Picture this: I’m en route to the East Coast from Arizona, traveling with my son Henry for the first time, and five minutes before takeoff, my sister looks down at our tickets and realizes that we are in the completely wrong seats on an almost full plane. As we start to look around and try and ascertain if we even have to move, a final surge of last minute passengers from the gate begin to hastily move down the walkway towards us.
Now, a mistake like this is no big deal, but for a new-ish Mom, with a new-to-flying baby who has already gotten comfortable and who has already stowed the over-the-two-bag-limit 4 bags under and above the seats and has begun to nurse, this is absolutely a big deal. We quickly try to get up (me, hurriedly shoving my boob back in my shirt) and get our bearings as we hear a man with a Southern accent tell the flight attendant, “Uh ma’am, these two here are in my seat. These girls are in my seat! I’m 14F and she’s 14E, ma’am.” My anxiety level starts to creep up a bit as I stumble out into the aisle, holding tight to Henry, two of my four bags in tow. (Where are the other two?) My face turns a deep shade of red as the flight attendant tells us we need to move (NOW) if we want to make our departure time (NOW ladies, let’s get moving). All eyes on us. Sympathetic glances. Sighs. Henry starts to get a little fidgety and suddenly I’m “that” Mom, the Mom with the baby on the verge of crying, too many bags, too little room, holding up the plane.
Flashback to five years ago. I distinctly remember boarding a similar plane headed to JFK, to visit my friend in Brooklyn. I had one carry-on, one checked bag and I spent a large portion of the flight listening to my iPod and probably browsing through a couple magazines. I don’t recall what I ate or drank but I’m sure I was able to use my tray table and enjoyed some ice water and maybe a bag of peanuts. I also vividly remember there being a little boy behind me, probably around a year old, who made that flight a living hell. Incessant seat-kicking, his portable DVD player’s volume somehow even rising above the music in my headphones, occasional whining and the crying… oh, the crying. At one point I remember standing up in my seat, turning around and giving the little angel’s Mom the worst stink-eye I could muster up. I didn’t resort to words but my glare said it all. How dare this woman bring a child on the plane, on my plane? Didn’t she know that my peace and quiet was most important thing here? I recall sitting there, so irritated at this baby – actually hating the baby – and vowing that I would never, ever be that Mom.
Well, guess what, 2006-self? Here you are. You are a Mom and even more so, you will absolutely be that Mom one of these days. And let’s be honest, I was pretty much “that Mom” on that flight to Boston. And it’s so interesting now to be in these shoes after being so annoyed by kids and other Moms in the past. I do feel like I am a bit more sensitive to how Henry acts in public settings but it’s still difficult when you can’t control how your baby will react in various situations.
Later on, after we found our correct seats, Henry became fussy an hour or two into the flight. My sister was dead asleep and I didn’t have much room to move and before I could realize what was happening, Henry began kicking the seat in front of us. My iPhone clattered to the floor as I tried to reposition but I couldn’t quite reach it. Yo Gabba Gabba loudly rang out repeatedly, “There’s a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy!” and Henry began to get agitated, his beloved in-flight crutch out of reach. In the midst of this craziness, the woman in front of me stood up, just barely missing getting her hair pulled by my fidgeting son, turned around… and smiled. She handed me my iPhone and said, “This is the first peep I’ve heard out of that boy all flight, you’re doing a great job!” and sat back down.
I smiled to myself as I realized what a role reversal this was, except that woman wasn’t a big meanie like I was five years ago. Lesson learned. Henry may only be 8 months old and we may have a whole lot of “that Mom” kind of moments on the horizon but they aren’t so bad when you have nice, understanding people surrounding you. Now, granted, that isn’t the case 75% of the time, but it inspired me to be a little less irritable, a lot more understanding, and much more compassionate to anyone who may be having a bit of a rough time. ‘Cause really… you never know when that could be you. Hear that, 2006 crabby self?
Image via The LA Times