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.