Viral Tweet Sparks Debate: If Your Kid Makes a Mess in Public, Who Cleans It Up?

messIt’s a question that’s been asked the world over: If your child makes a mess in a public space, who is responsible for cleaning it up — the people who get paid to work there… or the parent?

This hotly debated topic exploded earlier this week when Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Anthony Bass took to Twitter to air his rage over the fact that a flight attendant demanded that his wife pick up their toddler’s popcorn mess.

His tweet sparked a massive debate over flying etiquette and what is (and isn’t) a parent’s responsibility: “The flight attendant @united just made my 22 week pregnant wife traveling with a 5 year old and 2 year old get on her hands and knees to pick up the popcorn mess by my youngest daughter. Are you kidding me?!?!”

Bass received a bevy of responses, many of which weren’t exactly supportive.

“Genuinely curious who should clean up the mess your 2 year old made? As a parent of three kids I am the one responsible for them,” wrote one user.

“Commercial airlines are not your children’s playground. Pick it up and take responsibility for your kids,” said another.

Before we get all “Dear Abby” on this debate, it’s important to note a few things: Bass wasn’t on the flight with his wife. The flight attendant reportedly approached the woman with “a trash bag and wet wipe” and said that the captain wanted the mom of two to “clean up every drop” of popcorn that her daughters had spilled on the plane’s floor. And most importantly, the popcorn was given to the kids by the airline.

Okay, first of all, what kind of airline hands out popcorn? This isn’t Cinemark; give me a pack of those Biscoff cookies and call it a day. Not to mention that toddlers shouldn’t really even have popcorn (it’s a choking hazard!) — but whatever, I’m not the snack police. Second of all, it sounds as if the flight attendant was pretty rude about it. Traveling with kids sucks. Traveling alone with two kids double sucks. She didn’t have to make it worse by forcing the exhausted mama to clean up popcorn kernels. Just quietly mumble profanities and grab the Bissel like a normal employee.

But here’s the Popcorngate kicker: The flight attendant shouldn’t have had to ask in the first place. It is simply polite to clean up after your own kids in public — at a restaurant, a coffee shop, a public park, an airplane. Yes, she’s pregnant. But she’s also at that sweet spot in pregnancy where she’s not sick as a dog and not the size of a whale; she’s in the oft-euphoric second trimester. There’s simply no excuse to not make any attempt to pick up your grubby toddler’s half-eaten snack remnants; she could have at least picked up some of it. (All toddlers are grubby while stuffing their Goldfish cracker holes, trust.)

Call me OCD (seriously, ask my psychiatrist), but I cannot leave a restaurant without picking up the crumbs around my son’s highchair. After a lengthy college stint waiting tables, I also stack every plate… and leave the interior of my car pretty spotless, but I digress. Anyway, if my kid spills his juice at Chick-fil-A, GIVE ME THE PAPER TOWELS, DAMMIT. It’s not your job to clean up his mess. It’s mine.

What’s your stance? Would you not hesitate to clean up after your kid… or would you let an employee do it?

Tina Smithers Peckham
Originally from Kansas City, Tina relocated to Jacksonville, FL with her dear husband, feisty cat and sweet-natured corgi mix in 2016. After eight years working various gigs in New York City from magazine publishing to digital marketing, Tina joined the world of freelance, writing and reporting for a variety of publications and websites including MTV News, ET Online, Glamour, Us Weekly and more. Tina has also assisted with social media, editorial and content strategy for brands and personalities such as Britney Spears, Jordin Sparks, Beauty Brands, truTV and WE tv. When she’s not plugging away on her laptop, she can be found exploring the Jacksonville beaches, reading a good book or enjoying a local coffee shop with her cherub-cheeked little boys, Archer and Austin.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here