I fly on a regular basis for work, and I’ve dealt with all of the typical hassles that might face a person while on a plane. This includes turbulence, smelly people, inconsiderate seat-back-recliners, smoke in the cabin, and…kids. Kids on planes are challenging simply because they are kids and generally fidgety, but sometimes you have kids on planes who are not just challenging but who act absolutely insane. They cry or scream for hours, they kick your seat back over and over again, they pull your hair, or they sneeze and cough on you. Or all of the above during an extra long flight.
Sometimes you have kids on planes who are not just challenging but who act absolutely insane. They cry or scream for hours, they kick your seat back over and over again, they pull your hair, or they sneeze and cough on you.
I love kids. If you know me, you know that’s completely true. But dealing with a kid being a kid on a plane is really, really hard when you just want to get some work done, or watch a movie, or just close your eyes and rest your weary mind. At the end of a brutal work day when you just want to get home to your family, it makes you want to smash your face over and over again into the tray table in front of you. And I’ll admit, I would have bitter thoughts arise in my mind like, “what the heck is wrong with that kid!” and “he is absolutely psycho!!!” and “why can’t the parents control him!?!” and “what sort of discipline goes on in that household!?!” and “why did his parents ever have intercourse!?!” and “why me, God, WHY!?!?!?!”
And I would just silently stew in my seat, fluctuating between rage and depression in a state of pure misery.
Well, God decided to open my eyes with a shocking moment recently, as Rachel, baby Maya (19 months old), and I flew up to Virginia for a family event. At around a year-and-a-half or so, Maya is very active and easily distracted. She typically won’t sit still for more than a few minutes, and even if she is watching a show on a device, it’s not going to hold her attention for that long. Still, Rachel and I were doing a really fine job of corralling her over on our side of the row so that the guy who was sitting next to us wouldn’t be bothered. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw him texting on his phone, and his text read:
“This is so awful! Parents next to me can’t control their f****** child!!!!!”
I was completely shook, first that someone would use that language when describing my pride and joy and my very flesh and blood, and second that my parenting ability was being called into question and judged.
And right at that moment, I couldn’t breathe. Seeing that honestly sucked all of the air out of me. I was completely shook, first that someone would use that language when describing my pride and joy and my very flesh and blood, and second that my parenting ability was being called into question and judged. I started to seethe inside, and was so close to spitting nails, but I somehow held it together (thanks, God) and pulled Maya as far as humanly possible away from my irritable neighbor (who I later referred to as a “jerk” when talking this out with Rachel), gave her my phone again (which I really didn’t want to do too often) and just went through line after line all of the biting things I wanted to say to him:
“Dude, what the heck, we’re doing our best!”
“Man you have no idea how hard it is to fly with a 19-month old!”
“Cut us some slack, we’re trying to keep her away from you!”
“What exactly do you expect me to do here?”
“I’m sorry, we’re both really, really sorry, but we’re trying!”
“You don’t know what our life is like. You don’t know anything about us.”
“How dare you judge us?!?”
“She’s such a sweet girl. You have no idea how amazing my daughter is. Screw you.”
“You’re just a miserable burnt-out man.”
“A pox on you and your household!” (I wanted to rain down curses upon him but decided against it). (I don’t actually have the power to do that, but it’s quite satisfying to think that I do.)
All of this happened before we even took off. And thankfully, after we did take off, Maya settled down and wasn’t a problem at all. But I was still raging inside about the text I saw on his phone. And I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and get far, far away from him.
Whenever I have a heavy emotional experience, I know there is a significant takeaway that God has for me. And this experience really got me bent out of shape, and so I really wanted to figure out what He was trying to show me or teach me. And what I kept coming back to was how I just wished that guy could have extended us some grace. Some patience. Some kindness. Some understanding. I wish he would have believed the BEST about us. And not thought the WORST about us.
Whenever I have a heavy emotional experience, I know there is a significant takeaway that God has for me.
And I realized I thought the worst about him. Maybe he had been having a rough day in the middle of a rough week and month and year and life. Maybe his nerves were frazzled or he was suffering from anxiety or had a painful migraine and just was at the end of his proverbial rope. Kids on planes are challenging. And maybe he just couldn’t handle another challenge right then and there.
Sometimes I am guilty of judging or criticizing others in my head, but I’ve done it less and less as I’ve grown older because I’ve experienced firsthand how brutal life can be, and realized that I do not know someone else’s story or what they are going through. Well, since this incident on the plane, I’ve gotten even better. Now I catch myself having those judgmental thoughts right when they begin, and work to quickly kill them without dwelling on them even a bit, because I don’t want to be “that guy.” I don’t want to be that guy who isn’t gracious, who isn’t understanding, who isn’t willing to tolerate a little inconvenience in my life. I want to be better than that. Way better. Because life doesn’t revolve around me. Jesus talked a ton about not being that guy (especially here and here and here). I know it’s possible, I know I can do it, and I know that it matters to Him and to living an emotionally healthy life.
I don’t want to be that guy who isn’t gracious, who isn’t understanding, who isn’t willing to tolerate a little inconvenience in my life. I want to be better than that. Because life doesn’t revolve around me.
So even though that person on the plane referred to my precious, beautiful daughter with the F-word, and doubted my ability to properly parent her, I’ll take it. I’ll take it as a lesson that God wanted me to receive. I can learn from it. And I can be better, moving forward.