You may have seen the coverage in the news recently about Kirstie Allsopp flying in business class while her sons (aged 10 and 12, I believe) were seated separately in economy. Her official reason for this, apparently, is so they “don’t get spoiled” and to fly them in business would be “an absurd waste of money”. I want to look at this for a moment. Far from wanting to shame Kirstie, the mainstream media has done enough of that, I feel that her words and deeds are symptomatic of a number of wider societal issues.
I could go on, but the more I think about it, the more I think her rationale must be (at least partially if not entirely) attributable to one basic premise: that children are inferior to adults, that their needs are secondary and that we should not afford them the same respect and value as we do adults. Far from teaching children to value things, such an approach may serve to reinforce the message that they themselves are less worthy and not of value in the eyes of the parents. And when one starts from that premise, where does it end? This saddens me the most but I have not finished yet. The other aspect that concerns me is that it shows a fundamental lack of desire to spend this time with her children. It indicates that she is not concerned to be present in their experience and does not feel a sense of responsibility for it to be her (or indeed her partner) that is part of their journey.
Children aged 10 and 12 will likely rely on the adults around them if left alone. Is it ideal to have them experience eating, sleeping, talking to strangers, watching films unchecked by someone who cares about them and is advocating for them? What if they aren’t getting along? They may think they are grown up but they will need comfort, guidance, nurturing etc in varying degrees over a long haul flight. What sort of message (subconsciously if not overtly) does this send to her sons?
Then there is the “respect for others” angle – why should those passengers (who I presume she neither knows nor has paid) sitting next to her two boys down the back of the plane have to be in loco parentis while she dons an eye mask, sips champagne and stretches out in her flat bed having earned the privilege? What makes her needs greater than anyone else’s such that someone else should take over her parenting for the duration of the flight?
My boys have been lucky enough to fly in Upper/business class on numerous occasions but our rule is this – we all go or none of us do. Simple. There are many other ways to teach a child how privileged they are, and how to value things…seating them separately from their parents as second class citizens is not one of them.