Thursday, April 17, 2008

screaming babies


It's totally safe for work, just a serial from the comic strip Non Sequitur on the subject of small children on commercial aircraft. Really, as much as I travel, I've been stunningly (*crossing my fingers, toes, and a few hairs for good measure*) lucky on this score. Yesterday, I was on a plane with a small child and his mother, and they were both very well behaved. He was somewhere between 2 and 3 years old and I base this guess on what I know about language development in kids. At that age, tykes have enough word-sounds at their disposal to communicate pretty much exclusively with their caregivers. I offer you a hypothetical: I'm standing in the kitchen at my sister's house (okay, maybe this isn't entirely hypothetical) and my niece comes in there and says, "muh!" So as I stand there, I start running through all the things that this could signify - Mom, More, Movie, Mickey and the Motorcars, Marvelous Mel's Monster Movie Marathon... I'm at a loss. I don't know what the kid wants. My sister passes by and sees her daughter plaintively trying "MUH!" louder and more insistently at the idiot grownup who is alliterating in the kitchen. "Oh," she says. "You want more milk, honey? Ok. Bring me your cup." Whereupon, my niece toddles off and comes back with a purple plastic elephant, I think; whatever it was did not look like anything I would describe as a 'cup'. My sister performs some ancient Indonesian massage ritual on the elephant that looks like something Indiana Jones does when disarming booby traps in the Temple of Doom and when she finishes, there is a hollow space inside the elephant that she pours milk into. She performs the ritual in reverse, hands the elephant to my niece, and the kiddo toddles off happily, sucking on the elephant's trunk. I think.

Anyway, that's about where this particular flying kid was in his stage of vocabulary development. He made sounds that only his mother could possibly have interpreted as words, but he had no trouble parsing her instructions regarding sitting up and keeping his seat belt buckled. She did a good job keeping him quietly entertained, fed, watered, and calm throughout the flight. So, if you flew to Tucson yesterday with a little boy who likes his Thomas the Tank engine and were sitting next to a gigantic amazon who was working a crossword -- kudos to you and your kid for flying well. Not everyone manages it so gracefully.

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