Keeping Mum

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Charles in charge

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Charles Chauvel says he said once on the flight that he wished the children would shut up. File photo / Supplied
Charles Chauvel says he said once on the flight that he wished the children would shut up. File photo / Supplied

It is apparently easier for the media to alight on a story of MP Charles Chauvel telling a child to "shut up" on a flight this week than it is for them to take any interest whatsoever than in the imminent electricity crisis he is predicting.

So fumed Labour's energy spokesperson when he found himself on the wrong side of a damming blog after a fractious flight on Sunday. Apparently, blogger Clint Heine was on the flight with his children and Mr Chauvel took exception to the children's noise. Heine says the MP twice wondered loudly if the kids could "shut up" and then asked his companion"- again, loudly "I don't know why they let them up here!"

The unrepentant MP says he has no regrets about wishing the kids would shut up, although he says his outbursts weren't quite as frequent as the blogger would have it.

As a parent of young children it is easy to ascertain that both sides of this story have merit.

Once I would have sided entirely with Mr Chauvel and thought parents who could not control their kids on a plane are simply pathetic. And, let's be honest, many of them are, caring little if other passengers are inconvenienced by their offspring's anti-social shenanigans.

In addition, you would think that if passengers are supposed to sip their tea, read their magazines and generally tune out while kids make noise, you might also think that Mr Heine could have "tuned out" when he heard the supposedly offensive comments coming from behind him.

But there are times that even the most strict of us parents fail at plane-control. I usually cart a full complement of 7kgs of diversions on board the plane to use in bad behaviour emergencies and I am glad to report that I have hardly ever come unstuck.

But there was one time my son, sitting in a plane seat he didn't like, threw a wobbly of the likes I have never encountered before and never again.

He practically turned into the exorcist because he wanted to sit next to me and he was next to his dad (on that day, for some reason, it was a problem). I remember feeling mortified as he started foaming at the mouth and kicking the seat in front of him, and apologised liberally to the woman who was her tailbone shunted. With reluctance, fearing I would have a lifetime of giving in to him ahead of me, I swapped places with his dad. Upon which son promptly fell asleep.

It was a lesson in having to give in sometimes, but not something I would want to repeat. Most parents view flying with young toddlers a chore and would prefer not to do it, but needs must. And often young families have their segregated fun - Thomas the Tank Engine day, the zoo, endless trips to the park - in order not to have the two worlds - childfree and childfull - collide.

But just sometimes we're all in it together and so if that means, ultimately, that your hour and 20 minute flight is punctuated by children being noisy and fractious, what about a bit of sympathetic understanding? After all, you get to get off the plane and into a nice, childfree car and onto an adult destination of some sort. The rest of us have no such luck!

UPDATE: 1. I have got the identity of the person involved in the "dispute" with Charles Chauvel wrong: it was not Clint Heine, who only picked up on the story. My apologies, that was sloppy.

2. Charles Chauvel, on the flight, was "child free", or "without a child". That's what I meant by "child free" in this context. I have no idea about his personal circumstances. In any case, many of the most hard on parents with unruly children are - other parents!

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