May 3, 2015

"It was as if people secretly wished we could stow our child in cargo so that we would not disrupt their game of Candy Crush.'"

Writes the novelist Reif Larsen in a NYT op-ed about traveling with a little baby. That prompts what is most-favorited comment over there:
No, it is because everyone on that plane knows your child will be screaming for the next seven hours, because you decided that you must continue your pre-child life, at any expense to others. Small children like to be around familiar surroundings and get nothing whatsoever from their parents endless traveling.

Parents used to understand that having children came with sacrifices and did not entitle you to ruin the days of every person you came in contact with, whether in a confined space or at a pub or restaurant.

Just stop thinking you and your child are the center of the universe.

FYI: I say this as a mother of two.
The title of the op-ed is deceptive: "How Doing Nothing Became the Ultimate Family Vacation." Doing nothing would be staying at home and not working. Hang around. Take some walks. Read. Cook some food.

There is a bit about liking one trip to an all-inclusive hotel in Florida when the baby was 3 months old.
A part of me felt bad that he was coming into consciousness poolside, surrounded by overweight and sunburned Americans lightly drooling to Jimmy Buffett tunes, but hey — the world ain’t all pretty, kid.
I guess that's funny writing, but all I could think was: You can't expose a little baby to sun. What the hell were you doing?
I found myself desperate to feel like an adult again, even if only for an hour. Strange that adulthood equated to collecting about three towels too many from the towel boy, then elbowing my way to a prime spot on the deck so that I could slurp an overpriced piña colada and roast my pasty flesh while staring at the same page of a book for 20 minutes. And you know what? It was awesome.
You're drinking, avoiding the baby, avoiding your spouse, and getting sunburned. And this is presented as something that was done because of the baby, his usual preference being for the sort of vacation that enables you to claim to be "travelers and not tourists."

Yes, he rolls out that old trip tripe the first sentence. (For my extended discussion of the traveler/tourism cliché, see "What do you think the difference is between a tourist and a traveler?")

45 comments:

T Rellis said...

exposing your baby to sun? Vitamin d. I know you read instapundit

Brando said...

That comment was awesome--the article writer came across as an insufferable twit.

I don't have kids so I'll reserve judgment, but this writer does sound like the type who cares not a bit about subjecting others to his poor decisions in bringing a child too young to travel so he never has to adjust his lifestyle. And hasn't he heard of leaving the kid with a sitter? If you can afford an expensive vacation, it's worth spending a little more to not force the kid to go through it.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Brando- Well you have to feed the child.

We learned the hard way with baby #2 that babies and travel don't mix.

Not a fancy vacation. Just that TG and Christmas came up, the whole family wanted to see her and her big sister, and we were still young and afraid to say "If you want to see the child, come to us."

It was awful. She was clearly miserable and wanted her OWN house and her OWN bed. To this day, the extended family still remembers her as "That kid with colic." Except it WASN'T colic, because she only had it if we traveled.

Now, with 6 kids, I don't crave overnight trips. I enjoy a good day trip. (i.e. anywhere in a 3 hour radius). I hate packing and organizing accommodations. Besides, there are so many interesting places w/in day trip distance, why stay overnight?

(Though, in a year or two, we will probably go on a massive drive-through vacation, because the kids really want to do the 'Little House Loop' and see WI,MN,SD,KS and MO----

Lem said...

"It was as if people secretly wished we could stow our child in cargo so that we would not disrupt their game of Candy Crush."

Eye candy

Texas Annie said...

When our son was six months old, the relatives from Virginia to Missouri all wanted to see him since he was the first grandchild among all my aunts, uncles and cousins.

So, we rented a small RV, filled it up with baby stuff and drove around the country staying in campgrounds. We had everything we needed to warm bottles, change diapers and cook meals without putting our baby on a plane or in a restaurant.

We had a kitchen and bathroom right there with us and we saw the country. When Patrick was sleepy we could put him in his portable crib.

