I know it's only June... but I think I'm ready to hand out my mother of the year award. Kirstie Allsopp, this trophy's for you!
Earlier this week, Allsopp told the Sun newspaper that she and her partner sometimes sit in the business class cabin, while her children, 10 and 12, sit in economy.
Of course, the rage machine that is social media immediately lurched into action... but rather than apologize for something she shouldn't be sorry for, she defended her personal parenting decisions.
In her initial email, she wrote:
"Obviously this wasn't the case when they were little but now [that] they are big enough to sit separately, they do.
Club Class should be a huge treat that you've worked hard for. If kids get used to Club Class, what do they have to work towards? It seems like an absurd waste of money to have children in Premium seats, and very spoiling."
Agree SO hard.
I went on Twitter to see what people had their panties up in a bunch about. Here are the main objections I saw, and why they're wrong.
1. You shouldn't split up the family/teach your kids you think you're better than they are/travel at all with your kids if you're going to spend the first and last few hours of the week-long trip, during which you'll be together constantly, sitting 40 feet away from each other.
Why is this stupid and wrong?
One is that kids need boundaries. They shouldn't feel entitled to everything adults have, because they are not adults.
Like, is it unfair that you get to drink alcohol and they don't?
Is it unfair that you have a later bedtime than they do?
Is it unfair that you bought yourself something expensive, and they didn't get one?
Is it unfair that you have a car and they don't?
And, at a measly 5'2, do they really need extra legroom? Or the fancy meal? Or the unlimited free booze?
No. Of course not. Treating a kid as such is putting them on the fast track to having no friends and being unable to earn the respect of adults. If you raise kids to feel entitled, they will feel and act entitled. Or, to use Kirstie's words, "spoiled."
There are certain luxuries that kids aren't (or aren't always) entitled to. Forcing the idea that everyone deserves all the equal things is a good way to turn them into a whiny social justice warrior who's unable to function normally in society due to their victim mindset. Not that they'll be able to function normally, anyway, because:
Second, kids need independence.
As I wrote in Thanks to Helicopter Parents, Today's Kids Are Literally Incapable of Playing Tag, there's a reason every popular kids' story or movie immediately kills off the parents (or at least turns them into a bear).
Children are hardwired to explore. Risk-taking (or, at least, the perception thereof) is in their nature. Risks tend to manifest themselves in one of six ways:
I'm not the first person to have noticed the harmful effects of overparenting on today's teenagers and young adults. Even the "best and brightest" youth, who ended up at Stanford, were majorly unprepared to live and thrive independently. Hence former Stanford Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims' bestseller, How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids For Success.
This resonated so hard. Especially considering the number of kids who are medicated, and the fact that mental health services at pretty much every college and university right now are scrambling to keep up with mental health needs on campus.
To anonymously quote another high-ranking Stanford administrator, "Today's students are not like your generation."
They're fragile and afraid. They have no resilience or life skills. They call crisis hotlines after their roommate calls them a bitch or they see a mouse in their on-campus apartment.
They also drink like crazy because they don't know how to have fun on their own and are unsupervised for the first time in their life. When I was at Stanford, we had, like, two alcohol transports (that means someone drank so much they had to go to the hospital) per year. In 2015, they had more than 60.
I'm not saying these kids end up in the hospital because their parents always sat with them on airplanes. But there is definitely a connection between today's "never leave your child alone" mindset and the major mental health crisis in college and high school students.
Third, kids suck at empathy... and treating yourself to a seat upgrade helps them see you as a person, and not just a body.
Due to the stage of their brain development, preteens and teens are actually kind of bad at empathy. By no particular fault of their own, they tend to see others as bodies, but not necessarily people. They're kind of like little psychopaths -- except, unlike psychopaths, they care tremendously what others think of them.
This, combined with the current trend of trying to be their best friend instead of their parent, and of parents completely depriving themselves of free time and always putting their kids first... can turn your kids into little jerks.
Anxious little jerks. As I wrote in When "Achievement" Is Toxic,
Sometimes, when we're determined to get our kid into the best college, we insulate them from any kind of failure, ever.
Similarly, when you deprive yourself the chance of some relaxation or luxury, you undermine your own humanity in a child's eyes. Not only do your job, clients, and obligations matter less than them not getting a B for the day in Orchestra...
But your comfort and preferences also matter less than... what? "Fairness" and "together time"?
How about the fact that most kids have never been on an airplane? That's pretty unfair.
The fact that you're taking time off and spending a ton of money to give your child an incredible experience unavailable to the majority of the planet should be enough.
The fact that you're going to be together, swimming and sitting by the pool and touring macadamia nut farms and having daring adventures should be enough.
The kid shouldn't feel disenfranchised because they had to fly in coach. And they definitely don't need to be literally rubbing elbows with you instead of sitting 40 feet away from you on the plane.
If you teach your kids it's "unfair" for a parent to get better seats than the kid... you're setting them up to have their world crushed when they see a classmate wearing a watch they can't afford.
Life isn't fair. If you work hard, you get good things. Your parents are people, too, and they deserve nice things -- as well as your gratitude. All good life lessons.
