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I saw this headline in a link-roundup in my Google Reader feed and immediately started foaming at the mouth: Malaysia Airlines – No More Infants in First Class. My first thoughts can be most accurately described as ” ATHEIROVEOI@(U#!)*U@#*@H$E$OIHF(!@*)#U@()U@#!)(” with a side order of “WHAT IS THIS, I DON’T EVEN.”

I shall now attempt to describe my position a bit more eloquently.

It drives me completely and utterly bats to see the way that babies and children are treated by society. I was going to say “American society” as I was hoping this was one of those quirks unique to those of us in the Land of the Free, Home of the Wal-Mart Shopper. (Not to rag on Wal-Mart shoppers. I myself spend more than a healthy amount of time in Target.) However, as this article suggests, the phenomenon is more widespread and at least affects Malaysians as well. I won’t generalize any more than that about Malaysians as I’ve never been to Malaysia, and that’s not really my point anyway.

MY POINT. Which I do have. Children (and babies) are people too. And we – as a culture – absolutely do not treat them that way.

I hear it all the time – “I won’t go to [such and such place] because of the screaming kids.” “Ugh, there was this kid next to me on the plane and he wouldn’t shut up.” “People need to get their strollers out of [location].” Ad. Nauseum. And every time, it gets my dander up. It would be completely unacceptable to say this about any other group in society – can you imagine the flack for asking people to get their wheelchairs off of the subway because they take up too much space? – but no one defends the rights of children to exist outside of the home. And that galls me.

Children have every right to inhabit public spaces alongside their caregivers. There’s absolutely no reason why a child shouldn’t safely travel with their parents and absolutely no reason whatsoever why a parent shouldn’t be able to choose to buy a first class ticket. Infants, and their parents, should not be treated like second class citizens just because they “annoy” other people. If we’re going down this road, I’ve got my own list of people who annoy me personally who I would like to see admonished for their behavior (people who are drunk in public and those who either forget their deodorant or choose to wear a gallon of cologne top my list). Anyone who has traveled with children will tell you that the person caring for the child is a lot more frustrated than you, who are “trying to sleep,” could ever be.

I’ve been a big advocate of taking my son out with me from the first day I brought him home. I absolutely do my best to know and respect his limits – but I do so not out of concern for my fellow adults, but out of respect for him. It wouldn’t be fair to him for me to expect him to behave himself in a noisy bar, so I don’t take him there. As a result, he does quite well in public spaces and I’m able to bring him along on lunch dates, car trips, and short appointments. I’ve learned not to worry about him having a breakdown and disturbing other people as my primary concern in the event of a meltdown is his comfort. I absolutely don’t want him to be a screaming mess – not because people stare at me and make clucking noises about “screaming babies” – but because as his mother, I don’t like seeing him unhappy when I can prevent it.

Sometimes though, limits have to be pushed. Parents need to travel. Babies need to come along. And that’s tough, for everybody. I’ve certainly been on many a flight with crying babies and while, yes of course I’m irritated by the noise, my heart goes out to the babies and their parents because they are having a much shittier day than I am. Less forgivable are the equally irritating flights I’ve been on with loud, drunken sports fans who insist on sexually harassing the flight attendants.

We as a culture go on and on and on and on and on about “the children.” The children are our future. We’ve got to protect the American family. Blah blah blah The Children. But we don’t really care about actual children. It’s only the idea of children that appeals to us. Take a child into a public space and you’ll see this in action. It’s incredible.

I could keep going in circles on this forever. I’ll just wrap up by saying we quickly forget how at one time, we all were children and certainly would have wanted our rights respected.