MOM ON A PLANE
Jared’s parents live in North Carolina, so at just under a year old, Avi has already racked up some frequent flyer miles. Whenever anyone asks how he does on flights, I proudly tell them how great he is. Yea, there’s a little fussiness here and there but typically, he drinks his bottle and falls asleep in my arms. Even on our last trip to NC, when we sat on the runway for about an hour, he occupied himself by trying to eat the seat in front of him. This past week, however; we took him to Myrtle Beach for our first real family vacation. And I totally ate my words as one of my values as a mother was tested.
I’ll back up. A few years ago, a friend of mine posted an article about a mother passing out little gifts and notes to her fellow airplane passengers. The note apologized in advance for the potential behavior of her baby. This went viral and most people thought it was a great idea, but my friend hated it. I remember her telling me that all this does is normalize the act of apologizing when our babies act like babies. She taught me that there shouldn’t be any shame or judgement for a baby who’s tired, scared, or in pain when they behave in the only way they know how. I thought about that every time I saw a mother on a plane with a crying baby. I would try to give an understanding smile - to somehow show them that it’s ok and I’m not annoyed by their child’s misery. And I vowed that when I was a mother, I would hold my head up high and not apologize if and when the same thing happened to me.
Back to present day - the flight down to Myrtle Beach was uneventful. Avi fell asleep for about an hour in the airport so by the time we boarded, he was in a great mood. The week was great, but exhausting and we stretched Avi’s nap and bedtime schedule as much as we dared. On the last day, we were finishing up breakfast when my sister and brother in-law asked if we wanted to go to the pool for one last swim. We had a decision to make - let Avi enjoy the pool with his cousin for 30 minutes (knowing that it would severely cut into nap time) or take him upstairs for a nap and skip the pool. I decided that family time was more important and we went swimming. Afterwards, Avi got a little cat nap before we made our way to the airport.
He was in a great mood for awhile, but about halfway through the flight, things started to get dicey. The short nap had caught up with him and he was suffering. Jared and I tried everything - toys, bottle, snacks. We even let him crawl a little in the aisle, but he was miserable. I felt absolutely awful for my little guy. But I also started to feel anxious about the people around me. We were starting to get those looks - the ones every mother dreads. The ‘why do you suck at being a mom’ look. The ‘why can’t you control your kid’ look. Despite myself, I started to feel embarrassed.
But then, I took a deep breath and I looked at my baby. My sweet, funny, smiley baby who was currently freaking the eff out. And I knew that the woman across the aisle wasn’t actually the one who was suffering - maybe she was put-out and annoyed, but Avi was the one suffering. He was tired and confused. His little ears hurt and he was helpless to change any of it. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to be embarrassed; all of my energy needed to go to Avi and taking care of him the best I could.
I think at the end of the day, I passed my own test, but it was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. Those judging looks really do make you question - ‘is this my fault? Am I single-handedly ruining the flight (and day) for all of these people?’’ But I won’t apologize for my baby acting like a baby. Crying is the only tool he has to express his discomfort and who can blame him for using it? My baby is not an inconvenience - he’s a member of my family, a member of society who’s doing the best he can. I’m not sorry for that.