Throughout the 4+ hour flight from LAX to Miami the two year old in seat 34E barely stopped letting the plane know her disgust. She didn’t have her own seat and was sitting on one parent’s lap or another. It’s not for lack of the parents trying that she was a vocal hotspot, and there were times when she was out and out smiling and happy. Yet, I remember most my struggles to sleep in my seat being broken by her sometimes siren like screeches of complaint.
For all her vocalizing, she didn’t bother me. And I sat there wondering why. Why wouldn’t a yelling child boil my blood and make me twitch with disgust?
Perhaps part of my immunity on this flight had to do with being a parent of a ten year old and experiencing my own child going through phases like this. Two years old is a hard age to travel with because kids want to move around a lot, which usually doesn’t jive with air travel. Many times I looked over to see the Dad hoisting the child into the air or the Mom letting her stand on her lap. The parents were honestly trying to entertain the sometimes unentertainable.
Or perhaps it was because I made a conscience effort to not be annoyed. Sure, loud noises can strike a nerve, but as with most anything in life, our reaction to stimulus is entirely within our control. I’m not saying I somehow became a practiced Zen monk on that flight. Far from it. I gained only 2.5 hours of sleep the night before and had a grinder of a headache churning through the right side of my skull. But I did find I wasn’t clenching my teeth every time the girl let out a yowl.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that might help you when you find yourself across the isle from miniature-human loudness.
1. Realize It’s All In Your Head
The only difference between me being upset at a loud child and not, were the voices in my head. These are the ones that usually tell me “What the hell??! Why won’t she be quiet?!” They are the ones that honestly care about the noise level of others. When I ignore or quiet these voices, that disgust goes away.
In this case, practice makes perfect. You’ve been conditioned to hate loud noises. There are enough complaints about crying babies on airplanes plastering the Internet to make you believe you have only one way to react; to be outraged. But you don’t have to. You can react any way you like. Practice realizing that it’s only temporary and it will stop, eventually.
This is the single most important thing you can do; change your own reaction to the stimulus. You can’t make the kid be quiet any more than the parents are trying to (if they are and most sane parents don’t want their kids to be in any type of pain, comforting as needed). You likely can’t move too far away. You can’t leave. So change what you can and look at your reaction. Is the way you are reacting necessary and the only way you can react? You might have other crap going on, like a headache, and the yelling is one more thing. But realize it is just that; one more thing. It’s not the only thing.
2. Put It In Perspective
Is the kid six inches from your ear? No? Then, while they may be loud, chances are they are not actually causing you pain, but discomfort. There’s a big difference between the two when you stop to think about it. Pain has to be stopped, typically. Discomfort can be endured until it ends, with the right mindset. As above, know that it will not last forever and find other things to focus on, like the annoying ‘simple’ sudoku puzzles in the in-flight magazine.
3. Noise Canceling Headphones Can Help
“$300!” I exclaimed when I first checked out Bose noise canceling headphones a decade ago. It seemed like highway robbery for something that was suspect. You test the headphones in their controlled environment at the store and it sure seems like they work. But what about on a plane?
Again, unless that kid is six inches from your head (ok, let’s extend it to two feet), the headphones do help. They don’t make everything silent but they will help with one aspect you might not have noticed: engine noise. That’s their specialty and you likely also don’t notice how much it adds to your overall discomfort. The time we do notice it most is when the plane throttles back after ascent and things seem quite for a second. The headphone cut down on noise fatigue which is very real.
When that fatigue is reduced, dealing with a screaming child is a lot easier. It becomes one sound and not all sounds bombarding you.
Most of all, realize all these tips center on you and what you can do. That’s the part many of us don’t like, the fact that we have to change how we react instead of wishing the kid will just be quiet.