2. Kids shouldn't fly alone because it's scary.
Okay, so, like -- if your kid is scared of flying, maybe don't have them sit alone.
But otherwise... there's literally nothing to be scared of, and the vast majority of kids won't be scared. There's literally no way to get lost. Your parents are literally 40 feet away. And between books and movies and video games and whatever else they've got going on... they probably either don't even notice you're gone, or they're glad you are, because, as Kirstie and several other parents on Twitter mentioned, flying alone is the "ultimate adventure." You can commit small transgressions like indulging in extra screen time, watching PG-13 movies, and drinking lemonade with breakfast.
Plus, again, kids CRAVE independence. It's an important part of their development, and when we deprive them of it, pretty much all the bad things happen.
I'm a woman who travels the world alone -- and a huge part of why that is fun and not scary for me is because my mom didn't treat me like the world is scary and fostered self-reliance and independence.
3. It's "rude" to other passengers or flight attendants, who, for some reason, take it upon themselves to babysit other people's kids without being asked.
This was one of THE dumbest objections to Allsopp's parenting.
Like, if I see a small child wandering alone at the mall, I'll keep a distant eye on them to make sure they're not lost. If it's not clear, I'll ask the child, "Are you lost? Do you know where your mom is?"
But on an airplane, as I wrote above, there is literally nothing to worry about. The kid isn't going to fall out of the window and land in the middle of the Atlantic. If they start to feel scared or sick or uncomfortable, they know exactly where their parents are sitting -- and unless they're physically disabled, they are able to get up and walk the 20 steps to their parents' seat.
It's very strange to me that anyone would see an unaccompanied minor and think it was somehow their business to intervene.
Like, did you forget your book, computer, phone, magazine, and headphones at home? Do you literally have nothing else to do but sit there and fume about a child who's minding his or her own business?
If so... ask a flight attendant for a magazine or a pen. They often have something on hand. You can try suduko or the crossword in the in-flight magazine. Or maybe try meditation -- it sounds like your mind is troubled and restless and you could benefit from it.
If not... why not dive in to your book, computer, phone, magazine, or music/audiobook, and stop worrying about someone else's kid? If you're completely at a loss for what to read -- contact me! I'm full of incredible recommendations.
Someone complained that kids can be unruly or annoying. So can grown-ups, though. I'll give you the same advice I give everyone who seems unable to use their big boy and their big girl words to tell someone (of any age) who is bothering them:
Use your big boy and your big girl words. It's not that hard.
As I wrote in Quick! Before You Publicly Shame People Who Annoy You, TRY THIS!!
If someone does something that bothers me, I don’t assume that they can magically read my mind and adjust their behavior – I tell them, so they know.
Moreover, as I wrote in Why It's My Moral Obligation To Ignore Your Passive Aggression,
In the long run, [refusing to use your big boy or your big girl words] could lead to you getting less play time on the frisbee field. Fewer raises and promotions. Less acknowledgement for your work. And, in general, less of all the things you want. Read more >
So, okay. Say that someone's kids are sitting alone, and they're bickering. Or kicking the seat in front of them. Or whatever.
What you could try, instead of letting it ruin your flight and raise your blood pressure, is turn to them and say, "Excuse me, I am trying to sleep. Would you mind not kicking the back of my chair?"
"Hey, guys? It sounds like things are getting pretty heated. Think you could have this conversation later? I can't hear my movie."
Same thing I would do to an adult who was cutting his nails or kicking the back of my chair.
There is also the matter of the flight attendants. It sounds like one very worried flight attendant would have had a cow if two kids sat alone -- but, seriously, lady. You're making a problem out of nothing. You don't have to constantly worry about and babysit the kids. No one asked you to. Just do your job. You'll be fine.
Another flight attendant chimed in:
If the kids become super unruly, obviously you can tell the parents, who will probably be mortified and instantly correct the behavior. Would that be the end of the world?
At the end of the day, a parent knows their own kids best. If they have decided that their 9- and 11-year-old are responsible enough to sit 40 feet away from them on a flight, they're probably right.
And if you don't think your kids are able to do that... maybe think about the way you're raising them. Remember: if psychology has taught us anything, it's the people rise (and fall) to meet the expectations we set for them.
If you tried giving them a little space, who knows WHAT they might end up doing.
Kirstie Allsopp did just that -- and now her sons are responsible and independent enough to fly alone. She refused to back down when vicious moms attacked her in large hoards. (There's nothing quote like seeing women support women, and moms supporting other moms.)
If you want your kids to become independent, but you're not sure how to get started, check out Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry), by Lenore Skenazy.
Not a frequent flyer? You might like Playborhood: Make Your Neighbor a Place for Play, by Mike Lanza. It's full of really specific, actionable advice about how to make your neighborhood funner and safer. Among my favorite suggestions: want your kids to be able to play with other kids, but don't like them walking next to the street? Build a system of ladders and climbing holds so they can climb over fences and go directly into each other's yards.
I'm also fond of Peter Gray's Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.
And, remember. Taking some time for yourself once in a while and allowing yourself occasional luxuries might be just what it takes to make you less stressed and helicopter-y.
Thoughts? Share them below, or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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