Please don’t sic your flight attendants on me and parenty rectangles.

The trip to Pennsylvania was hard. I mean, it was really hard. All aspects of it. Getting there was miserable. I thought the flight attendant was going to put us out on the wing. When your kid is being a total shit on an airplane, there is no stored up credit you can draw upon for all the times you’ve picked up and left stores without your shopping or sat alone at a table, waiting for your food to be delivered straight from the kitchen in to go containers while your husband circles the parking lot with a shrieking infant. No one cares about that, about how you have ALWAYS done the right thing before. And no one but the nice gentleman next to you can see that you’re desperately hunched over your child, trying everything – EVERYTHING – that you’re allowed to bring onto the plane in your one teeny tiny bag.

Nope. No one cares. The best I can figure, they just want to see you be told. I don’t know what else to think. I don’t know why else other passengers would send the flight attendant to me repeatedly to say, “Okay, what’s the problem here?” or “Okay, what can we do?” or “Well, there are other people on this flight,” and things like that until I was crying, too. All I can think is that it made them feel better to see that something was being done. I hope it made them feel better, to see me be told. I was told. I cried. I’m crying again just thinking about it. I hope my fellow US Airways passengers from that flight are feeling a little extra psychic satisfaction today.

I sound bitter, I guess. I don’t mean to. We all know how miserable it is to be trapped on a plane with a screaming child. I know. I felt for everyone else on that plane. I’ve been the person on the plane gritting my teeth with every shriek. You can’t help that it annoys you. It’s grating. You ARE NOT A BAD PERSON if the sound of a shrieking child goes right through your head. You ARE NOT. You are not a child hater. Well, you might be, but not because of that.

Before I had a kid, I would think about how I didn’t want to be stuck on a flight with a screaming kid, and I guess I thought parents thought the same way. That they didn’t want to be trapped on a flight with a screaming kid, either. But when that flight attendant came up to me and said, “Well, there are other people on this flight,” I swear, I wanted to slap her face off her head. No shit, woman. You think if it was just ME here I wouldn’t tune this tantrum the fuck out?

I CAN LISTEN TO THIS ALL DAY. I AM THE PRO OF THIS SHIT. I CAN GO TO THE OLYMPICS OF PENELOPE TANTRUMS AND TAKE HOME ALL OF THE GOLDS AND THE BRONZES AND LEAVE THE SILVERS FOR MY HUSBAND TO BE NICE.

Look, I guess I am kind of bitter. I just feel like there were people on the plane that weren’t going to feel satisfied until they saw that THAT MOTHER, that terrible one up there who clearly wasn’t doing anything correctly, was appropriately scolded for her obvious failings. You’re not bad and you’re not wrong if a shrieking child is making you LOSE YOUR MIND on a flight. But don’t fucking send the flight attendant up there. What do you think is going to happen? That she will hand us parachutes and send us on our way? That she’ll work some flight attendant magic on the baby I’ve known her whole life, something I don’t know?

You know what happened? She came up there, and she made me CRY. I was doing everything I could, I was already doing EVERY FUCKING THING I COULD, and she made me CRY. I know some people out there really hate children, and I know some people out there will read this as me saying that you need to DEAL WITH MY SCREAMING CHILD, and anyone who has read this blog for a long time knows that I am not normally of that mind. We are staunchly in the Leaver category. I wish I had a bag of credits I could dip into. I wish I could understand what the people who sent the flight attendant to me thought they might accomplish. “Oh, this is BOTHERING people? I’m sorry! Let me just actually try something instead of sitting here with my thumb up my ass! I deeply apologize!”

Anyway, anyway. I’m sorry. The whole thing was just so frustrating. I was so well prepared. Or, at least, I thought I was. You know, you have EVERYTHING, but it turns out to be just tons of the wrong stuff? Eventually I was just shoving snack after snack after snack into Peno’s face, you know? And the flight attendant walked by at one exact second when she happened to be chewing, just this one silent second, and the flight attendant says to me – you guys – she says, “See? She was just hungry.”

Are you imagining my eyeballs right now? Are you imagining them?

*****

I didn’t plan to dedicate so much of this post to my flying adventures (oh, when I was preparing to get off the plane? Another flight attendant helpfully said to me, “It’s just that the screaming really bothers some people’s ears.” OH, IS THAT IT?). There was this other thing that really made the trip to Pennsylvania kind of hard that I wanted to tell you about.

So, you know, I went to Pennsylvania for a month, just me and Peno, without Phil. And it was really tough. There was a lot of floundering with just me and Pen. We did get a lot of support in some form or another from family, but the first couple of weeks especially were very difficult, mostly due to expectations not being met, on both sides, both what was promised and what I think are natural expectations of a stay at home parent and kid or even of just a mother and kid. Expectations that, while probably natural, I think do a disservice to my husband, and maybe a lot of other husbands.

So, if you think of parenting as… a shape of some sort. Say a rectangle. A rectangle that is completely filled in with some percentage contribution from both parents, giving you a 100% parenting experience. In a two parent household like our own, I suppose you might find it fair to think of it 50% blue and 50% pink, using standard gendered colors because, whatever, I like them and it’s easy.

Then, when I went to Pennsylvania with Peno, you’d be dealing with a 50% pink rectangle, and a 50% big white blank that you’d be expecting me to stretch over on my own, with cobbled together help from relatives and people in Pennsylvania, right? 50% is a lot. A person would get a lot of credit for covering her 50% and then doubling herself somehow and covering the same over again. Maybe. If it was just a person,  for one thing, and not a mother, and for a second thing, if we were even talking about a 50/50 divide.

But if we’re being realistic, I’m both the mother and the stay at home parent. So, consciously or not, if we were to ask people to take a stab at shading our rectangle – mine and Phil’s – it would likely be more pink than blue. Fair? Doesn’t matter. We’re talking about assumptions here. Not even necessarily deliberate ones. Just assumptions. Maybe when I got to Pennsylvania, people were expecting me to be covering more like  a 40% white gap. Or even a 25% white gap. And that’s not that much. That’s not twice what I’m used to like the 50% example above. That’s just a small stretch. And just for four weeks. And I’m the mother. Mothers can stretch.

