Traveling With Children: Stop Judging Me
As someone who flies around the world at least a couple times a year, I find the stories from fellow travelers who loathe parents and their children especially intriguing. I wasn’t a parent until a bit over two years ago and previous to that, I didn’t really pay much attention to parents that were traveling or the kids that were with them. Why would you?
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I can only remember ONE time on an airplane where I actually started to feel physically uncomfortable (ie, I was tearing up) because there was a child that would NOT stop screaming and bawling. I was pregnant so I think the teary eyes were due to hormones more than the child though. He was very small. The mother had purchased two seats and he wanted to sit with his mom for takeoff. He was probably two which is when infants switch from lap-babies to children that require their own seats on planes and he wasn’t at all prepared to have to sit separately. The stewardesses told the mom to get him under control or they’d escort the two of them off of the plane. I could see the mother as I peered between two seats and I watched as she held back tears and tried to comfort her son. I could only imagine the frustration, exhaustion and worry she had at that moment.
She tried to soothe her son and explain that in just one flight they’d meet up with daddy and he just needed to sit down for a short time and then she could hold him again. Did he understand? No. Was it comfortable for me? Hell no, but I knew it was even more uncomfortable for this mother and even MORE uncomfortable for the kid who had no idea what was going on and just wanted to sit with his mom. No one was having fun but the stewards certainly weren’t helping the situation by threatening to condemn this mother to the airport when she just wanted to get to her husband on the other side of the ocean. It’s a two year old child afterall… what did they expect her to do? Once we started into the air eventually, the boy started to calm as they do when the loud engines purr and passengers could barely hear him, at least from where I sat about four rows up.
Want to know a secret? On our last flight to and from the States our little one had reached that two year old mark and the same thing happened.
Actually, she hadn’t yet reached the two mark on our way out but because she would be two on our return, we had to purchase a seat for her. No, she didn’t scream but she didn’t want to sit in her own seat the whole flight and I had very uninterested stewardesses tell me she needed to be buckled in for take-off and when the seatbelt sign was on. No kidding. “Yes, I’m trying. Thank you for the concern,” I said. “By the way, she’s technically still a lap baby…” “She’s not a lap baby if you purchased a seat ma’am.” Well that’s not exactly true since she’s not two yet…
Airplane buckles aren’t exactly made to keep toddlers in their seats either. If you’re not a parent, have you ever noticed that? There isn’t an additional belt option for little ones and those big things literally just slide right off of their hips. There is NOTHING holding them into that seat. Certainly nothing like the straps and buckles of a car seat. I discreetly slid her onto my lap as soon as the stewardesses were all buckled in because honestly, what’s a mother to do? My options seemed to be to physically lie across both seats hunched over the arm that needed to be down for take-off so that my daughter felt like I was sitting with her in her seat, which was extremely uncomfortable for me and probably just as unsafe, or just pick her up and be done with it. Yeah, I was done with it. I did NOT want to be the mother everyone was staring at because she couldn’t soothe her kid. NO PARENT wants to be THAT parent. Not to mention I didn’t want to possibly be escorted off the plane if my daughter decided this was an opportune moment to throw a fit. We shoved candy in her mouth, gave her hugs and were off.
Sometimes they just can’t be soothed and gosh darn how I pray to the entities that be that it happens in our house and not when we’re out and about.
There are a variety of mommies that you meet while traveling. Ones like me that shove candy in their mouths so they save that tantrum for the moment we walk in the door and others that choose more healthy alternatives. I’d say that most just as soon NOT travel because just the idea of it is loathsome enough for many. That mother in the first paragraph probably wouldn’t have chosen to travel at that moment in that situation. To me, she looked tired and alone and no one was trying to help her that’s for sure. The few mothers that do choose to take that adventure with a little one are pretty interesting, if you take the time to look their way, talk to them when they aren’t soothing, crying, wiping, shoving food in their mouths as quickly as possible, or taking a nap. (PS even a trip to the market is considered an adventure in my book if you have a child between the ages of infant and eight). Mothers come in all shapes and forms and yet we all have one thing in common, to care for our little ones and not let them harm themselves or others and to teach them how to handle themselves in public. That’s a big one.
We don’t all take the same roads to educate our peaches because they also have their own peachy personalities to deal with.
But we step up to the plate, take our responsibilities like the grown-ups that we are and endeavor to at least help our little ones survive until they are eighteen and move out at which point we hope that we’ve taught them enough to handle the world on their own. The appropriate way to greet and maybe try to help that mom in the first paragraph probably wouldn’t be to discipline her in front of a crowd of strangers and tell her to shut her kid up or get off the plane. The glares she received were unwarranted and honestly, maybe we need a little more understanding in this world. Was I teary? Yes, but I wished that I could stand up and take some of that teacher cheery attitude that I give to my students over to help her… if that dang seatbelt sign hadn’t been on. I wasn’t yet a parent so wasn’t quite sure what I could do or what that mother would have wanted me to do. As a parent now though, I’m ready to fill all of you childless people in.
Here is a quick guide to five mommies you may encounter while traveling, how to know which they are and how to greet them(if you so choose).
