Friday, April 21, 2023

Something to Cry About

I swear, every single day, somebody gets on Blue Ivy's internet to complain about having to put up with something, such as other people's children in public spaces, and well...I understand. Truly, I do since I have a child who is the absolute most on her good days. So yes, there are times when want to I release her into an unsuspecting world, and just walk away like Angela Bassett in this scene because some of y'all deserve ALL of this smoke.

But I know better.

I have written on this topic several times, and I already know that I won't say anything that will convince any of these bitter lemons and short-tempered man-babies that there are times when kids will be kids and sometimes, you just need to join the madness. Not in every situation, but more often than not, this demand that children be seen and not heard in public is unrealistic. Ask me how I know.

Currently, I am holed up in our hotel room writing because it is quiet up here. I would like to chill poolside with a beverage and watch my daughter play, but there are several factors that make that expectation impossible. For one, we are staying at a hotel that allows pets, and after ten minutes of exposure to that the other day my allergies went into overdrive (even after I had taken my meds). The only available pool is indoors, and because it is Spring Break, there are other people staying here with their children and dogs (it isn't warm enough for them to play in the outdoor pool). After I got splashed several times, the last thing I need is a new computer because somebody's cannonball got a little too close. And finally, since I am writing, I need to situate myself in an environment conducive to that, which is not in a room full of screaming children.

So let me rewind that for you so that I make a few things clear: (1) yes, I should be able to sit poolside to get some work done if that is what I want; (2) and children also should be allowed to play in the hotel pool as rambunctiously as they like because that is why it is here. In weighing my rights versus those of the children (while not even addressing the pet issue and why y'all feel the need to impose them into every situation), the bottom line is that I will be just fine if I opt to stay in my hotel room. I have a lovely view of the Bay from the balcony. There is no need for me to complain or to get indignant because this is one of those scenarios when I have to accept the situation for what it is and deal. 

That is called being an ADULT. If you are above the age of 21, you are legally required to get used to having to do this on a daily basis.

I saw that video of the passenger who got upset about the crying baby on a plane, and I read some of the predictable commentary about bad children/parents, and I read the sympathetic commentary about traveling with children (including those with special needs). Well, I have an opinion to share on the matter because there are broader points that needs to be made. We live in a society. We have public venues and spaces where all kinds of people are going to interact and engage. If you can't handle a few minor inconveniences without losing your shit, then YOU are the problem!

Let's chat a bit about how folks traveling on airplanes have all of these issues with being considerate of families. When did we become so self-centered? Like why all of the resentment towards someone who asks if you would mind switching seats so that they can sit with their kids? You are allowed to decline the request, and I certainly do not condone what happened to this person. However, I do have to ask if this is the hill you want to plant your flag on--the one where you insist that you would rather sit next to my squirmy kid for two hours while I am seated two rows back? Alrighty...

I have read treatises on social media about how annoyed people get when asked, and how they believe that saying no makes them some kind of hero to other self-righteous assholes. Bravo. Let me offer the alternative perspective of what it entails to travel with children (or adults with special needs) and the absolute nightmare it is to try to arrange for seats together. A few years back, I had to find an affordable flight for my parents and me to fly out to Las Vegas for my brother's wedding. At the time, my Mom was still mobile, but definitely beginning to have more cognitive issues due to the progression of her Alzheimer's. It was important for us to have a layover, because at the time I thought that would help us manage her needs. 

I began my search for tickets a few months in advance, including the fare watcher so that I could buy at the right time. And that was a game of cat and mouse because there were times when the flights were affordable, but the layovers were ridiculous (like flying to Boston from DC, then flying to Chicago, and then to Las Vegas in a 10-hour stretch). Other times, I found the right flight, but not one with the seats together (only middle seats). Literally one month before we needed to travel, I finally found the best accommodation, which included an acceptable layover but with only two seats together. I took it and figured that was better than nothing. I do not recall that I had the option to pay extra for a third seat, which is sometimes available atop the other fees I paid for checking my bags; however, on all four flights it was occupied by a solo traveler who wanted a window. It worked out for me to sit with my Mom while my Dad sat by himself, but I still was anxious the entire time both ways. 

A few years later, we had a similar issue in trying to book three seats together to travel with the Kid, who was still in baby carrier mode. Again, the best we could get was two seats together. So this claim that parents (and caregivers) have to do better at planning is the kind of entitled booshay that grates like nails on a chalkboard. Like yeah, I can plan my life around watching airline fares and seat assignments or I can look after my parents, raise my kid, and hope that we get seats together on the plane. I've never felt entitled enough to ask that someone change seats for me to sit with the Hub, but I would think that if someone asked me, I would consider it a small kindness that might get repaid in some karmic way.

Of course, I know that ain't how Karma works. I could write a book about the rudeness and nonchalance I was subjected to when the Kid was still stroller-age from people standing in the curb cuts to having to heavy doors not held open for us. Most relevant to airline travel, there was the unforgettable flight home from Chicago on September 11th when I was subjected to additional TSA searches because of the snacks I had packed for her in my carry-on. I followed the guidelines, but because of the date and heightened airport security upon our return, her applesauce and Cheerios set off every red light on the monitors. After they went through every single thing in my bag, they took the stroller and had me carry everything that would have been attached, including her in the baby carrier. The Hub took what he could, but that still left me with a backpack, a 50-lb carrier with a crying child, and about 5 minutes to reach our gate. NO ONE helped us, except for the gate agent who allowed me to board with the priority group of passengers after I asked (but just me and the Kid). Of course, our seats were at the back of the plane, so when I got back there in the vicinity, I put the carrier down in an empty seat and loaded our stuff into the overhead. I thought I was at the right row, so I settled in to try to calm my child, who at this point had been crying since the TSA drama.