The thing is, just because I’m home and Phil works, or just because I’m the mom and he’s the dad, does not mean that our parenty rectangle is more heavily pink than blue, or even that it’s an even split. I’ll tell you the truth – it’s not. I felt a lot of confusion at times in Pennsylvania – why are you handling this so poorly?  Because the bulk of the rectangle IS NOT HERE. I can only cover so much of this white space by myself, and without Phil, it is MOSTLY WHITE SPACE.

And the sad thing is, I don’t think that ever would have occurred to anyone. Sure, lone wolf parenting for an extended period of time is hard, but the mother can do it, albeit in an exhausted, clunking along fashion.

At different phases of Peno’s life, we’ve both taken turns making up the bigger shaded portion of the rectangle. This particular time is not mine. I don’t really feel like I need to explain the inner workings of our parenting any farther than that, other than that it will shift back, and back again, and back again, who knows how many times between now and forever.

Everyone who I visited with in Pennsylvania was sincere in expressing their appreciation to Phil in giving up an entire month of Penny’s life, to let them spend that time with her, but not necessarily as sensitive to me about what I was missing for that month. My husband, for one (okay, it’s hard for parents to see their kid as grown with a husband). My house (or a home of her own that she might miss, why would she? She’s in her home! That she grew up in!).  Or an absolutely enormous chunk of what keeps the whole Penny machine rolling.

Honestly, I don’t know where I’m going with this. Maybe your husbands get enough credit. Maybe husbands in general do. I’m just saying, just because it looks like a stay at home mom and dresses like a stay at home mom doesn’t mean its parenty rectangle is… mostly… pink… someone should have stopped me six hundred words ago.

86 thoughts on “Please don’t sic your flight attendants on me and parenty rectangles.

  1. June

    I consider myself an extremely anti-confrontational, law-abiding person. However, after that last flight attendant comment I seriously think I would have wound up being escorted from the plane by security personnel.

    Delicia Reply:

    THIS.

    TJ Reply:

    Her actual last comment was, “I”m a grandmother, I know how it is.”

    June Reply:

    Well, I guess those awful mother-in-law’s that you read about probably have jobs somewhere. I think you found one.

    Amy Reply:

    Funny, because most grandparents I know have conveniently forgotten what it was like to have kids. “Oh, you were an angel – I NEVER had to tell you not to touch someone else’s stuff.” “You slept through the night from day 1, I wonder why your baby isn’t doing the same.” Shove it, grandparent.

    Melissa Reply:

    YES! I think I might have tried to cause such a scene that EVERYONE on the plane would have to land in an unplanned place just to get rid of me. I’d want to ruin their trips just a little bit :)

  2. Donna

    This makes me FURIOUS on your behalf. First of all, you obviously were doing everything you could. Second of all, a fucking flight attendant has no right to make you cry. I hope you have sent a strongly worded hate email to the airline and mentioned that flight attendant by name. And this last one is the kicker. Those people were on a commercial, PUBLIC flight. You and your screaming kid had just as much right to be there as they did. If they feel entitled to a silent flight without the distractions of those around them, they should have fucking chartered a jet. Oh, can’t afford it? Then shut your trap and realize that’s just part of travel. Obviously you’re not an ass and you weren’t just letting her scream for funsies.

    Out of curiosity, what was she so mad about? Just being contained for all that time?

    TJ Reply:

    You know, I’m not sure why she was so worked up. Some days are just… bad days, you know? On the way back, I used a CARES harness instead of her carseat and it went marginally better.

  3. Naomi

    I never comment on blogs, (sorry) but I am sputtering in rage after reading your post. I want to find everyone on that plane and kick them. How was it not the flight attendant’s job to just tell the other people “I’m so sorry, I know this is difficult, but everyone is doing the best they can.”

    I just. Seriously? “There are other people on this flight.” Really? What the hell?

    And, “see! she was just hungry.” Can we write a mean email to the airline?

    Did people think you were torturing your baby and it was up to them to intervene? Shut up stupid passengers and flight attendant.

    TJ Reply:

    I wondered about that, why she didn’t just offer something to the OTHER people. It’s so much easier to placate adults who have a sense of reason. At least, most of them do, right?

  4. Observacious

    Ugh. I’m so sad you had such an awful experience. That flight attendant was horrible.

    TJ Reply:

    She was certainly… not the very best I’ve ever encountered.

  5. The Tutugirl

    Um, that’s not ok. I mean, I understand that people lose their minds and ask the flight attendant to do something, but the flight attendant’s job is to nod to appease that person, then go talk to you and ask how she can help, NOT make you cry. That sounds like a “report her to the airline” type incident.

    TJ Reply:

    The thing is, even when she did ask, “How can I help?,” it wasn’t even “How can I help?” It was all aggressive and abrasive. She leaned over me and said, “Ok, what can we do here?” or something like that, maybe, “Okay, what do we need here?” or no, it was this, it was “Ok, what’s the problem here?”

    THAT’S what her first question to me was. It was, “Okay, what’s the problem here?”

    When my toddler was screaming.

    As if I was going to tell the nice flight attendant my toddler’s issue, and SHE was going to fix it.

    I admit to saying back a bit snippily, “She’s 18 months old.”

    Because that was the entire problem.

  6. Sarah Lena

    Because I had hoped it would be funny, I contemplated commenting “Well, I don’t even HAVE eardrums, so how lucky for you that you could hear her!”

    But the anger, man. Oh, the anger. And you know what, Kel? You have ABSOLUTELY EVERY RIGHT to bitch back at the attendant. First “warning”, sure. Second attempt, yeah, I speak english, I get it. Third visit? LISTEN LADY, I AM CLEARLY TRYING HERE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE HER AND SEE HOW IT GOES?