She has scoured Pinterest for the best methods to keep her kids quiet and absorbed in something else while on the road, in a plane or just at the in-law’s. She has a backpack for each child with age appropriate toys, tape, glue, a curling iron and whatever else Pinterest suggested to soothe, quiet and frustrate kids with. She probably has hand made morsels for them to munch on and may even have a friendly “Don’t Mind My Kids” bag of goodies that she made herself for passerby as well. She’s the nervous mother trying to cut her kids off at the pass BEFORE they become exhausted, hungry or bored. She doesn’t want her kids to bother anyone on a plane or elsewhere. If you meet Pam, you’ll love her and wish she was your mom! More importantly, she’ll love you, if you happen to have stickers, crayons or anything else you’re willing to part with in the name of keeping her kids quiet.
While in convo with this super mom, you will notice that she is consistently side glancing or looking over your shoulder. She is completely enthralled by what you’re saying, but will always be making sure she is one step ahead of her kids and that requires at least one iris on them at all times. While she truly does want to listen to every word that is coming out of your mouth, she will not hesitate to walk away from you without a word of interruption in order to swoop up a child about to daringly stick a fork in an electrical socket or catch a child now hurling himself at the wall at full speed. She doesn’t have time to make up goody bags like Pinterest Pam because that would require looking away from her child(ren) for at least 15 minutes, but she will risk her own health, body and sanity to make sure her children survive to adulthood. She is likely exhausted so if you meet her, offering her a cup of coffee is a highly effective greeting.
She probably has three to four children (or grew up in a brood) and has seen it all. That fourth kid isn’t going to surprise her with any trick he has up his sleeve or mess he could possibly spew onto her. She couldn’t give a rats ass what anyone thinks of her or her children because until you’ve stood in her shoes with baby poop up to your elbows and teething children screaming at all hours of the night and day, yes even when you have to sit on an airplane (because parents totally plan when their kids are teething), she doesn’t care what you have to say. Go ahead and complain all you want, but kids will be kids whether you are indoors or out, on a plane or in a store. They’ve gotta learn sometime and the best time to teach them is wherever they are. If you hope to strike up a conversation with this sourpuss, be prepared for sarcasm and lots of it but don’t take offense, she’s just been through it all.
This mom is NOT one to be messed with. You may think you have some helpful little tidbit to pass on to her, but trust me, you do not. Whatever you have to say is wrong and whatever she believes is right especially when it comes to her kids. Don’t get me wrong, this mother is flipping awesome. She dares to care for her kids when no one else will because why would anyone else care anyway? She wants her kids to have the best, be the best and they will damn well work hard to do that for her. She has taught them to sit still at the dinner table, look both ways before crossing the road and has them potty trained all before they can walk. This monstrous mommy has kids every other kid wants to be because they win the trophies and get straight A’s right from kindergarten. This tigress is only looking to converse on topics that she may learn something from and are currently relevant so don’t waste time with weather or other nonchalant conversation. Get in and out quickly because efficiency is her favorite word.
This mom probably has long locks of hair that look great washed or unwashed. She’s managed to get a slight tan even though her family didn’t even go to a sunny vacay local and she makes boho chic mommy cool. Her kids are probably also a little sun-kissed and haven’t had a haircut since they were born. Andrea takes her chic group anywhere and everywhere and she keeps her cool while they gaze on with wide eyes ready to learn through experience rather than through books. Andrea likes to let her kids walk barefoot when they want and prefers to use the word “yes” rather than “no” when conversing with them. Mothers everywhere would love to see this outgoing cool mom lose her cool just once, but they probably never will because Andrea is swift to give her kids a serious stare when they’ve done wrong but will hold in the convo until they get home. This adventurer loves to get in convo with anyone and everyone so walk right up and say, “hello”. After all, her tribe can always learn something from anyone they meet.
The names in this post do not reflect any actual Pams, Wendys, Susans, etc. and are only fictitious characterizations of all of those amazing mothers you meet in the world. Let’s be honest, most mothers are a mashup of all of these moms and can become a different one at the drop of a hat. From the tigress pumping up her kids for a test to the adventurer taking her kids outdoors and letting them run in fields barefoot to the sourpuss showing her kids that not everyone has to be happy all of the time; these are the mothers we all have. People are quick to judge after a few seconds or fleeting moments seeing a mother in a store in her pajamas with her child at 3 in the afternoon or on a plane hastily trying to comfort with candy and an Iphone or at the park disciplining, but why? We all have mothers and we should all remember what we put those strong women through when we were growing up.
I think the biggest reason I find others’ complaints about families traveling or mothers in general so intriguing is because I find how disconnected those people are so interesting. How do those people think they became strong, know-how-to-handle-themselves-in-public, alive adults? Their mothers. Obviously.
We’re not all perfect but the next time you see a mom and you start to judge, hang on for a hot second and just consider that maybe her kid has the flu and she found it more important to head to the store to get medicine rather than getting dressed or maybe that mom (me) shoving Skittles into her kids palm is just trying to take YOUR comfort into account or even better… just don’t judge. I will accept a Chai tea latte if you have one though any day of the week.