That was awesome!

Texas Annie said...

You know, now that I think about it, I don't know why more families don't take advantage of recreational vehicles.

You can rent them everywhere now and they are so modern and well-appointed you would marvel at the ingenuity. You can take all the kids clothes and toys and do wash at the campgrounds along the way. You can cook cheaper meals in the RV and save tons of money on restaurants.

Campgrounds these days are not the creepy places of the past. They are clean, friendly and have lots of activities. Some rival the best resorts and even have car rentals on site to go sightseeing without the camper.

The best part is, George Carlin would be incredibly proud at how much of your stuff you can take with you!

campy said...

You know, now that I think about it, I don't know why more families don't take advantage of recreational vehicles.

Because a poke in the eye with a sharp stick sounds more appealing?

Ann Althouse said...

"exposing your baby to sun? Vitamin d..."

You need some sun, but you don't expose a baby to the kind of sunning you get by a pool or on a beach.

And I am saying this as someone who was taken to the beach as a child where I got a very painful and utterly predictable sunburn year after year.

Ann Althouse said...

"0-6 months: Infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun. Their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. An infant's skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes and provides some sun protection. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun's damaging effects. Use removable mesh window shields to keep direct sunlight from coming in through the windows of your car or invest in UV window film....

You can't use sunscreen and you're supposed to use fabric shields even when the baby is inside a car!

Mrs Whatsit said...

"overweight and sunburned Americans lightly drooling to Jimmy Buffett tunes"

It's worse for a baby to be raised by somebody with such snotty, sneering contempt for other human beings than to get a year's worth of sunburn.

Ann Althouse said...

Even a guy named "campy" doesn't want to go camping with a baby.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's worse for a baby to be raised by somebody with such snotty, sneering contempt for other human beings than to get a year's worth of sunburn."

Yeah, and notice how he thinks the other people on a plane who don't want be annoyed only want to play a mindless video game. How does he know they aren't reading or working or trying to rest? You'd think a novelist would at least picture them trying to read.

Anonymous said...

A scowl from a TSA officer does not mean "You gotta be bringing that in here?" It means "I am a TSA officer".

MadisonMan said...

My goal when traveling with kids was to be invisible and unheard. It takes tons of prep work.

I think we flew three times with the kids before they got to Kindergarten. Exhausting.

You want a fun flight? Fly to Orlando ;) Full of kids hyped up on Disney. (Even better -- fly from Orlando -- they're all tired!)

The author of the article is spending too much time justifying his lifestyle.

Ann Althouse said...

I went to Orlando many times with my kids because we had (and have) family there. I drove, year after year, even when I was without another adult. 1400 miles each way. I drove because I considered it easier.

MadisonMan said...

I have a kid who got car sick a lot. It was like driving with a ticking time bomb in the back seat -- you just never knew when those dreaded words "I don't feel good" would pop up. So, the two times we went to Orlando, we flew.

Once we flew out of Mitchell, and stayed at a near-airport hotel. (Stay here, park for free!!) My kids can still describe the beer-soaked smell of the room carpet. Too many drunken weddings there I guess. Good part of their Wisconsin education!

madAsHell said...

I drove because I considered it easier.

Doesn't everyone have memories of loading the station wagon, and driving? Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, skiing?

See the USA in a Chevrolet!!

Unknown said...

Of course babies can and should be exposed to sun. These are old wives tales and debunked medical science saying otherwise. Like the recommendation to get baby boy circumcised. Debunked.

Dr

paminwi said...

Traveling in the old station wagon with the rear facing seats was the best! We always fought over who got to sit there. But, for a long drive my parents always bought us new Archie comic books and it was awesome! I always brought regular books along for when we got to where we were going, but the comic books were great for the drive!

Eustace Chilke said...

