Those Parents On The Airplane
A few weeks ago, I was traveling by myself. It was one of those rare occasions when I did not have my children with me while in an airplane.
Boarding was still underway when a woman and her young child entered the plane and began making their way towards their seats. I could sense other passengers tensing as the mother and child approached their row and could hear them exhaling a sigh of relief as the duo passed by.
The mother and her child eventually stopped in the row across the aisle from me. People seated around them were realizing in horror that their flight was likely to be neither quiet nor peaceful. The anguish on their faces was quite evident. The poor mother looked embarrassed and worried. She rummaged through her handbag and handed over a portable device to her son as soon as his seat belt was on. It was clear she wanted to do everything she could to keep things calm for as long as possible — or at least, as long as the battery power on the device lasted.
I empathized with her.
I have been on the receiving end of those same looks from fellow passengers during my travels with my children, when they were younger. We were the ones with whom other passengers did not want to make eye contact for fear we might just decide to seat ourselves next them. I have heard people praying under their breath, whispering “Not them, God. Please, not them,” and I’ve seen people punching a victorious fist in the air as we walked past. I’ve seen the gloomy looks on the faces of those seated closest to us, as if they had just drawn a horribly poor hand in a game of cards. Just like the mother on this flight, I, too, have quickly handed out devices to each of my kids in an attempt to keep them occupied and quiet. I have stealthily stirred in a teaspoon of cough medication into each of their meals in an attempt to induce sleep. All to avoid further consternation from my fellow travelers.
We’ve all been in planes with screaming toddlers. Most of them are accompanied by exasperated and frustrated parents – who have done just about everything to calm their young ones, while receiving dirty looks from others on the plane. They’ve walked the young child up and down endlessly in the aisles, contorted themselves into all sorts of shapes to retrieve the teddy he keeps throwing under the seat, and played non-stop peek-a-boo games to keep her happy and the cabin’s volume level reasonable. Regardless of how successful they were on the flight, I have nothing but respect and a tremendous amount of empathy for these exhausted parents.
But then, I have also been on planes with parents who couldn’t care less as Junior kicks the seat of the person sitting in front of him, threw her food across the cabin, or ran rampant through the aisle, elbowing other passengers. I have watched as those parents just sat in their seats with their earphones on. It has made me want to get up and smack the offender — and by offender, I mean the parent. The only thing I would say to them is: “Turn that movie off, get off your backside and take care of that child right now!” When you sign up to become a parent, you commit to losing any last remnant of airline peace for yourself. You cannot hide behind earphones and a movie screen while you child wreaks havoc. That is the sort of behavior that causes other airplane parents to get a bad reputation.
A few hours into my most recent flight, the pilot made the landing announcement. I looked at the mother across the aisle; she seemed to be smiling and saying a small prayer of thanks. The batteries on the device had lasted through the journey. She and her son could hold their heads high as they deplaned.