Sitting Next to Kids on Airplanes

08.13.12

Mr. G and I flew home from San Francisco Sunday morning. Since it was Southwest we sort of had to scramble to find two seats together (not that we can’t survive solo) and in the second row there was a boy about our son’s age sitting against the window. He had the little placard around his neck identifying him as an unaccompanied minor.

Since I’m “the mom” I sat down in the middle and gave my husband the aisle. I also did this because I’m smaller than my husband but on a not completely subconscious level I knew that it would be more comfortable for me, a woman to be sitting next to this boy traveling alone.

Sitting next to him I said, “Hi.” He said, “Hi.” and looked uncomfortable. I asked him if he was returning from camp, the boy made no eye contact and said, “No.” He was silent for the rest of the flight. Someone had given him a lecture about not speaking to adults.

When I was getting off the plane I told Mr. G about this and I told him it was sad that a child didn’t know how to speak to an adult. I also found it peculiar that there were two unaccompanied minors on the plane and that both were at window seats. Why not seat them together? Why not put them on the aisle where they could actually be seen if there was so much concern about how the whole world is a child molester?

I told my husband that it made me sad that kids were taught to be fearful and to override their own judgement. It’s not normal for a ten year old child to be afraid to speak to people. We’re doing these children no favors. Frankly it was uncomfortable for me to have a boy next to me that wasn’t empowered to make a decision for himself. Kids fed this sort of stranger danger bullshit are dangerous for adults and my mind zipped to how horrible it must feel for a man to not be allowed to sit next to a child on Quantas airlines or to go into playground areas where there are chess tables.

I understand statistically speaking that men are more dangerous to our children than women. I also understand that there’s a level of grooming that happens and that teaching our children that strangers are not to be trusted is simply wrong. We need to teach our children that their own instincts can be trusted, they should trust themselves more than they should trust any adult including coaches, religious leaders, camp counselors, teachers, neighbors and anyone on staff at Penn State.

Empower your kids. Stop making them afraid of the world and stop making the world afraid of them.