Stop staring at my screaming child on the plane
The following occurred on a flight from Florida to Seattle in May. The events are real. The tears were real. The wine was delicious.
Tears were pooling and threatened to spill. Ugh. I tilted my head back hoping they wouldn’t. I don’t think I could handle the added looks of pity if I began to cry.
I was in Seat 47E. I was tired. I had just held my 2-year-old son pinned to my body at the back of the plane, as he screamed and writhed about in my arms; screaming so loud I think he might have done damage to my right ear drum when I accidentally moved him, aiming his mouth just centimeters from my ear as he inhaled and let another glass breaking screech loose.
Yes, solo, couple and business travelers– my son was THAT kid that you complain about and why you ask for kid-free flights. He was throwing a tantrum and there was nothing I could do about it. I was flying home from a work trip with the boys and it would take all day, including running into nap time after an early morning start. The odds were stacked against me and your stares certainly did not help.
I stood with my son in the back of that plane, as my only option after several failed attempts to distract him, to alleviate the disruption to everyone else’s peaceful, get to sit in their own seats, 5-hour flight. A woman who had been seated in front of me came back to offer her help and a little moral support. While I appreciated this show of solidarity, especially since a man in her same row had been giving me dirty looks, it just added to my exhaustion as I desperately tried to calm my very tired boy down and either get him back into his seat to watch a movie, or pass out for a much-needed nap. Neither would happen for some time, meanwhile several people came back to give me sympathetic looks, ask if it was his ears, as if it was their obligation when trying to use the restroom.
Now I truly appreciate when I get asked if I need anything. The offer of a free glass of wine from the flight attendant was probably the best of all, but what you need to understand is that after a few minutes, your attention becomes another task as we parents try to be civil to you and take care of our unhappy child at the same time. Please give your words of comfort, but leave your lingering and pity looks at your seats. I had no room or energy for them here in the very back of the plane.
As I type this my son is now asleep on me in my seat, hopefully for at least an hour, if not two, which he really needs, and I need in order to make it home emotionally intact.
I am pondering if what I am actually feeling. Is it shame? No, definitely not. I’m not ashamed of my son at all. I’m not ashamed of the way I deal with his frustrations, exhaustions and tantrums. He is two, this is what two year olds do when they are pushed past their limits due to no fault of their own. My job is to protect him and keep him safe. If that means I have to hug him so his arms aren’t flailing about, hitting me and everything in his path than so be it.
Was I frustrated? Of course! My son was throwing an epic novel worthy tantrum. I don’t love dealing with those even at home. I am learning that my son is a high-strung little man with very definite opinions and when he is ready to calm down he will, no matter what I do. Do I want to deal with this on a plane? Of course not! I understand no one else wants to deal with this either, which is why I do try to be proactive, move to the back of the plane, inhale the “sweet” aroma of the airplane toilets, and even bribe my son if needed.
Sadly he does not take a bribe… usually. Negotiating with a two year old is just about as effective as negotiating with, well, a two year old. Someone will always lose.
My boys will lose their cool on a plane again. I will put more mileage on my pedometer when this happens as a result. As they get older and we both learn how each other tick, we will figure out ways to get through the tantrums, travel stress and frustrations that come along with life.
But please, hold your looks of pity when you watch me dealing with my exhausted boy. Offer your support. Offer up a smile that you know this too will pass and move on. Offer that glass of wine or cup of coffee. Don’t give me dirty looks, don’t stare, don’t expect brides or snacks from me, and please keep the pity out of your eyes. After all, I’m giving the same look back to you cause you get to be on a plane with us for the next five hours and I just got free wine from the flight attendant and you didn’t. Cheers.