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!