The painful anglophilia in this piece contributes as much to its poisonous aftertaste as anything else about it. This is a fellow who goes around all day thinking how clever and special he is compared to the proles who surround him. How bereft he would feel if all the hillbillies could be elevated like him.

dustbunny said...

I went back to read your traveler/tourist discussion and I still think the most poetic description of the difference is in Paul Bowles' The ShelteringSky, published in 1949:
"...Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months,the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periodsof years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he felt most at home." It is a highly romantic notion that most people who call themselves travelers rather than tourists have absolutely no desire or time to indulge. They just don't like being called tourists because it seems cheesy. And yes,hauling kids along is a bad idea.

Skyler said...

I find myself frequently asking, "why does anyone read the NYT, especially vapid like these.

Birches said...

Well I suppose living in the enclaves of the Coastal Media Elite, the author might have a point about the USA not being kid friendly, but half the time I wonder if he's talking about the same country that I am.

Like Ann, I consider driving with my children WAY easier than flying. We do it often. We manage a 13.5 hour trip very well, anything after that and things get a little stressful. Even the truck stops we stop at have changing tables, though it takes a special one to have one in the men's room too.

On the few times I've air traveled with a baby (for a family wedding for instance), everyone was nice and accommodating: random strangers help me fold down the stroller without prompting, the flight attendants make kissy faces and whatnot. Yes, the people that wind up sitting next to us seem a little apprehensive, but I don't blame them. I come prepared though, and we all get along just fine.

Sebastian said...

"What do you think the difference is between a tourist and a traveler?"

You're making it way too complicated.

GOP rubes = tourists, Dem liberals = travelers.

Yankees in Europe = tourists, Euros in US = travelers.

Clyde said...

Seldom have I read an article that inspired such immediate antipathy toward its writer. The Scots are welcome to him. If they can eat haggis, they can probably stomach anything.

buwaya puti said...

Where I come from (a tropical country) the kids would play outside in the sun, unsupervised, all day, often in the streets.
Sun didn't hurt anyone but the very white kids, and they were indeed red-faced much of the time. But they survived.
Babies shouldn't be left uncovered out in the sun, that goes without saying, but heck, I've seen women with slung babies working in rice fields.

buwaya puti said...

As for "travelers":
I am from places to which people "traveled". And I was raised in an expat society. "travelers", as this guy wants it, come in types-
- The expat, who has chosen a way of making a living abroad. My aunts husband, an Irish Prod who went east to work for (and thereby become wealthy) Jardines in HK and all over SE Asia was like this, as were all the Foreign Service and military people, and many of the multinational executives and technical types, scientists and bureaucrats of international organizations. These people are ordinary working stiffs, who just happen to bounce from country to country. On the whole a useful, intelligent, talented and interesting lot.
- Adventurers. People who spend their years traveling for the sake of it. I've met a good number. Beware, there is something deeply wrong with all of them. Some are rich and pay their way, many are grifters. Many are alcoholic, druggies, many are perverts, many are antisocial wrecks, many are mad, and not in a nice way.
- Tourists. Americans, at least those who got to my parts) tend to be extremely nice. Others less so.

buwaya puti said...

As for "travelers":
I am from places to which people "traveled". And I was raised in an expat society. "travelers", as this guy wants it, come in types-
- The expat, who has chosen a way of making a living abroad. My aunts husband, an Irish Prod who went east to work for (and thereby become wealthy) Jardines in HK and all over SE Asia was like this, as were all the Foreign Service and military people, and many of the multinational executives and technical types, scientists and bureaucrats of international organizations. These people are ordinary working stiffs, who just happen to bounce from country to country. On the whole a useful, intelligent, talented and interesting lot.
- Adventurers. People who spend their years traveling for the sake of it. I've met a good number. Beware, there is something deeply wrong with all of them. Some are rich and pay their way, many are grifters. Many are alcoholic, druggies, many are perverts, many are antisocial wrecks, many are mad, and not in a nice way.
- Tourists. Americans, at least those who got to my parts) tend to be extremely nice. Others less so.

