It had already been a long day that started with an hour-long truck ride over forsaken dirt roads in the desert, a 2-hour flight and then another 2 hours of security screening, baggage re-checking, customs & immigration. So the by the time we boarded flight #2 of the day, Sarah had HAD IT. She wailed while we taxied around, screamed during takeoff, and absolutely had a tantrum for the first 30 minutes of the flight.
I’ve never wanted time travel to happen so badly before. Sure, I also fantasized about teleporting right to my parents’ new house in Baja and skipping the flight altogether, but more than anything, I wanted to travel back several years ago and behave differently to all parents traveling with small kids.
You see, I was THAT person. The one who instantly rolled my eyes as families boarded the plane, and the one who would sigh loudly if they sat anywhere near me. I made my displeasure known to everyone around me, and looked daggers at any toddler who dared drop a toy near my floor space.
How could I have been so blind to realize that the parents of these kids were at least 5 times more miserable than I ever was?? Maybe if I hadn’t been so self-absorbed I would have noticed the mom desperately trying to quiet her screaming baby, or the dad who was pointlessly trying to distract his 3 year from her hurting ears. If I hadn’t been so utterly self-centered, I probably would have noticed the humiliated expression on the mom’s face and heard the dad’s desperate pleas with his son to quiet down.
Nope, I was too busy concentrating on my own inconvenience.
If I could go back to those flights, I would have swapped out my sour expression and instead offered an encouraging smile. You know the one. It says “I’ve been there,” and it speaks more than words ever could.
And instead of muttering under my breath, I might have played a game of pick-a-boo behind my seat to give mom and dad a rest, or maybe even offered to keep the little one entertained so the parents could have a 2 minute break to walk the aisles or use the bathroom.
Well, I can’t go back, but we can all go forward. Please don’t do what I have done for years. And don’t do what the man sitting behind me did, and complain loudly about how long the flight is going to be. Or hide your face in your hands and groan in frustration like the flight attendant.
I’m blessed that I did have a few kind souls on the plane with me though—so thank you to the man to my left who said “I have five kids. I’ve been there.” And to the man to my right who said “I have four kids. Don’t worry--it gets better.” And to the woman who hugged me while we were de-boarding and said “there’s nothing you can do. Don’t worry about all the jerks.”
You are all better people than I am, and I promise to behave differently to moms, dads, and flying babies (and toddlers!) from now on.