    (I mean, seriously, they could’ve at least offered to walk her to the cockpit or occupy her with something THEY had access to.)

    I will continue to be mad about this, so you don’t need to.

    TJ Reply:

    I am glad I have you to be angry, because when I think about it, I can really only work up the weakest flare of real anger. Obviously, at the time, I could not actually be mad, as I was too busy promising Peno ANYTHING ON EARTH if she would just! fall! asleep!

    Which she did, for the very last few minutes of taxiing to our gate.

  7. Kara

    Yup, been there, been that person. My children are experienced long distance flight children, yet at ages 15 months-20 months they have all experienced full on melt downs on a plane. The best was with my oldest when she was 20 months old, and I was flying with her and my 3 week old other daughter. Thank the gods that the woman we were sitting with (lapped the baby, bought a seat for the toddler) was understanding- and possibly deaf. I was in tears as well. At one point, I had strangers I didn’t know walking my toddler up and down the aisle, because when she was with someone she didn’t know, she shut up. Honestly, it wasn’t like these strangers were going to walk off with my baby on a plane somewhere over the middle of the country. And, if someone did have thoughts of kidnapping her, her behavior on the plane would have scared that thought right out of their heads. The next time we flew, she was a fucking angel who slept the entire 5.5 hour flight.

    TJ Reply:

    When I was getting on the plane, I was lugging her car seat, alone, and all I could do was let her run down the aisle in front of me. No help from flight attendants, even though I was clearly alone with a 30+ lb car seat and a toddler. She couldn’t go anywhere in a closed plane, so I just yelled after her, “No one take that baby! She’s not nice! She bites!”

  8. cindy w

    No. I just… no. I want to kick that flight attendant in the shins on your behalf.

    Look, I’ve been on flights with screaming kids. And it sucks. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, because every instinct in me is screaming at me to try to jump up and help. (It’s a weird thing, even since before I had kids, I’ve always wanted to try to console crying/upset children.) But you know what I do? I sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up because IT ISN’T MY PLACE to handle it. It wouldn’t even occur to me to ask a flight attendant to confront you.

    Good god damn. What is WRONG with people??

    TJ Reply:

    I wonder now what exactly I used to be thinking when I was trapped somewhere with a screaming kid, like on a flight. Before I had a kid. I know I wouldn’t have been the type to think to comfort the kid myself, but I wonder if I was the type to think, “WHY ISN’T THAT PARENT DOING ANYTHING?” I can’t remember now. If I was, though, I hate past me.

    Cayt Reply:

    I don’t have kids but when there’s a crying baby on a flight I think ‘that poor kid and mother, it must be much worse for them than for the rest of us’. If I’m seated next to a kid who is verbal, I’ve been known to chat to the kid. Once for nine hours I talked about ballet and princesses with a six year old. That’s not an exaggeration. Nine hours. Manchester to Orlando. When we got off the plane, the kid’s mother said ‘thank you so much, she would have driven me nuts’.

  9. Katie

    The fact that you only cried and did not rip the face off of that flight attendant shows that you are a better person than I. I have flown once with the baby and don’t really want to ever again. He was great, but the stress, the weight of trying not to piss off 100 people even though you have no control, it’s just terrible.

    You should be bitter, those people were tremendous assholes and that flight attendant was their queen.

    TJ Reply:

    I keep wanting to say something to the airline, and then not, and then wanting to again. And then I want to, because you know what the sticking point is for me right now? Peno had a SEAT. I mean, she’s under two, but she ALSO had her own FOUR HUNDRED DOLLAR SEAT just like all the rest of them. TO SIT IN, TO POOP IN, TO SCREAM IN, whatever. Not my free courtesy lap baby. No, she was that flight attendant’s $400 customer, TOO. That FA should have been kissing HER TINY BUTT just as much, right?

    Doing My Best Reply:

    Yes! ESPECIALLY since you PAID A LOT OF MONEY for her seat!!
    If you can stand to do it, you should write to the airlines. You are an amazing writer and will be able to get your point across well, and maybe, just maybe, you will save some other parent from being mistreated!
    This is why we will be driving for FIVE DAYS when we move across the country, instead of flying; I just cannot handle dealing with rude flight attendants on top of everything else. (Some of us flew when we moved here, and it was AWFUL.)

    Erin Reply:

    You should write the airline an email and if you remember the flight attendants’ names and your flight number, mention them. I mean, there is no excuse for them talking down to you and making you cry. Yes, all the passengers have a right to a peaceful flight, but SO DO YOU, AS A PASSENGER. If other ADULTS, who can be REASONED WITH, have a beef with the fact that there is a crying baby on the plane, the flight attendants need to be reasoning with THEM, offering THEM free booze and headphones and movies. Making the already-stressed parent of the crying child cry as well is unprofessional and unacceptable.

    Ugh. I am so, SO LIVID on your behalf right now.

  10. kathleenicanrah

    re: section 1- I’m childless, and travel quite a bit, and ummmm NO. no. It is not okay. Did the flight attendant think you were blind or deaf or not doing everything you could? This is blowing my mind. with rage.

    re: section 2- My grandfather’s marriage wisdom is that it’s not 50/50, it’s 100/100, just sometimes 100% is less or more for one of the people, but you still give it everything. If you transfer that to your rectangle- you are used to giving 100%, and to someone else giving 100%. It’s not like now that Phil wasn’t around you were going to start suddenly trying harder, or more, or oh! now I have to really do this. There’s a lot of surface area to be covered, and you suddenly had to perform on 150% or 180%, and yeah. That sounds unfun.

    TJ Reply:

    Unfun is exactly the right word. Unfun. UNFUN.

  11. Maggie

    I can’t even go there with the bullshit on your flight.

