Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Ran Out of Compassion

After a tumultuous week of emotional ups and downs, with a long day of travel and to-do's ahead, I was not prepared for one of those flights where you end up with a headache and a voucher for 4000 extra frequent flier miles.  Being unprepared was never a good method of prevention.

Seated in the very last row of the plane with my girls on either side of me and my husband several rows ahead of us, we were just getting settled when a father boarded with his son, a kid about 3, I would guess, definitely an older 2 at least.  Said child was, already, crying.  Dad strapped him into his carseat across the aisle from us, briefly suggested that he look out the window (which someone else had vacated for him when they saw the kid was already crying), and wasted no time pulling out a bag of lollipops for his little guy to choose from.

As soon as the sucker was gone, the rage began.  For an hour and a half, the person in front of him got to enjoy the on-board massage chair - with little feeting pounding the back of his seat.  The youngster brought forth peal after peal of screaming.  Several times, he screamed so loudly that my daughter and I involuntarily covered our ears, because it physically hurt.

Now, I have great empathy for the parents of screaming toddlers normally.  I've been in that stressful situation where a little one loses it and you have to bring forth every measure of creativity to get them to calm down and stow their horns.  But when a parent starts to count, the child should know to what number they are counting, and that something is going to happen when that number is reached.  Dad kept starting over at one every time he hit five, but nothing happened at five!  He was helpless to prevent his kid from pounding the seat in front of him, or piercing all our eardrums with screams so loud they dulled the engine noise.

Call me a parenting snob, but my kids, even at their worst, were not allowed to treat other people like that.  Not even at 2 1/2.  Basic consideration is to teach your children that they are not allowed to hurt other people, no matter how upset or angry they, themselves, might be.   I wanted to offer Dad my seat, between two kids who were behaving with absolute decorum, even while undergoing auditory torture, and give his son a firm, but gentle reminder that strangers might not be as nice as Dad if he kept up his shenanigans.

Others on the flight were so considerate, I nearly cried.  They suggested that his ears were hurting and offered pieces of gum.  They offered their snacks and electronics.  Nearing the end of the flight, with no remedy working, the flight attendant suggested to the father that he pick up a bottle of kiddie pain meds before he put Jr on another segment, if the problem was ears; Dad says, "are you telling me to give my kid drugs?"  His snotty response to her empathic plea really topped it off for me.  The flight attendant, to my amazement, kept it discrete when she brought out "we're sorry you were on the flight from hell" vouchers.

My head pounding, I tried to remind myself that my 2 hours with this family was a small punishment compared to living 24/7 with the monster-child they are creating.  But as we sat on the tarmac for a 1/2 hour and his scream didn't not abate, I heard the words slip out and hoped no one else did, "It's not your ears now, Buddy.  How about another sucker?"

Two tips: one, don't count up, count down; two, when you get to zero, the consequence should not be another sucker.

Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Psalm 34:11


  1. Eek! It is SO frustrating to watch a parent not even really try to control their child. What a nightmare!

  2. Sorry it was so miserable for EVERYONE! You definitely earned your Hawaiian vacation on that flight.