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!
My suggestion didn’t have the desired effect and so you took it one step further and tried to start a coup! Loudly complaining to anyone who would hear you in the rows surrounding us, you berated me for not “giving him something to suck on,” as if I hadn’t already tried that one hundred times. You then shouted that I should give him a bottle! Well, hell. Why didn’t I think of that? Duh. That solves everything. (Even if I had one and had tried to give it to him, his screaming would have reached epic proportions. He hates bottles.) All I have are these lactating boobs that I could whip out. I wonder how that would have gone over. Fortunately for you, I had already tried that and knew he didn’t want milk. He wanted to get the hell off the plane (like everyone else in the history of air travel in the last remaining moments of their flight!)
As I sat back in my seat with my (now sobbing) child — upsetting his mother just added to his distress — I started to genuinely feel abused. What would possess a person like you to so cruelly chastise a mother traveling alone with three children (two of whom were being angelic) because her baby cried? It wasn’t a performance of Les Miserables that you waited your whole life to see, only to be destroyed by a wailing infant. An airplane ride is basically a waiting room. We all are waiting to get to our destination. Some of us are waiting with a guy who hasn’t shut up about baseball since we left Phoenix, while others are waiting next to a woman who is snoring the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in their ear. And you, dear lady, had the fortune to get “crying baby” for 30 minutes. Have you heard of headphones? Ear plugs? Empathy?
Tears began to flow (from me this time) as the sheer embarrassment hit me. I felt as if the whole plane was focused on me and my screaming baby. Seat belt sign be damned, I got up and walked to the back of the plane where the flight attendants were. I couldn’t contain my tears, so they got an earful. I told them I was so sorry I was disrupting the flight but explained that I didn’t know what to do. People were upset with my baby and his cries. Six pairs of kind eyes looked at me, bewildered.
“What crying? Your baby? We didn’t even hear him. Oh Lord, people are crazy.”
I love Southwest Airlines. It’s the last airline in America where the attendants treat you like people and not cattle. They were sweet to me and let me stay in the back while one of them went to talk to you. I don’t know what they said, but I hope it shamed you. You didn’t look at me or speak to me the rest of the flight (the whole ten minutes we had left). While I was standing in the back of the plane with my (now quiet) child who was just bored to tears, a father came up to me to tell me that no one would ever dare say that to him traveling with his infant. He said that every time he had a baby on a plane all the women fussed over him and offered to help by holding the baby and entertaining him. He told me that women are especially hard on other women. This is shameful, sister.
Taking three or four or even one kid anywhere alone is hard work. If you aren’t the type to offer help, at least stay out of the way. I can assure you that moms who are traveling with kids are deeply concerned about your comfort and they are working as hard as they can to make sure you are not inconvenienced by their noisy/crabby/hungry/tired child. But in the event that we fail…could you LIGHTEN UP?