When my daughter was almost three months old, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Hawaii.
Like many new mothers who would travel for the first time with a baby, I was terrified.
What if I had the kid that kept everyone from feeling the Aloha?
You know the one. The baby on the plane who does not stop crying. FOR HOURS.
I mean, my daughter was borderline colicky, wailing it out at the witching hour with the worst of them. It was horrible, and confusing, and exhausting, but it appeared she was finallygrowing out of it. I hoped.
But what if she wasn’t?
Babies are unpredictable. In three months of mothering, I didn’t know much, but that was one thing I knew for sure. There was a fifty fifty chance that baby girl would freak the f out. The noise. The altitude. All the strangers. Plus, I worried that my fear of flying would somehow rub off on her.
So, I decided to follow the lead of an adorable Pinterest photo I’d seen. I put together consolation prizes for the poor passengers seated next to us.
The night before our trip, I spent hours filling plastic baggies with tootsie pops and ear plugs. I wasted entirely too much paper in my attempt to get the font size just right on the note I included the one apologizing for any crying before it happened. I sacrificed valuable sleep to preemptively make my fellow travelers a little more comfortable.
But, of course, no ear plugs were necessary and my kid was a glowing example of what traveling with a child can be like. Easy-ish, all the gear and diaper changes in small spaces aside.
So when I recently saw a mom friend sharing pictures of the in-flight, I’m-sorry-my-kid-might-cry goodie bags she made, practically identical to my own, and likely also inspired by some Pinterest travel board somewhere out there on the internet, I started thinking.
I started thinking about how you don’t see the guy with the bad gas writing notes to his fellow travelers apologizing that he smells like a dozen sick chickens have hatched rotten eggs inside him. (What’s the difference between him and a baby? HE can control himself, save a medical condition).
Or what about the old lady in the wheelchair? The one who gets to disembark before anyone else does. Sure she holds up the line, but you don’t hear her grown children asking the flight attendants to make an announcement thanking everyone for being decent human beings. Nor should they have too.
Because farts happen. People get sick. People age. And you know what else is a natural part of life? Babies. And babies cry. Sometimes a lot. And it really isn’t fun for anyone. But that’s the way it’s been for always. And the fact that babies cry definitely doesn’t warrant dirty looks and parent shaming. Nor does it require consolation prizes.
Recently we had some people staying at our vacation rental near the beach. When they arrived, I asked the typical, “How was your flight?” question. They replied with a rant about a brat on the plane who wouldn’t shut up. This they clearly blamed on the brat’s incompetent parents. They took personal offense to the crying baby and the miserable people who made it.
In their defense, I’d probably have said something too, if asked. I’ve suffered through more crying than I ever thought possible before becoming a parent. Crying is brutal. It assaults the senses like nothing else can. But still, had these vacationers been seated next to an obese person, giving them a little less leg room, for example, I highly doubt they’d have had the audacity to vent about THAT with such obvious disdain. Kids and their parents seem to be the one group left available for bullying without consequences.
Nowadays, we’re bombarded with social media messages that we shouldn’t be sorry. We shouldn’t be sorry for our post-partum bodies. We shouldn’t be sorry for our messy houses. We shouldn’t be sorry for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. There’s a whole list of things we have permission to no longer be sorry for. So should we really be begging for forgiveness from people we don’t know for something that’s as synonymous with life as breathing? Should we really be losing sleep in our attempt to placate our fellow passengers with candy and ear plugs? Part of me thinks crying happens dear riders of the headache inducing skies, so get over it.
We’ve come a long way from the “Children are to be seen, and not heard” generation, but I think we still have a long way to go in building the new village. I picture the new village as one in which we have understanding and patience and respect for the littlest among us. Their crying included. Clearly, there’s work to be done to foster a culture that is kind to those that might slow down the herd or, God forbid or prevent you from enjoying your airline peanuts in silence if that’s what you call the sound of turbojet engines.
While the issue of crying babies on airplanes seems like an inconsequential one in a news cycle of violence, terrorism, and orange tinged politics, this matters too. Being tolerant of the inconveniences imposed upon us by those that further the species, and being kind to the people who choose to raise them is important. That baby on the airplane you wish you could gag with your neck pillow might be wiping your behind in the rest home someday.
So would I do it over again? Waste sleep and money on bags of candy for people I don’t know and probably will never see again, simply because my kid might make someone miserable for a few hours? Simply because my kid might do what kids, by nature, are prone to do?
In addition to tolerance, the world needs a little more sweetness. And if my now three-month-old son’s adorable, innocent face doesn’t do it for you. Maybe a tootsie pop will.