An Open Letter to the Woman on the Plane Who Yelled at My Baby


Dear Madam,

You are the reason that my worst nightmare came true mere days ago. I am a veteran traveling mom. I have hauled my babies from practically birth all over the United States (even to Hawaii multiple times) without even a hint of a problem. But time, and more babies, tends to increase the odds that eventually someone like you will be sitting near me on an airplane when one of my kids freaks out and you simply can't keep quiet about it.

I know I didn't hand out earplugs and little notes apologizing for my brood. Frankly, I never thought I needed to because kids are people too. I can't count how many times I was expected to put up with Chatty Cathy sitting in 2B who told me the story of her whole life in four hours while I would have rather been doing...anything else... and no one handed me earplugs and a handwritten apology. But unfortunately, short of booking your own private jet, you don't get to pick your seatmates or tell them how to behave.

Luckily, I've never had to sit next to one of those perverts who try to grope you mid-flight and I hope you haven't had to experience that either. I did notice you were wearing a surgical mask, which I thought might be for our benefit, but later realized you are probably just a germaphobe as well as a pedophobe.

Whenever I travel with my children I always notice the looks from people as I enter the plane that say, "Please don't sit near me." I get it. Nobody likes a screaming baby, least of all his mother. Nothing bothers me worse than my screaming child in a plane full of people when there's absolutely nothing I can do for him...or you. But until our flight, I had never experienced that problem. I boarded planes feeling smug, knowing that by the time I got off, those same people who were giving me side-eye would be gushing about how good my babies are. Because that's what has happened on every single flight I've ever been on, except the one I shared with you. On this flight my worst nightmare happened. You happened.

The first hour and a half were a breeze. The baby slept peacefully on my chest and my daughters colored. You didn't even notice us then, did you? The second hour and a half the baby woke up in a good mood and played, sometimes on the floor at my feet and sometimes in my lap (kicking the guy in the seat in front of me...sorry, sir. I tried). But his noises were happy baby gurgles. Who could object? You, apparently. I didn't begin to see your distress, however, until the last 30 minutes of the flight, when my 10-month-old infant son began to have a bad day.

He began to fuss. Not cry, really, just complain. The seat belt sign was on so I couldn't walk him or change his scenery. We were descending. His ears could have been hurting, I don't know. No one knows what goes on in the mind of an infant, ma'am. We're all guessing here. So I tried distractions: Cheerios, keys, books, a spotted leopard named Catty,  cookies, nursing -- all of which he turned down with increasing impatience until he began to let out loud, sharp screams that pierced the ears of all around him. It went downhill from there. Every few minutes he would let out a yell that actually hurt my brain, and yours too I guess. Suddenly it was too much for you to bear, as you sat there child-free with nothing to worry about except the next page you would read in your book, and so you turned around and hissed at me through your surgical mask, "You know, he's killing us over here."

No. I didn't know that. I didn't know that the deep mortification I already felt could get any deeper and yet, there it goes! Plummeting to the bottom of the deepest hole that ever existed or ever will. A stranger on a plane hates my baby and his bad, terrible, awful mother who couldn't make him stop bothering people with his noise. Being the thoughtful person I am, I offered to have a flight attendant open the emergency doors and toss him out of the plane in order to see to your comfort. I thought this might get you to understand the futility of your outburst and make you see that if there were anything that could be done to ease my son's discomfort, I surely would have been doing it!