I’m a mom. I have a two year old and she’s awesome. I didn’t realize I needed her when I got pregnant, but I know very obviously now that I do and did. I don’t define myself first as a mom (though if you asked me what I defined myself as, I don’t know I could tell you off the top of my head). As such, sometimes parenting moments come through and they’re really on my mind.
Ryan (husband), Elle (daughter) and I all traveled to Kansas this weekend for a wedding. We took a red eye, which was borderline miserable and had a short layover in Minnesota. The tiny plane we boarded in MN had a mom and a little girl just shy of two on it as well. I was walking to the bathroom with Elle to change her diaper and I hear a mom yelling at her kid who was screaming. As I rounded the corner, I realized she was talking to a 20(ish) month old. From the tone of her voice, I could’ve sworn she was talking to someone much older than she was.
My first thought was “oh, you’re not going to get anywhere with an almost 2 year old yelling at them.” The mom desperately wanted her daughter to sit in the chair. If you’ve ever even been around a 2 year old you know they listen about as good as someone with noise cancelling headphones on and they’re sure as hell not going to sit still. I felt sad for the toddler who was getting yelled at, but clearly couldn’t fully comprehend why it was important to just sit (and truthfully, we were all just waiting for a plane so her running around in circles in a deserted part of the airport wouldn’t have bothered me any).
I stopped. I was judging her. I was judging the way she talked to her kid, her actions. Everything. She was flying alone with a toddler. She’d also taken a red eye and her kid didn’t sleep (mine didn’t either, I can relate). The differences were vast. I had a stroller so I didn’t have to carry my kid through the airport. She didn’t have that luxury. My kid napped in her stroller. That’s not an option for her kid. I had my husband, a second set of hands. She had no one and couldn’t even pee alone and probably had been screamed at for the last 12 hours by an inconsolable 2 year old. I didn’t have any of those barriers, yet I was judging how she was talking to her kid.
It’s also important to know that while yes, toddlers as a whole don’t understand everything and they’re still shopping around trying to figure life out, kids understand at different levels. I find myself talking to Elle pretty sternly sometimes because I know as her mom she knows what she is doing is wrong (in some cases, not all). I was judging this mom based on how she was talking to her kid, but I had absolutely no idea what level her child understood. That’s not right.
What she needed was some help and I didn’t offer it because I was also spent and my kid had a meltdown .5 seconds later as well, so I just didn’t have the capacity. This amazing lady on the plane DID though. She spoke to the little girl in a nice, soft voice and she calmed her down immediately. She was happy and slept the entire plane ride and it was because of this stranger who didn’t judge, but HELPED. It reaffirmed for me that we all need to be more like this stranger.
Whenever I get seated by someone with a lap baby, I immediately let them know I have a 2 year old and if their kid cries or spits on me, I’m not going to get upset. I’ve never offered to actually help though, but maybe I should. It’s not like I’m not capable of helping. I know I’d probably try to just manage alone and I know many other people would too, but there’s value in that offer and just letting people know they’re not alone.
Thanks awesome plane lady. You’re an inspiration.