    Instead I will talk about the difficulty of visiting someplace else with toddlers. My inlaws live 3 hours away by car and my son was the first and only grandchild for nearly three years. So, there was a ton of pressure to visit and to stay there for every long weekend, holiday, etc. This would have been mostly fine except (1) my son hated the car (due to extreme carsickness), screamed bloody murder for the three hours or threw up every. fucking. time. for years; (2) my inlaws refused to buy a crib, any kind of chair for the room my son stayed in, or to babyproof their house in anyway; and (3) once we got there, my husband reverted to pampered son behavior and, therefore, did much less than he does at home.

    I make it sound like my inlaws are terrible. They really aren’t, generally they’re great, but w/r/t babies and toddlers they were and continue to be absolutely horrible. I thank the tiny baby Jesus every day that my SIL (who lives in the same town as my inlaws) finally had three kids and so the pressure to visit decreased exponentially and both of my kids are finally old enough that the lack of crib and failure to babyproof are no longer an issue. But, I still remember the hell of almost all of those visits and despite my best efforts, will likely carry some resentment for quite awhile.

    TJ Reply:

    Oh, I haven’t even gotten in to the whole first couple of weeks with the refusal to babyproof. Outlet covers and two babygates. That was it. Pictures on all the end tables, stacks of books and magazines around, all unlocked cabinets, oh my god oh my god I need to crawl under my desk just thinking about it.

  12. Cayt

    That flight attendant was an asshole who should have known better. What the fuck did she expect to accomplish? Was she actually thinking, ‘oh, maybe if I chastise this stressed, harassed lady who is closer than anyone else to the source of the screaming and is also feeling horrible about the screaming so is in actual fact suffering MORE than the other passengers on this flight, she will telepathically make the baby shut up.’ I am very angry on your behalf about this bullshit.

    TJ Reply:

    That’s what I just can’t get. What was she thinking? If she was a grandmother, like she claimed, what did she think I could do? What did she think she could take me into doing?

  13. Delicia

    TJ I am so very sorry you had to go through this. It’s difficult enough to travel with a little one by yourself, but to have to deal with this idiocy on top of that. UGH.

    I’m pretty sure you deserve a medal for not slapping the face off of that attendant for that last comment she made. OH MY GOD.

    Kids are so much better to travel with (esp flying) when they are school-age. You just can’t logic it out with a toddler, they don’t care that the flight is only 30 min more or that they have to stay seated and buckled in for their safety. Any time I’m travelling and there’s a baby/toddler pitching a fit yes, I admit, it’s annoying, but mostly I just feel HORRIBLY sorry for the parents having to deal with it.

    TJ Reply:

    This is just a hard window of age, where you can’t TELL her anything and she can’t really SAY anything back. Actually, even just after getting back from our trip it’s better, with her saying tons more and seeming to understand more. And we will not be travelling for a LONG TIME.

  14. Melissa

    OK. So, I’m only at the first break and I am FURIOUS for you. FURIOUS. How did you resist saying, “I am doing everything in my bag of tricks to get her to quiet down. Now go f-off?” I am so angry on your behalf…My blood pressure rose just reading this, Kelly!

    TJ Reply:

    P was just unreasonable. Like I’d try to get her set up with the iPad, and she’d freak when she’d click on something in an app she didn’t like, but lose it BIG TIME when I would try to take the iPad to go back to what she DID like. The whole day was just A LOST CAUSE. I had no answer for the flight attendant other than, “She’s 18 months old.” That should have been enough. A solution, no. But that was IT. That was the answer, that was what was happening. AND THERE IS NO ANSWER TO THAT.

    I really did do everything.

  15. Melissa

    You’re entitled to all the anger in the world on that flight. That’s just ridiculous.
    I totally hear you on the parenting hole, although I never would have expressed it like you did. In my case, I work full time at the office while my husband is the stay-at-home parent, and it’s not a static percentage. And it’s not easy to HAVE to take over when you might not even have been at 15% this month to START with, because of, you know, life. I’m very un-eloquent but hope you understand, I hear you sister.

    TJ Reply:

    It’s not static, not at all. It shifts in our house all the time, like I assume it probably does in yours. I think it was natural for my family to assume it would be no big deal for me to continue to do a version of stay at home parenting out there, just like I do here in AZ, and it probably seemed very weird to them that it did NOT go well at all. And in wondering why, it probably didn’t occur to them at ALL to consider that I was picking up A LOT – MORE than just a little, more than they would ever have thought – of what my husband usually fills in. And I thought that was kind of sad. They like my husband, they like him a lot and they think he’s a great dad. And they appreciated a whole lot that he let his wife and daughter go away for a month, and they knew he missed us. But they never really thought about how big of a huge gaping PARENT hole would be left for me – after all, I’m a stay at home mom in AZ, so I could do the exact same in PA, no big, right? What an assumption people make, you know, about mothers and their ability to just BE the whole pie simply by virtue of being the mother, and how unfair to fathers and their sometimes very big and very very essential and real and significant contribution, right?

    Corinne Reply:

    I’m still chewing this over. The flight attendant, whatevs. She had sand in her vag and so did those awful people who sent her.

    But I’m thinking more of how it is when my brother and his kids, and I and my kids, visit my parents and the same time. There is an automatic slant toward my mom taking my brother’s kids and me taking my own. It’s really quite noticeable. Also OMFG you should SEE the attention my brother gets when he travels solo with his boys. Suffice it to say the flight attendants are treating him sliiiightly differently than they did you. There are a lot of assumptions about pink and blue and adding it up to 100%. It doesn’t make your family bad people, it’s not like they invented it, but it’s unfortunate that they aren’t able to break out of that. Also, there is NOTHING easy about parenting away from your home environment. That’s just harrrrd.

    I think you really nailed it when you said that it shifts back and forth. That’s the sign of a good team.

