Monday, November 2, 2009

Don't Give Me That Look

Yesterday I got a little riled up when I read an article about a woman and her 2-year-old son getting booted from a Southwest Airline flight. Apparently, he was throwing a tantrum when the flight attendants were trying to give the preflight safety instructions. His screams of "I want Daddy!" and "Go, plane, go!" caused the crew to decide to taxi back to the loading dock so he and his mother would be kicked off the plane and forced to stay an extra night away from home. I couldn't believe it when I read that. Yes, kids and their fits are incredibly annoying. But to kick them off the plane? Really?

I thought about how horrified I'd be if this was me. In March, when we took the kids to Disneyland, I had to comfort our fussy little Millie on the plane. To do this, I had to nurse her as I sat in the middle seat in between two men I'd never seen before. I had to sit with my torso twisted so she'd fit across me and not bump into either stranger. I was covered. But I know I made the people around me uncomfortable. I felt a little bad about that, but my baby comes first. You do what you have to do for your children.

After I read the article I saw the poll that accompanied the article. "Do you support Southwest Airlines and their decision?" 77% of pollsters voted that Southwest Airlines had done the right thing. I sat there flabbergasted. Do any of these people understand the situation this mother was in? Granted, I don't know her. Maybe she was one of the minority of parents that give the rest of us a bad name by not governing her child in public. But I can't help but wonder: Was her son having a hard time coping with not sleeping in his own bed and being off his schedule? Was he missing his daddy and knew he'd see him shortly? Was he tired and fatigued from having to be at the airport at least two hours early and then sitting on the plane for what always feels like an eternity until it finally takes of into the air? I can understand the plight of the other passengers. They were probably suffering from these same inconveniences. But shouldn't that incite compassion rather than anger?

I sat there and read many of the comments left by people who read the article. They were definitely black or white. Either people felt as I did: sorry for the mother, sorry for the toddler, scared of the next time I fly and my kids are cranky. Or, they shouted praises to the airline for finally taking a stand against bratty kids and their bad parents. I felt sickened by so many people who were so quick and willing to judge the picture and not the story. I was so grateful that the two men on either side of me last March were understanding enough to allow me to care for my baby and not make me feel guilty about it.

I kind of put the whole thing out of my head until this afternoon as Matt was supposed to get onto the bus. Since he was 3 (before I ever got pregnant with Millie) Matt has had a hard time leaving me to go anywhere on his own. It started in Primary on Sundays. He cried, he grabbed onto me, he broke my heart by saying things like, "But Mommy, I love you! I want to stay with you!" I've learned a few tricks to help us avoid this horrible scene. Sometimes it helps that Matt is distracted. He doesn't worry about me because he sees the activity he's about to do. Sometimes it helps that someone else takes him for me. Sometimes, no matter what I do, he's going to be upset. I have to firmly, but lovingly, tell him that he needs to go, I love him, and I'll see him later. Then the teacher (either church or school, it's happened at both places) takes a hold of him as I try to pry his hands off me and I leave. Within a few minutes he settles down and is his usual happy self. The teacher always seems to understand. It's the onlookers that seem to get that look. You know, that look that says, "You're not a very good parent, are you?"

Today's judgemental look was courtesy of the other mother who takes her kid to this particular bus stop. This is not the first time she's given me this look--the first time had to do with the names we chose for our children. I'm pretty sure she thought I was horrible for telling Matt that I didn't want him to throw a fit and he needed to go. I told him I loved him, lifted him up into the bus, backed away, and watched him cry as he sat in his seat. My heart was aching, but he had to go to school. I can't give in to him, he'll never grow up if I do. His name is Matthew Ammon, not Peter Pan. This is really, really tough, and I hope this phase passes someday (it's only been a problem for two years). But I don't need the added judgement of a woman that I've met four or five times.

Yes, I know I'm not a perfect parent. I've admitted my faults plenty of times in this very forum. You want some examples? Check here or here or here. But I do the best I can. Just like, I'm sure, the mom on the plane. Just like so many others out there. If my child acts up in public I must be a bad parent? Come on!

Look beyond the surface, People!


Lori said...

Southwest Airlines STINKS!!! I can't believe they did that! And your nasty looker bus stop pal stinks too!! What is wrong with your kids names? It's not like you named Matt "Rainbow" or something ridiculous like that! Sheesh! (Rant over)

Mrs. Bennett said...

