I was one of the last to board the plane last night. Coming back from a business trip we had attended together, Derek was on the plane leaving after mine. I was all alone heading home to our kids after a glorious weekend. Parted from my roller carry-on bag due to space issues, I headed down the aisle toward my seat, past several overhead bins with available space which would have been perfectly acceptable for my bag. I'll admit now that may have soured my mood enough to contribute to what happened next.
I climbed into my window seat past a gentleman who was chatting with the woman in the row ahead. I contemplated offering to trade seats so they could be together but something told me she was glad to be seated away from him. As I sat down, I noticed a family of four I had seen in the waiting area just a few minutes before were now seated a few rows back. The three- and four-year-old's bags were loaded with toys and activities for the three hour ride. I was glad it wasn't me.
They were in the midst of deciding who would sit where when the little girl realized she would have to sit beside her father and across the aisle from her mother. At about this moment, the little brother realized he could sit by his mom but not by his sister too. The children began to alternate wailing and sobbing. The noise was deafening. The plane door had yet to be closed by a flight attendant.
The man beside me groaned out loud. My heart sank to my stomach for the parents behind me. I heard her negotiating ("I can hold your hand across the aisle, see?" "Your sister can come over here with us in 15 minutes." "The rules say you have to sit in your OWN seat now but you can sit on mom's lap in just a few minutes.")
"Screaming kids. Great." My seatmate seemed very thrown by this turn of events. His companion turned around to look (as did several other people) and my seatmate declared, "I may have to violate FAA rules and wear my earphones for the first 10 minutes of the flight." Other people started to complain.
The frazzled mother piped up above the hum of the dissent. "We understand, people. If we could, we would change places with you. They'll stop crying in a few minutes. They just both want to sit beside me. I'm really sorry." I saw at least 3 other motherly-looking women snap their heads back in her direction along with me to give their visual support. My seatmate was not impressed.
"I can't even believe this. I can't do this."
Really? You can't do this? I instantly thought about giving birth three times and was somewhat surprised that two despondent children on a plane ride for three hours would be "undoable." Trust me. The last time I said "I can't do this," I was giving birth to a 9 pound baby. I can understand if we are two hours into a screaming fit involving a child with an ear infection that is losing his mind with pain, but these are two tired children that just want to sit with their mom for takeoff and it's not possible.
"I know," I replied to his latest concerns. "If only she would stop poking them with a fork."
He looked at me in stunned silence. I looked at him with the look of a mother who has had screaming kids on a plane and suffered the disapproving looks for things beyond my control. I glanced down at my hand and proceeded to insert one of the $ .25 earplugs into my ear.
Two minutes later the kids were silent. Ten minutes after takeoff, I got up, went to that mom and told her she was a good mother.
It was the least I could do. We parents have to stick together.