Dear Woman on my Southwest Flight:
I was already sitting three rows behind you, holding a wiggling 1-year-old on my lap as you had two other people sitting in the middle and aisle seats move to allow you the window.
“I like sitting up front and at the window,” I heard you say to them.
Not long after you settled in and before takeoff, the inevitable happened. I had already anticipated it before we boarded as my son had tried multiple times to fling himself from my arms, wanting to crawl on the busy terminal ground.
We might have had a calm flight down to Florida (below is a picture of us then), but it was clear we weren’t about to have an uneventful trip back.
This time, he was “that” baby and I was “that” parent. This picture is the best of stock photos that I can find to convey our trip back to Washington, D.C. (below). My hands were too tied to take an example of the real thing.
After a fistful of Cheerios to calm a child who doesn’t yet understand the concept of having to sit still for two-and-a-half hours, and a few ounces of water, he spit up. Great, thinks I. Cries, says he.
This was the first time you turned around to glare in my direction to see where that God awful noise was coming from before the wheels were even off the ground.
I cast my eyes downward and flipped on an episode of “Pup Patrol” on my tablet, hoping against hope to capture his attention.
Then take off and there was absolutely no going back now. Cue the full on baby tantrum because:
- No, baby, you can’t sit on the floor;
- No, baby, you can’t crawl in the aisle;
- And of course, baby, you can’t understand that because you just turned 1.
And that’s when you did it again. Long and hard this time. You sat up tall, turned around and issued that “can’t you do something about this?” glare.
“There’s nothing I can do about it.” I said to you, verbally answering your unspoken question, speaking loud enough that you’d hear my response from a few rows up. “Don’t you think if I could, I would?”
You saw, well, heard, an out-of-control toddler losing his mind and envisioned it disturbing the rest of your of-so-relaxing mid-afternoon flight to Washington, D.C. The look on your face told me you didn’t think for a second that the parent could be doing everything humanly possible to quiet their little demon and restore a sense of calm to the cabin.
Well, what you didn’t — and couldn’t — see happening was how I let him chew on my tablet to gain two minutes of peace. When that lost its luster, it was three renditions of the “How Big Is a Pig?” board book, also ending with a few minutes of nibbling on his part (he’s getting molars, what can I say?). There were toys. There was food. There was drink.
But interspersed with every few minutes of quiet and occupation was flailing and crying and screaming, all delaying the inevitable: an inconsolable, nothing-you-do-will-placate-me baby.
When my attempt to soothe him to sleep with a couple of bottles failed (yes, I tried more than once to do this), I resorted to binding his arms and legs tightly in my own and rocked from side to side as much as I could in my tiny seat.
He continued to fight me.
I sang “Silent Night” — the current favorite of his — as quietly as I could in his ear.
He continued to fight me.
But after an embarrassing 10 or so minutes to my sweet relief and likely that of the entire plane — and you, my dear — his flailing stilled, his eyelids drooped.
As I sat there continuing to rock and “shh” my child for the remainder of the flight, I stewed and plotted what I would say to you if you saw me at some point off the plane.
I pictured myself standing on the jet bridge waiting for my stroller and you giving me another death stare. I pictured waiting at baggage claim and you making some snide comment about me finally getting him to quiet down.
I envisioned myself launching into how you obviously didn’t understand because you don’t have children and how I would go through the list of everything I did in my attempt to settle him. Then I would hammer it home with the fact that maybe you should consider how this whole episode was by far more uncomfortable for me than it was for you and maybe you could take a tip from the other passengers who, though I’m sure they didn’t like it, just put their headphones in and dealt with it as best they could.
As this imaginary conversation played out in my head, fueling a sense of inner rage, one retort pierced through the rest.
“Peace be with you.”
Where had that thought come from?
My blood pressure was spiked, ready and almost wishing for a confrontation once we deplaned, and here a message of peace presented itself to me as the best response that I would give to you.
And then I realized after all my hostility was spurred on only by a glare that this was a message also meant for me.
So, to you, the woman on my Southwest flight, and all others on planes with screaming children this holiday season, peace be with you (and me).
~ Humbled Parent