  16. Hannah

    I would like to go back in time, board that flight with you, and smack that bitchy flight attendant because NO. I just… Nope. I read the tweets during your flight, and I felt SO AWFUL because I know that it’s super annoying to have to be trapped with a screaming baby (for parents and strangers alike, really), and I know how awful I feel anytime my kids are being even slightly obnoxious in public, and I know you are very much of the leaver category, and I just… I know you are not a hugger and we are not real, actual friends or anything, and I am not really a hugger either, but I could just reach through my screen and hug you right then and right now because I was (and still am) just SO indignant on your behalf. People are ridiculous. I really hope they don’t act like assholes when you make your next trip. Was the return flight better?

    TJ Reply:

    We used a CARES harness on the return flight, and it was very slightly better. She was still whiny and terrible, and she also threw up on me. But it was very slightly better.

  17. Rene

    Oh, wow. Shame on that flight attendant for actually pushing you to the point where you were in tears. “Can we do anything to help?” is one thing, “There are other people” is quite another.

    If I were you I’d contact the airline and report the flight attendant. Even if you don’t have her name, I’m sure they’d be able to pull up who was working that flight if you gave them the flight information.

    I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that. :( Like people can’t see what you’re doing to try to comfort your child, so they of course just assume you’re doing nothing…

    TJ Reply:

    If her first approach had been “Can we do anything?” instead of, “Okay, what’s the problem here?,” the whole thing would have been worlds different. WORLDS.

  18. Kristina

    Ummmm … “Well, there are other people on this flight” is the kind of thing you say to someone who is listening to music too loud. Or a group of drunk spring breakers who won’t shut up. Or, I don’t know, someone who has bad gas or something. NOT to a mother, flying ALONE with a TODDLER. My god. I don’t know if you’re the “make a formal complaint” kind of person, but I would be speaking to someone about this.

    TJ Reply:

    I want to be a formal complaint kind of person. I want to be SO HARD.

  19. Elizabeth

    Oh my god, that flight attendant is a bad bad person. When I took Eli and Katie to VT by myself (the world;s worst idea) Katie screamed the entire way, and the flight attendant took her from me, walked her up and down the plane, and entertained her with cups and water. I’m not saying this is how it HAS to be because that’s obvs above and beyond the call of duty, but you know, when you have a choice and none of the choices are “make the mom feel bad and then baby will be quiet” maybe there’s some other ideas that could be explored by the people who are paid to help.
    Man, I am just so sorry about that. Why did no one help you! God, what dicks.

    Also, certain people who shall remain nameless (cough my father in law cough) is always telling me how AMAZING Erik is and how they can’t believe he changes all those diapers. OF HIS OWN CHILDREN THAT HE WANTED TO HAVE MORE THAN I DID ACTUALLY. Gawd. I’ve decided it must be generational, since he had five children and never once changed a diaper (!!!), but it still raises my blood pressure. Oh, look at him, a man, parenting! Must be a NATIONAL HERO!

    TJ Reply:

    You know, Phil didn’t have a father figure in his life, but he had a WHOLE BIG PACK of women who raised him, and I can’t decide if he’s a good dad because he would have been anyway, because he didn’t have a father figure to give him BAD ideas about what dads DON’T do (diapers, bottles, etc), or because he’s terrified of the wrath of women.

    REGARDLESS, like Diane said below – WOMEN OF THE WORLD. HOLD YOUR MEN TO HIGHER STANDARDS.

  20. Gianni

    I have never commented before, but I have a son who was born in May 2011, so I started reading you back when I was devouring blogs from other pregnant women. I have to say, very sincerely, thank you for your humor, it really helped while I was going through the whole weirdness that happens before and immediately after giving birth to another human.

    As to the current situation, I have not yet traveled by plane with my babies, but this convinces me that my other half may have a point when he says that we should avoid planes if we don’t HAVE to get on them. I agree with you completely — other people can absolutely shudder in their seats and cover their ears and roll their eyes and just basically think, THIS SUCKS! When my kid is being loud around them — but I cannot understand who thinks that they should inform the flight attendant, because honestly what do they think will happen? Grit your teeth and write about it on your blog, you know? Harassing a mother trying to the point of tears just seems so freaking wrong.

    Also, the parenting triangle — in our circumstance, my partner takes on a LOT of the parenting responsibilities, and my son especially is very attached to his dad. Occasionally people will comment on this, making a big deal out of what a “daddy’s boy” Milo is, which sometimes makes me feel about two inches tall. I know that I could go on a trip for work and leave him alone for a couple of days with the kids, he he wouldn’t even sweat it, but if I had to do the same thing … I’m not 100% sure I could do that. Not sure where I’m going with this, I guess I just wanted to verbally nod along and say what you’re writing makes sense to me. Thanks again for putting your stuff out there.

    TJ Reply:

    Penny is a total daddy’s girl. It bothered me a lot at first, but after a while, it was nice to shrug and say, “I’d go get her, but she’s calling for YOU.” Ha!

  21. April

    A flight attendant made me cry on my last flight with kids after it was her airline that screwed things up to begin with. I’ve been on plenty of airplanes with perfectly nice attendants, but for better or worse THAT is the experience I remember.

    Our parenting rectangle is mostly blue with some purple and a sliver of pink. I CAN do it on my own for short periods but I am never the one who does. You deserve a medal.

  22. KeraLinnea

    Oh, I so want to hear that you wrote the world’s nastiest nasty-gram to the airline. That is absolutely not acceptable. Oh, it bothers people’s ears? Well, people need to remember that they are adults and sometimes adults just have to suck it up, because babies are not fully in control of their emotions or actions yet,and sometimes, they act in a way counter to what adults want. I just cannot even. Your fellow passengers that day were dicks, and I am so sorry for how you were treated. That FA gets a special place in hell. As someone above mentioned, her job here was to nod and smile at the complainers and say “Yes, it’s frustrating, but we’ll all just have to do our best to get along.” I can’t even wrap my mind around people complaining–what did they think the FA would be able to do? Gag the baby? Pull over and make the two of you walk?

    At least tell us the airline–I don’t fly often, but I’d love to make sure I don’t give money to these asshats.

