted on giving up his window seat so I could sit in the same row next to the girls. This was especially kind as this meant he had to squash himself in next to a very large lady. The kindness of these two people blew me away! Such a small thing meant so much to me and unbeknown to them, my girls.
- And finally to the lady who was kind and welcoming at the Immigration desk on arrival at Harare International Airport. Again, she took the time to talk me through the process and chat to the girls therefore making them feel special and important too.
Peace of Mind
I think that the most important thing I learnt in all this is that the ‘stigma’ faced by parents travelling with kids, about how the rest of the world of travellers actually hate us, it not true. Our children are as entitled to be on that plane, that train, or that path as the adult next to them. And we as adults need to teach our children to always be kind because that one moment of kindness that we show someone takes so little from us, but can mean the whole world to that person. Kindness Matters!