Photo: D Sharon Pruitt
Yesterday I posted 10 tips for flying with a toddler. Today, I want to make a confession: our last flight from Rome to Atlanta was a disaster. It was actually a flight from Albania to Wisconsin, but the long-haul was the issue. First, we were picked up to leave for the airport at 4am. This, of course, violated tips 1 and 2; but with international flights, you often have no choice.
On the flight, Little Elephant simply was not happy. We had the two seats next to the window and the aisle right behind. At first, she did okay. But unable to sleep, uninterested in toys and food, hating her car seat, the tantrum to end all tantrums started. First, I was with her. “Mommmy. Mommy. No want airplane.” she screamed. I reasoned. I distracted. I laughed. I tickled. I offered food and toys. No avail. 45 minutes with limited quiet periods. Her father and I switched. “Mommy. Mommy. Moooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmy”. she wailed. Her father reasoned. Begged. Played. Tickled. Sang songs. Told jokes. No avail. Our little girl was unhappy. She was overtired, over stimulated, and stressed. She retaliated with all her force.
I sat in the row behind her, praying to a God I don’t believe in for her to be able to sleep, to be able to calm down.
Tap. Tap. The man kitty-corner pounded on my shoulder. “Ma’am. Your daughter is crying.” he complained.
“No shit!” I thought. I said, “She is two. I’m sorry. She is tired.”
“So are we” retorted his equally sour wife.
I turned away. Mortified. Furious.
Food arrived. She ate ice cream and calmed down.
I told my husband on the rudeness. I vacillated between wanting to smack them and wanting to disappear. My husband demanded to know who said it. He had the retort that I did not. He wanted to ask “What should we do? Would you prefer I smother her or just slap her around a little?” His sarcasm was searing. His anger, palpable. He did not feel the same shame I did. He felt rage.
I never told him who said it. Looking back, I wish I would have. We were doing our best. Honestly, our little one was doing her best too. I live overseas and long-haul flights are a reality for us. Usually they go well. Sometimes they don’t. She is two. That is her excuse.