  23. Lawyerish

    No. No. NO! No no no. I am shaking with rage at the flight attendants and those a-hole passengers who SENT said flight attendant to talk to you, AS IF that would be helpful in some way. How utterly hideous of her, and for you. The ONLY thing that should be said in that situation to the parent is a sincere and sympathetic, “Is there anything we can do to help?” END OF STORY.

    Did she react at all when you started to cry? Did that maybe make her realized that, uh, NOT HELPFUL, and also, you were suffering MORE than anyone else on that plane?

    Ugh, this just makes me boiling mad. I’m so sorry.

  24. Elissa

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Everyone who has traveled with a toddler can imagine what a horrifying experience this was for you, and I bet that the majority of people on that plane were sympathetic.

  25. Alice

    I am ENRAGED on your behalf. ENRAGED. Jesus christ, what is wrong with those passengers? What is wrong with those FLIGHT ATTENDANTS?!? In what universe does MAKING A PASSENGER CRY mean you are doing your job well??! I CAN’T EVEN. I wish I were on that flight with you just so I could have snapped back at those FAs. It’s so impossible in the moment, when you’re upset and being yelled at already, but me? As a bystander? I could have ripped her a new one. WHAT. THE FUCK.

  26. Melanie

    I feel just awful for you – that flight attendant is seriously the worst.

    I know before I had kids, I was annoyed by kids screaming, but since having them I always just feel terrible for the parent. I can’t imagine what people thought you could do – the lack of compassion on other people’s parts kills me.

    Also, my kid went through a very attached mommy phase, and my MIL said to me: “that’s so weird, girls are ALWAYS more attached to their fathers. What did you do to her?” (Oh, yeah, my daughter was 9 months old) Then she decided that since I had MADE her attached to me, her son could squire her around town sans baby for the five days she visited. It was hard, even though our rectangle was more pink than blue then. Blue was still there! And that was only five days! You deserve a medal for making it a month.

  27. Christen

    Wow. Totally agree with the above comment about how, if the flight attendant was receiving complaints about the noise, she should have simply told those who were complaining that it was being dealt with and then maybe checked in with you to see if you needed some milk or water or whatever she can reasonably offer AND THEN TELL THE REST OF THE PASSENGER TO STFU. I didn’t really like the turbulence on my last flight; it upset my tummy and also made me really nervous, but guess what? I acccepted it as part of the possible result of being on a plane; I sure as shit didn’t ask the flight attendants to “do something about it” because – much like a screaming toddler – it’s out of our control.

    For the record: I currently have no children and have never had to fly with a small child in my care. But I do have some common fucking sense and a shred of compassion.

  28. Tessie

    I have shed real, actual tears maybe 5 times in the last 5 years, and one of those times was when I flew with a screaming toddler. I have HAD THAT FLIGHT EXPERIENCE. I tried to stand up with her before the seatbelt sign went off and the flight attendant yelled at me and I cried. Then I spent 30 minutes LOCKED IN THE BATHROOM, in an attempt to muffle the screaming. One of the worst days of my LIFE, no shit. I am so sorry.

  29. Therese

    I used to love flying until I had children. I loved that I was virtually trapped for a few hours and had no responsibilities and could be completely selfish (i.e., sleep, read for pleasure….) Now I am a complete ball of stress because you just can’t predict what will happen with kids. I just pray one of them doesn’t have a meltdown and we drive as much as possible to just avoid airplanes. All that to say, I am so sorry you had that experience. I wonder if people realize that the parents are usually the most bothered by the child’s behavior? The flight attendants’ only comments to you should have been “Can we get you anything or offer you any assistance<". Period, end of story!!!! They frankly should be reported for having such poor customer service skills. Even if the thought they were helping other passengers, they weren't. How does upsetting the mother who is doing her damndest to entertain and quiet her child help calm the child down? The more I write, the angrier I get on your behalf.

    shin ae Reply:

    “Even if the thought they were helping other passengers, they weren’t. How does upsetting the mother who is doing her damndest to entertain and quiet her child help calm the child down?” I think this is an excellent point, if you were inclined to write a letter. The flight attendant did worse than nothing, really.

    I know when it happened and you tweeted about it I made a joking response, but one that I hoped was sympathetic. I was trying to help you feel not alone–in reality, I was IRATE. In that moment, I seriously wanted to freaking MOBILIZE on your behalf. Alas, I am a complete stranger and was many miles away, so mobilization did not happen, much to everyone’s relief I’m sure.

    I do hope you’ll consider writing a letter,though. If you’re feeling up to it.

    If I’d had the days you did during that month, I’d be remembering them as dark days, indeed. Sure it’s nice to see family, but pretty much YES to everything you said.

  30. Alexa

    I am just STEWING on your behalf. I am composing the most withering letter in my head right now, a letter specifically designed to make that flight attendant cry. I would like it to be the kind of letter that will shame her so deeply that years hence she will think of it and feel pain.
    I…am surprisingly vengeful, over here.

    I had a similar travel-without-husband parenting rectangle type situation that was frustrating all around (though naturally I feel my frustration was far more justified than that of my family), and I think you articulated it very well.

    (Also, what you said about “this particular time is not mine?” I do not particularly care for toddlers. There. I said it. I am not at my best as a mother when my children are that age. I love babies, I love preschoolers, but toddlers are little shits, and I am not very good at that particular flavor of parenting.)

    I know you are probably not into this sort of thing, but I really want to give you a hug right now.

    Alexa Reply:

    (I should clarify that I do not have much experience with other people’s toddlers, so perhaps it is just that toddler SIMONE was a little shit. Entirely possible.)

    Lisa Reply:

    I also am Not A Fan of ages 2-4. I will keep all y’all’s newborns anytime you want, and I can entertain a school-aged child, but a toddler? You guys are on your own.

    When Hayden was 15m, we flew from Arkansas to Florida to meet my parents for Christmas. A short hop to Memphis, then an hour flight to Ft. Walton, all in his car seat and it was glorious. He snacked on Cheerios and chatted up the college student sitting with us and I was all SMUGGY SMUG LOOK Y’ALL I GOT THIS.