I read that article and had the same feelings as you - stunned that more readers weren't apalled at the airline. I have yet to be on a plane with my baby, the idea of it really scares me.

It is hard to feel judged -especially by other parents! We should be helping each other, supporting each other and lifting one another up. Instead it seems like some mothers are waiting even hoping for others to fail.

AND - I like your kids names. :)

Jabon said...

First off, I like your kids names, I don't get the issue there... As far as the airline issue, I have to play the other side of this... The attendant was attempting to give safety instructions to everyone on the plane. Sure, I get it, we have all heard these instructions many times and could probably recite them by memory but safety is paramount in a flight. The airline reserves the right to remove some one from the plane when it is "thought" to disturb the other passengers. With out having been there but having read the article, I think the airline was in line with this because the child would not calm down and become quite enough. I know I am now going to be the target of many digital darts now but I say, way to go! SOME parents have no control of their children and SOME children have no respect for rules. Hopefully the Mom does take this as a learning and works with her child as far as settling down and being quiet and respectful when in public. Unfortunately she is more likely to fault the airline and not take the opportunity to learn. We as parents, all need to be open and accept help from others. I am different now in raising my kids than 10 years ago with our first. I have been humbled repeatedly and I don't even have a teenager yet.

Ok, Shelly, when you described nursing Milly next to two other guys on the plane, I can only imagine how they were squirming in side! Sheesh! But seriously, for the sake of your argument, I hate the look we get when our child is wigging out. Do some people really forget what its like to have a hungry, sick, or restless child expected to sit still for more than .02 seconds? Oh well, what was my point anyway, I forgot...

Tara Dawn said...

I think working in a pediatric dental office has toughened me up, because I agree with the airlines. I would absolutely hate it if that was me but I would certainly understand. I had Cody on a plane when he was 1 month old and I stressed the entire time hoping he wouldn't make much of a fuss. And I felt wonderful when fellow passengers saw us getting off of the plane and told me they didn't even know a baby was on the plane.

Being around a lot of children and their parents has given me a different view of things. My personal belief is that most parents now-a-days do not give their children enough structure and discipline. I can give you stories and they are not so pretty.

So now you have two devil's advocates views. Is that saying something since they are from me and my husband??

Shelly said...

Yes. You are devils. ;)

colds1 said...

Hmm. I'm a bit more gray than any of your comments have been. I do agree that many parents aren't as strict as I might think they should be. I do sympathize with the mother as I will be flying with a 5 year old, a 2 year old, and a 9 month old in just a couple of weeks. So here is where I sit: I can't judge. I wasn't there. Was this a good mother with a normally acting up child? Or was this a passive mother who wasn't doing her all to quiet the child? Had the airlines done all they could to help? Did they give her a warning? Or was there no tolerance? I don't know. I don't think MOST parents suck. I think MOST parents try to do the best they can. I think many people are quick to judge. It is easy to assume the worst and forget the other possibilities. I am often guilty of that myself. So in this one, I'll sit on the fence. I'm sure there are situations when a mother and child should be booted off. Oh, and for the record, the devil in me thinks you should have flaunted your breast feeding for those two gents -- give them more than their moneys worth for that flight! :)

Merinda Reeder said...

Ooooooohhh. I was so mad the other day. Late, going for the parking lot, carrying Emma, Carrying 4 hefty bags of Laundry, and Lizzy was having a meltdown after an interrupted nap. Yep, I helped create the situation, for sure. So meltdown babe and overloaded mom head out to the parking lot and some #%@* person starts going off on how Lizzy is acting that way because she's spoiled. I held my tongue; but the look I gave -- you would've been proud.

Anyway. Like Cindy, I wasn't on the plane; but I prefer giving a little slack.

When traveling with kids, I do more kid planning and packing than reasonable. I try to time the naps, the meals, the TSA, the waiting, everything. I gauge what snacks and when. I've got 8 diversions, and I breastfeed, too. I dress my girls cute for travel so people will like them. I pick my seats, the airlines move me to the middle seat on the back row, I schmooze the gate agents trying to get aisle or window seats. Trying to get the "didn't know there was a baby" compliment.

I can't speak for the mom or the airlines; but I'm pretty sure I'd be frustrated if I put in all my efforts and got bumped. At the same time, I get frustrated at some parents who I do see flying without the appearance of having prepared.
I can say, mostly I encounter the planning and preparing parents.

I don't think you're a rotten mom. I love your kids names. For most of my Emma's gestation, our top name was Abigail.