As the plane filled with people, the Hub boarded in what must have been the last group. Ahead of him was this woman who stopped at the row where I was seated with the baby. She glared at me and complained that I was in her seat. Apparently, my seats were one row back, but she insisted that I needed to move with the baby carrier from the seat that she had paid for. And guess what happened? The flight attendant made us move, even after some kind Samaritan offered to switch seats with her so that I could stay put and try to calm the baby. That kind-hearted person then offered the Hub his seat so that we could sit together, and once we got re-situated, the Kid calmed down for a bit when she saw him. But as soon as that plane took off...baybee it was a long two-hour flight. 

I had snacks. I had toys. We tried using music and apps. We held her. I tried to nurse her. When the plane hit turbulence, we had to put her back in her seat. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I had ALL the things and NOTHING worked. She kept crying until the plane landed in DC. So I can imagine that someone on that plane could relate to how the shouting guy felt, because I heard the other passenger grumbles about why we couldn't get our child to calm down. I can also relate to any humiliation felt by a parent or caregiver in that same situation.

In my child-free era, I recall taking a flight from somewhere back to DC and there was some kid (not a baby) who made a ruckus the entire time. I mean, he was non-stop active and it was super annoying. I need to search through my old tweets to see what I said about that because whew, it was a lot. And I remember thinking how his mother should have made more of an effort to keep her kid from being that kid...but then Karma showed up in 2016 on a two-hour flight from Chicago to DC.

And let me tell you, that was bad, but my daughter's meltdown in the Atlanta airport in 2020 was 10x worse. I am surprised we didn't go viral from that drama.

So if you want to judge me for not being the kind of parent your Big Mama was, go back and ask her how she handled travel with your family on long trips. I had to think back and guess what--we didn't fly anywhere when we were kids! My Mom flew to Michigan with my brother and me one time (more than 40 years ago), and since I can't ask her how that went, I can only imagine it must have been a nightmare she refused to repeat. All of subsequent our travel was by car, and I remember how she would pack everything--snacks, books, puzzles, etc., to keep us from complaining of hunger and boredom. And it didn't matter because we were kids, and that meant we were always hungry and bored. Because of that, I'm pretty sure that your family probably didn't travel by airplane as much either. 

There are plenty of other reasons why there are not many comparable travel scenarios from my Gen-X past, but suffice it to say, kids have always been annoying on trips. There is an entire genre of movies about road trips and Dads on family vacations because that is how we rolled (yes, Black families too). Rest stops, weird roadside attractions, and regional amusement parks were integral aspects of those trips so that we could burn off that excess annoying energy. How and why the world shifted towards more airplane travel is beside the point, but it is a more efficient way to travel long distances so that means more children commingled into more public spaces. Why that is so much more of an inconvenience than people's need for emotional support animals is beyond me...

And here is where the people who don't have children or whose children were allegedly perfect angels chime in with their two cents to opine on the obligation of parents to intervene to protect the quiet enjoyment of other adults in public... And yeah, you can throw those pennies in the fountain and make a wish, lady! So that you can enjoy your flight in peace, YOU need to be better prepared. You paid good money to be on that flight in that window or aisle seat, so it is not my problem that you didn't anticipate the various scenarios you might encounter on a public mode of transportation.

If the only person you have to worry about is yourself, then do that. If you forgot your anxiety meds or didn't buy an adult beverage when it was offered in-flight, that isn't my kid's problem. I'm not drugging my child to calm your nerves. If you didn't invest in noise cancelling headphones or didn't bring your tablet with your favorite movies/shows downloaded for the duration of the flight, that sucks for you. In addition to packing, I was up half the night making sure that I had various entertainment options, electronics fully charged, and had generally planned for every possible contingency. AND, I had to pack for two people in one suitcase that needs to weigh less than 50lbs to avoid paying another fee. So if you can't accept that there are reasons why a baby might be crying for 45 minutes straight despite a parent's best efforts to soothe them, and your reaction is to match that energy by shouting expletives, thereby forcing the plane to land in a different city, YOU deserve all of the infamy that comes from being that dude.

No, the world does not have to accommodate any of us. I would be a lot less miserable if people didn't assume that everyone wants to be around their pets, but apparently that isn't realistic anymore. So I take allergy medication with me everywhere. Because I know that my child can be a lot, I load up my ginormous Mommy bag with puzzles and games to keep her occupied. I recognize it is my responsibility to manage my stuff, and the only assurance you have is that I will try my best. Deal with it or call the manager, Karen, but just know that there might be a day when you will be in my shoes. I pray that someone extends you a bit of grace instead of a load of grief.

Final word, bruh YOU are the reason why everyone had to de-plane in Orlando, not that inconsolable baby! As annoying as 40 minutes of crying must have been, nobody expected the plane to land in a whole different city to calm a child, but they had to do that in order to shut your grown ass up. So I don't care how many people offered you virtual high fives in defense of your tirade after the fact, because if I had been on that plane, I would have been pissed to have ended up in Orlando instead of where I was supposed to land. Here's the key difference between you and the baby--crying is the worst thing that child did. An unruly adult passenger on an airplane post-9/11 poses a far greater threat, so you deserved to have been arrested on principle even if all you did was yell profanities. YOU created an unsafe environment for everyone on that flight by refusing to control YOUR temper.

Even if the crying was excessive, your "adult" response was to bully the flight attendants because you couldn't yell directly at a frantic mother with an inconsolable child. None of these folks coming to your defense on social media would trade places with you nor would they contribute to your bail had you been hauled off to jail.  I don't know what you deserve for being an asshole, but may you be forever known as a Cowardly Lion who woke up cranky from his nap, undone by the cries of a baby.

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