    Then we had to fly home. Since it was a “short flight,” I’d only packed one baggie of Cheerios and four diapers. We’d be home in 2 1/2 hours! I GOT THIS REMEMBER?

    Well, we couldn’t land in Memphis (fog) so we had to circle Tupelo, MS then we got low on fuel so we had to be diverted to Knoxville (couldn’t deplane!) and then they sprayed jet fuel on our plane so THAT had to be washed off. By then Hayden was a screaming wet flailing mess (because I am an idiot who checked his car seat shut up why are you laughing) who kicked the 100yo lady seated next to us, who asked to be moved.

    I was sobbing, he was sobbing, then like an angel from heaven this nice grandfatherly man leaned over and asked, “Can I walk him?” I practically THREW my kid at this man and sat back and sobbed.

    After about five minutes, I figured I better go check on my kid (although I had to force myself) and this man, THIS ANGEL, had him up in the cockpit with the pilots and they were showing him the head sets and all the buttons and Hayden was in heaven. Turns out this dude was a pilot for Northwest traveling on vacation. After they left the cockpit, he stood in the galley, swaying Hayden back and forth until he slept.

    I wish I had gotten his name; I would’ve sent him all my money. (And I didn’t fly with kids again until for 12 years.)

  31. Line

    Oh my God, WHAT!!? WHAT??!! They sent the flight attendant?! To remind you there were other people on the flight?! Like you were not aware of that?! What the fuck was that going to accomplish? You know, except for making you feel like shit? Aaaaaaahh! I am so enraged on your behalf that I couldn’t even read the second half of this post or any of the other comments (who I’m sure are all equally shocked and pissed of on your behalf, so it’s not like I have anything to add to this discussion). I just, I want to do this entire comment in swear words, caps loc and exclamation marks!

    “Okay, what’s the problem here?” WHAT. THE. FUCK?!! I would have cried too. SHAME on the other passengers for SENDING THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT! Repeatedly!! (to do what, exactly? Talk sense into Penny? To make you take care of your kid, because they thought you were NOT aware of her crying/shrieking and NOT already stressing the fuck out about it?). And SHAME on that flight attendant!

    “See? She was just hungry”!! Oh, the RAGE!!

  32. -Jen

    Love the rectangle analogy. I will probably be stealing it. People in my town don’t seem to understand that while I love my son very much, I was not around kids much growing up. My husband is a far better parent than me! And even if that wasn’t the case, a month away from your life is just hard.

  33. Brie

    Criminy. I sometimes can’t even believe people like that exist.

    I think one of the worst parts of parenting that I’ve experienced thus far is that panicky, “please be good, please be good, please be good” feeling you get in places where a) you can’t leave, like an airplane, or b) the minute they make a sound, you’ve failed, like at a wedding. Like, our three week old baby started to cry in the middle of a prayer at a wedding, and of course I hustled his ass out as soon as I saw the face wrinkling start, but by the time we were out the door there had been at least one “waaaaah” at an inopportune moment. It was awful.

    I hope you left one of Pen’s poopy diapers in your seat for her to clean up.

  34. Brie

    And I get the rectangle analogy. H has been working late a lot lately and today I just had to push the rescue button and say, “Look, I need you home by 7:30 so I can go to a class at the gym with people who don’t crap their pants and chew on my boobs all day.”

    It’s like the other parent is a parachute, and when you feel yourself falling out of the proverbial plane, you just have to pull the cord and be like, “save me,” with no questions asked.

  35. Dan

    I clicked through just to “me too” about the rage on your behalf. And you know the kicker about that? The other passengers and the flight attendant all knew that there was no magic fix. I know this because it goes through my mind when I am trapped in a situation with a screaming child or some such. They knew. But it is just human nature that they had to make you feel worse about it.

    It drives me crazy when people do that – which they do all the time – pointing out the obvious as though you aren’t aware.

    And I totally feel with you on the rectangle. And I don’t even have kids. But the thing that really gets you is that you don’t think that you can complain about it – imagine complaining about having a break in another part of the country with your family!

  36. Amanda

    I’ve got a child the same age as Pen. We are booked in to fly on Friday. Now, I am very afraid…

    I’m also incredibly angry on your behalf – what a bunch of bloody meany poo bums to make you feel so much worse, when clearly you would have been already feeling panicked and awful. I’m sorry there was nobody normal on your flight, because any normal person would have never behaved like that.

    Also, to top that off with a visit home for a month? Good god, woman, you don’t just deserve a medal, you deserve some kind of billboard with a blinking light display. Could not do that myself. No way, no fear, no how.

  37. Diane

    You know what my thing is, that just pisses me right off, with the parenting rectangle? I get people just FAWNING over the fact that my husband changes diapers, and I am told I am so lucky, so very lucky, and look! He holds the baby in a carrier at the grocery store! WHAT AN AMAZING FATHER he is!

    And you know what? He IS an amazing father! But not because of the stuff he does that you are JUST SUPPOSED TO DO. Like changing diapers and holding the baby. And, fine, if it’s people of different, long ago generations, FINE. I get that this is a novelty. But people my own age? HOLD YOUR MEN TO A HIGHER STANDARD. Stop believing what Bounty commercials tell you. MEN CAN PARENT CHILDREN.

  38. Laura Lou

    Oh, that flight attendant, RAGE! Definitely worth a complaint letter. Especially, as you pointed out, you had paid for her seat. Penny was a customer too.

    I am so impressed that you solo-parented in a strange location for a month. Being the sole parent is incredibly difficult, even if there’s others around to help. Part of it for me is that the others are HELPING. It’s not their kid, it’s not their job, you have to ask for their help or accept it as help. It’s not their turn to get up with the kid in the night, you can’t say “here, I’ve had her all day, you take her now”. You have to be on duty all the time and that sucks. I hope you’re feeling so much better to be home and have it done with and know that that’s not a good idea and you won’t do it again.

