July 7, 2010

A Letter to the Woman on the Plane in Front of Us

To Whom It May Concern:

I truly apologize for the mishap the other day when my six year old accidentally kicked the back of your seat while flying to our vacation with my parents.  My boys (ages 6 and 3) were both so excited to be going to Papa and Grandfi’s house—for a lot of reasons.  One is because they get to be spoiled and fussed over for two whole weeks by people they see once or maybe twice a year—who are their blood and miss them very much.

The morning began with two very sleepy boys who could barely get out of bed because they had stayed up too late, filled with anticipation as if tomorrow were Christmas morning.  You see, they love the planes, the trains, the shuttles, the escalators, the elevators, the moving belts full of luggage and the moving walkways that fill an otherwise mundane travel day with little boy thrills—every step of the way to their grandparents’ door.  The problem is that there is that damn plane ride in the middle of all the excitement.  It’s not that they are bad boys.  It’s just that they are well, children, (did I already mention—boys), who have more testosterone in their bodies than Mr. T at 50.  Not only that, but they actually sat pretty well during the flight, I thought.  No one screamed, no one yelled, no food was thrown.  They did talk too loudly at times, which I can totally understand your frustration at.  And they did kick the chairs in front of them periodically.  I am sure you know I was aware of that because you probably heard me say, “put your feet down” and “don’t kick the chair in front of you” about 350,000 times.  You might also have heard me talking to them and offering them ideas for entertainment throughout the whole flight.  You might have noticed that I was talking the ENTIRE flight because I had to respond to approximately 4 billion questions about the planes’ wing and what happens when or if we die and whether I was going to punish either sibling for hitting the other.  You might also have noticed that your seat might have been a little easier to sit in than mine because you were sitting all alone, choosing whether to speak or not to speak, whether or drink or not to drink, you get the idea.  And I felt just terrible when you asked the flight attendant in your loudest voice (so that I could hear) if she could ask the children behind you to quit kicking the chair.  I really felt bad.  You seemed like such a nice lady to be asking so sweetly and yet so rudely all at the same time.  Then I realized you were really a coward.  You didn’t think once to turn around and ask me yourself.  Nor did you try to be slightly classy and ask the flight attendant quietly to appear the sweet person you were attempting to mimic.  Not only that but you didn’t seem to notice that the man next to you who was in front of my 3 year old had probably been kicked enough to need kidney surgery, but he wasn’t an ass once.  It’s probably because he was more aware of the world around him, hearing my exhaustion at trying to keep my children at a socially acceptable level during the flight.  He probably noticed that I was working my ass off to do a good job as a mom because I think it’s important to let them know there is a time to get crazy and a time to be quiet.  Of course, I realize he wasn’t reading his religious literature like you were.  Of course, I should probably blame the distractions behind you that you were unable to glean any type of graciousness, love or piety from said literature.  It seems that was the perfect book for you to be reading, and I truly hope you get a chance to re-read it in the future and perhaps pick up some nuggets of wisdom and truth you are truly missing in your day to day dealings. 

I got to thinking about the horrible situation you were in and wondered if I were to do it again, what I would do differently?  What would I have my children do differently?  Here’s what I came up with. 

Next time I sit behind a blue haired, bitchy old hag who feels substantially justified to make sure I can hear her let the stewardess know how ill-behaved my children are while the true victim is the man beside her, I will do one of the following things in order to restore the world to its pre-flight balance. 

1)       I will offer to switch seats with you in order to keep you from having your seat kicked lightly by a child whose legs are short enough to be sticking straight out from his seat and unwittingly touching the back of your body through a seat.  This way I can sit by myself and draw pictures in your devotional while you talk to my children the entire time and try to get their energetic bodies to sit still and be ever so quiet—without any sort of adult beverage or pill involved. 

2)      I would offer to have you switch seats with the kind man next to you, who is probably still recovering from kidney surgery, incurred by Carson’s fast kicks to the seat in front of him.  This nice same man was probably kind when I apologized profusely because he recognized that after I reminded my three year old and then reprimanded my three year old and then gritted my teeth at my three year old, my three year old figured out I couldn’t do much about it past gritting my teeth and trying the hissing mom voice, so he continued to kick more, faster and harder as the ride wore on.  You would have a chance to figure all that out too.  In this seat, my dear lady, you would then better understand what discomfort is instead of practically having your back tickled. 

3)      This one is my favorite.  If it weren’t for the other 300 people on the plane, I would probably have chosen to sit on my 3 year old’s lap very heavily or maybe pinch him a couple times or maybe even take his beloved snack so he would yell and scream and kick for a hell of a long time on the flight.  I would refuse to quit pinching, sitting on or giving back any of the things that made him be quiet that entire flight just so you might understand what miserable is.  It is possible that at the end of that flight, I would be drunk off my ass, and you would be begging for the first half hour of the flight with little patters in your back that would now be seen as the loving pats of a quiet, happy child.  You would be hoping for a little kick so you could turn around and smilingly say hello to my beautiful child who you were so grateful to be near. 

4)      And now for the kicker.  Clearly, you were alone on that flight, and clearly you must spend more time alone than your fair share, given your lack of charity, kindness and personality.  So next time you get on a damn flight, patronize on an airline not KNOWN for their family presence.  Don’t freaking sit in front of two little boys!  And if by chance, they sit behind you, move!  It will save you the interruption in your life, the need to brazenly show your lack of empathy, and the chance of being publicly humiliated by some housewife’s online raving.  It’s one thing to be unaware, but it’s another to show absolutely no understanding of “real” problems in the world.  I don’t pretend to know your story, but please give me a call when you have any idea what it might be like to truly suffer.  I’ll be happy to listen then.  Neither you nor I were really suffering.  In the meantime, you’re lucky I felt kind that day because I’ve given travelers a piece of my mind before, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have the guts to say what I thought.  I just felt you were not worth my time.  It was clear you had made a big enough ass of yourself when the stewardess made sure to let me know how great my children were doing and bring them gifts for their behavior.  The thing is that I was exhausted after that trip and I did work hard, doing the best I could.  I also felt particularly lucky that I was able to get there seemingly gracefully.  Believe me, I have had many a “bad” travel story that now I wish you could have been present for.  (insert big fake smile here)  The truth is I was ready to eat my 3 year old a couple times on the trip, but you never, and I mean, never– get between a mother and her child.  It doesn’t matter what that child ever does, you will always be the enemy if you attack or criticize that child.  A mother’s loyalty belongs to her child, and I would gladly take my child’s ill-behaved, age-appropriate behavior over yours any day.  I wish you no ill-will in the future, oh wait…  I do hope you get to sit next to a poopy little infant whose mother breastfeeds openly, but the child won’t eat and screams and poops the entire flight—and the mother decides to change the baby on her lap.  And it would be a little bit funny if some breast milk sprayed on your little devotional and you squealed (was that too much?—oops).   Yes, I do think I wish that for you. 

Have a nice freaking day!


Mother of kids behind you.