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Children Screaming & the Concorde
I was on vacation this past week. One morning I went down to the dining room of my hotel to do some work and have breakfast. A young couple sat next to me with a small child—maybe just under a year—who was an absolute nightmare. She was throwing food. Screeching like a hawk for no apparent reason. People at other tables were getting irritated, which was clearly making the parents anxious—and this, of course, only made the baby even worse.
I sat there for a while thinking about how lucky I was that I love my child and always did, even though I’ve never really liked other people’s babies. Also I can honestly say she never ever screamed in public. I then thought, “Self, you can either help these people, or shoot a dagger or two of your own to get them to hurry out so you can get back to work.” I took the high road.
“Can I give you some advice?”
They both turned around and, in unison, said, “Yes!”
“None of these people around you matter. The only person who matters is that child at the table, and aside from picking the food up off the floor, your only obligation is to her. You will never see any of us again—so, with all due respect, ignore us.”
The wife and mother looked at me and said, "How can I thank you?”
I could have said, “You can leave as soon as your husband finishes that blueberry muffin.” But I didn’t. It’s the new me.
But then I remembered something.
My ex, H2, traveled frequently to Europe. We took the Concorde often, which rarely had small children on it, for obvious reasons.
My friend and I were traveling once with our small children—two under the age of three and our now ex’s on that fabulous supersonic plane. The husbands sat together in rows far from us (no surprise there), and we sat with the toddlers.
Her son, sitting next to her, was screaming. For a long time. I think he had an ear infection, and nothing was working.
At some point the flight attendant came over. “Ma’am, you have to stop his crying.”
I was sitting on the aisle across from her. I remember thinking, “What is she supposed to do; smother him?”
My friend looked up at her, unbuckled her son, picked him up, and handed him to her. The woman took him—too surprised to do anything else, I think—and my friend said, “Be my guest.” She then took out her book from the seat pocket, opened it, and began to read.
The woman stood in the aisle with the baby hanging there. I don’t recall how it went after that. I really don’t.
But it was a moment.
The truth is, the more anxious a parent gets, the worse the behavior that ensues. At least that is my read on it.
I stand by the advice I gave that couple last week. Make no mistake, I do not condone parents who let their kids run amok in a restaurant, or anywhere else for that matter. Like the kid who came to my table years ago and reached on my plate to take a French fry, much to the delight of his parents who clearly thought I would think it was charming. (I didn’t.) But the truth is, what the world thinks about you and your child is not as important as your child’s peace of mind and confidence and safety.
By the way, there are absolutely going to be days when I’ll be the one giving the dirty looks I just criticized, because no one’s perfect. But last week, I was my best self.