  39. Manda

    First off? US Airways can SUCK IT. How unbelievably rude and unsympathetic. I am horrified that those flight attendants would behave that way. I am not surprised that the passengers were such total dicks though. I’m sorry, but everyone pulls the screamer card sometimes. Flights are tough on kids and especially after a long trip away from home? When they’ve eaten crap the whole time and slept like shit? And YOU have ALSO slept like shit? FORGET IT. I had a flight attendant waltz up to me while trying to calm a screaming infant, and infant who was crying WITH a boob in his mouth? With his 2 yo sister glazed over next to us with a movie/headphones? “Uhm do you have a pacifier?!” Can I get a SCREW YOU AND AMEN? You are just so right. It is not right to judge someone’s ability to parent by whether or not you can keep your child quiet on a plane. Obviously I AM BITTER TOO. So sorry Thad happened.
    And yes, everything you said about parenting is so true. Sometimes one parent has to shoulder certain phases with kids. Love wolfing is SO HARD. Even for SAHMs. Bedtime/bathtime is my most hated job. I’m terrible at it right now … I don’t even really tell my kids goodnight bc it sets them off something fierce. I just hide from them in our room while my blue half magically wizards them into their beds.
    IN CONCLUSION: you are fine. This is so freaking wise.

  40. Lori

    I am child-free and admittedly lousy at tuning out tantrums and other child-related noise, but COME ON. I would NEVER have sent a flight attendant after you. It’s obvious you couldn’t have done more than you were already doing. Even if the two of you hadn’t been in my line of sight, I would have ASSUMED you were doing all you could, because, again, COME ON. Add me to the list of people who are furious on your behalf. Those people suck. I curse every single one of them with a week of trapped gas.

  41. Jodifur

    I would be calling the airline and losing my mind. Because that’s outrageous. Obviously your baby is crying and you are trying to do something. Michael once cried through an entire flight and it was horrible and awful and the flight attendants were helpful! To not be helpful, I can’t imagine the stress.

    Also, babies cry. There is not one thing you can do.

  42. Monika

    THIS IS THE BEST POST EVER. I love reading about other people’s horrible experiences with their children, especially when they say shit and fuck, because it makes me feel so much better about myself.

    Seriously. I HAVE to have someplace to go to feel better about myself.

  43. Linnea

    I spent 20 days at my folks house with Eleanor, taking care of my 92yr old grandma while they went on a cruise. I TOTALLY underestimated how hard that would be. Lone wolf, with a just learning to be mobile so no one is ready for it baby, and a sweet old lady who doesn’t need much but still needs stuff and can’t hold or watch the baby at all and not my house and even if the rectangle is pinker than blue right now it was just so much Harder than I realized.
    Then I came home to a giant box of cute clothes, so that helped.

  44. cakeburnette

    I think that because you faced the whole thrust-into-single-parenting thing at your family’s and not on your base with a bunch of other families who have a loved one deployed, you didn’t get the support that you deserved. Yet another big difference in the civilian world. If you had been at home while Phil was away for an extended period, you would have had others surrounding you who KNOW that there is a HUGE difference between being a SAHM, even with hubby working more than the standard 8-hr days and being a SAHM that NEVER GETS A BREAK. I’m just so very sorry. Although if you HAD been in an deployment and then experienced what you just did, you might be more resentful. No matter, just know that what you felt was NORMAL and RIGHT. That is EXACTLY how parenting with a partner and then not having that partner help (regardless of how much that partner fills in the parenting rectangle), feels.

    Glad you are home and your family is intact. :) Merry Christmas!!!

    cakeburnette Reply:

    that should have been “partner-help”; I meant your partner wasn’t around to help instead of implying your partner stopped helping.

    cakeburnette Reply:

    that should have been “partner-help”; I meant your partner wasn’t around to help instead of implying your partner stopped helping.

  45. Laura Diniwilk

    UGH. I am so sorry your planemates were dicks. When I had to fly by myself with both girls for vacation, and the kids were FLIPPING OUT due to delayed flights and it being way past bedtime and the preschooler PEED HER PANTS and the still a baby lost her binky and no one would just stfu and sleep and I couldn’t deal with both kids while folding up the stroller, people were SO NICE and no one made me feel like an ass. Even though I totally felt like one anyway, because I’m pretty sure there is an entire level of hell devoted to screaming kids on a plane.

    I can’t believe they made you cry. DICKS!

  46. Catriona

    WTH?! I have to admit, I would have been MUCH less polite than you were to the flight attendant. What a crock. She KNOWS you are trapped on an airplane with a cranky baby, surely she gets this kind of thing all the time, how is harassing you going to make anything better? Filled with rage on your behalf!!

  47. kim

    I can’t read all these comments – but I think I just had a PTSD moment reading the plane incident. When my daughter was 1 (it was her first birthday, as a matter of fact) we flew to see her daddy (who was out of town) and my daughter screamed and tried to repeatedly pitch herself (like a rocket straight up) THE ENTIRE FLIGHT. The air pressure was hurting her ears (and I had given her Benadryl as pediatrician suggested, but it did not help). The two women next to me were furious and talked about me WHILE I SAT THERE LISTENING as if I wasn’t there, never once said a kind thing or offered to help. I could feel the hate radiating from all the passengers (except one nice man behind me who said as he got off the plane, “I bet her ears are killing her” in a kind way). It was one of the most excruciating times OF MY LIFE. I didn’t fly with her again until she was 8 years old!!! I decided if I couldn’t drive, we didn’t need to go! I was alone, had too much stuff with me – like a pack mule with a one year old (they aren’t light!) and at Atlanta had the experience of having to go to opposite concourse than what had been listed originally. I wanted to throw everything on the floor and just sob in the middle of the airport. It was 12 years ago and I’m still not over it! :) The flight attendants ignored me. I can’t even imagine if they had taken an attitude with me, that would have been just Too Much to bear.

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