YoungHegelian said...

I used to think that people who thought that New Yorkers were awful, vain, self-centered jackasses were people whose minds were captured by vile prejudice.

Well, reading the NYT has educated me in this matter. Those people were right.

sydney said...

Interesting that he thinks Europe is more child friendly than America. I suppose it depends on where in America you travel.We never flew with our kids, but can't say that we ever experienced any anti-child hostility on our family vacations. And we took our kids to museums, too.

robother said...

Like most snotty NYT opinion pieces (but I repeat myself) its all about the projection. The first paragraphs are an extended riff on this guy's barely concealed antipathy toward his own kid ("constantly being covered in fluids shot out of a small being").

The rest is all projecting his own distaste for childrearing on every suitable object of typical NYT reader/writer contempt: American business travelers, vacationers, businesses, airlport security, and ultimately the American capitalist model itself.

Michael K said...

We took our 6 month old son to Boston because I was a medical student and poor and was interviewing for internships. He was a perfectly behaved little guy. One waitress even took him to show the kitchen staff in a restaurant.

He didn't become obnoxious until he was almost 50 and decidedly left wing in politics. And a lawyer, of course.

Wilbur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

We had to fly cross country with our kids last year to see a relative who will be moving to another country. Everyone was nice about it. No one gave us dirty looks.

People are generally pretty friendly.

Also, the average three month old doesn't cry very loudly. It's months later that they become capable of air horn volumes.

Freeman Hunt said...

It's nice to live somewhere that lots of salespeople have to fly in and out of. The first leg of the departure flight and the last leg of the return flight are always full of especially friendly people.

cassandra lite said...

Some people aren't mature enough to have children. That's no less true--in fact, in some ways it's more true--of the affluent than of commoners.

Petunia said...

Can't really expect much more than pretentious twaddle from a prat who named his kid "Holt", I guess.

Freeman Hunt said...

What happened to air travel over the last thirty years? They used to feed you on pretty much every flight, then it became snacks, then pretzels, and now a bad coffee with one micro-creamer. I was on a two hour and fifty minute flight, and they didn't even have snacks you could buy.

There is no room. I am a small person, and I feel crammed in there. It wasn't always so. even the first class people look cramped.

Ann Althouse said...

@freeman Thanks for the reminder about what the inside of a plane is like. The more I stay away from planes the more strongly I feel that the indignities are intolerable... whenever I come around to thinkimg about it.

Skyler said...

Sadly, flying is a requirement for some.

I type this from probably the worst airport in the country, Kansas City International.

We have allowed security theater, combined with air port lobbyists who like captive customers for restaurants and shops to institute most heinous barbarities and indignities.

If a hundred twenty years ago some low level government functionary was looking at your wife and daughter naked with xray vision, the likes of which were only dreamed about in comic book advertisements 40 years ago, no one would have faulted you for shooting them dead on the spot. But such is our spirit of freedom and individual sovereignty that we all meekly comply.

holdfast said...

iPads are a godsend for traveling with toddlers and older. Actual babies are a crapshoot. We do one pilgrimage a year to see the relatives on the other coast. Otherwise staycations work for me.

Skyler said...

You do not have a right to be unbothered. Babies are people too. If you can't tolerate an occasional crying child then you should examine whether you are an adult yourself.

Zach said...

I once flew from Berlin to New York a few rows away from a baby. I was a little apprehensive, but he turned out to be the happiest flying baby I've ever seen. He was cooing, he was so happy. People were lining up in the aisles to be nice to the miraculous, happy, flying baby.

German babies are spooky about never crying in public, though.

Skyler said...

I spent three weeks in the most remote parts of Ghana. Children there don't cry because no ones listens if they do.

Kirk Parker said...

Michael K,

Doctors breeding lawyers? Hmmm, maybe the execrable jimbino is on to something after all!