The only thing worse than openly complaining about a crying baby on an airplane is passive-aggressively complaining about a baby. And perhaps the only thing worse than that is passive-aggressively complaining about the passive-aggressive passenger…
Stephanie Hollifield, a parenting blogger, was traveling from Tampa to Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines last Sunday. Upon boarding, she took her seat behind a man who loudly sighed as they sat down. Her daughter was just laughing then, but she began to scream as the flight took off. Feeling discomfort, she apologized to the passengers around her but continued to receive cold stares from others, especially from the man sitting in front her.
After the flight, she penned the following “open letter” on Facebook which I include in full below:
To the Gentleman on Flight 1451,
I first noticed you when you sighed loudly as you laid eyes on me and my toddler boarding the plane.
In a momentary lapse of judgement, we sat behind you. It was the nearest set of seats, and I couldn’t wait to put my child and our heavy bags down.
From the over dramatic huffs and puffs you let out as we buckled in, it was clear that you were annoyed by our very presence.
At this point, my little girl was laughing and playing, obviously too loud for your liking.
I wondered if you had a bad day, or if this grouchy temperament was your normal behavior.
I wondered if your wife was embarrassed as she quietly nodded at your frustrations.
I wondered if you had children of your own.
I wondered a lot about you. Did you wonder about us?
Did you wonder about this mom and little girl who were flying alone? We were so excited to go on an adventure, but I was also very nervous.
This was the first time that I had ever flown with a child, and I was making half of the trip without my husband.
For weeks, I researched tips for flying with kids. I packed toys and games and books and downloaded movies.
I dosed up my child with Benadryl, to make sure any leftover traces of sinus infection didn’t make her ears hurt and to help her rest, but it didn’t work. She only slept 20 minutes on a cross country flight.
I did everything in my power to keep her calm and quiet. I shushed her, and made sure her little feet never kicked your seat.
As we took off, her tears started. The kicking and the screaming tantrums came on fast.
She had been up since early morning. She hadn’t eaten much because she didn’t want airport food.
She was recovering from the tail end of a sinus infection, and I wondered if the pressure from the altitude hurt her ears.
She was exhausted and fussy.
You did not let up with your mutters of annoyance and looks over your shoulder. You even shoved the back of the sea[t] towards us.
I apologized to everyone around me. I almost started crying myself.
I was feeling shame and guilt for not being able to control my own child.
I was at the end of my rope, but then, an angel to the rescue- the flight attendant came by and gave my daughter a cup and straw to play with.
And just like that, the screams stopped and my baby was suddenly content.
The kind attendant told us, “It’s ok! Flying is tough on everyone, and you are both doing great!”
Somehow, her kindness calmed my baby.
Somehow, her simple words made me feel better.
She was right. We were doing great! We were doing our best, and that’s as great as it gets.
The problem wasn’t with us, it was with you.
What you need to know, is that while children can be terribly inconvenient now, they will run the world when you are old and grey.
Kids can be annoying and downright obnoxious, but they are also innovative and brilliant.
These kids might one day discover the cure for the type of cancer that runs in your family.
They can be selfish and loud, but they can also be precious and loving.
They might grow up to build systems and make laws that benefit us all.
They may grow up to serve others in a way that makes us wish we could go in time back and do it all over again.
They are the future.
They are gifts to their family, to their community, and to the world.
We will need them one day, and they need us now.
They need a kind word. They need the novelty of a plastic cup and conversation from a new friend.
They need someone to look square in their mama’s nervous eyes and tell them that they are doing great, and that everything is going to be ok.
If you can’t muster up a smile and a hello, then simple silence will do just fine.
I get it, kids can be a nuisance, but next time you are forced to be near one, I hope that you will be more like the flight attendant. I hope that instead of frustration and annoyance, you feel hope and goodness.
This world certainly has enough negativity without us adding to it, and just maybe the kindness you give out today, will be returned to you in the future.
As a father of a two-year-old, there is a lot I can relate to in her letter. In particular, I like her charge to encourage rather than demean. And I agree that huffing and puffing is an incredibly jejune reaction to a crying child.
But my goodness, she responds to the passive-aggressive passenger with some passive-aggression of her own. What’s up with lines like “the problem wasn’t with us, it was with you” or “while children can be terribly inconvenient now, they will run the world when you are old and grey?”
The problem was a crying baby in a confined space. Unfortunately, that brings out the worst in others. I’m not sure reminding the rude passenger that he will grow old and her baby will grow strong helps to defuse the situation at all. Actually, I am sure. It doesn’t.
Frankly, other passengers really do not care that children “can be selfish and loud, but they can also be precious and loving.” That’s not relevant.
So I feel bad for the baby, because flying can be hard on the ears. I feel bad for the mother, who had no control over the baby, likely through no fault of her own. And I feel bad for the passengers who had to endure the crying.
I used to get so annoyed when babies cried on my flights. Now that I have my own, even though he’s generally been a good passenger for his five trips to Europe, it honestly doesn’t bother me anymore. It was just a change in attitude…a liberating one. When you don’t let something bother you, it does not. When you laugh about it (or at least resolve not to get angry about it), crying or any annoyance that cannot be immediately corrected becomes much more bearable.
What are your thoughts on this passive-aggressive show on Southwest?
(H/T: View from the Wing)