Dear Stupid Parents,
Recently, I flew from Dublin to London with my mother and two young sons. The boys were more or less impeccably behaved from start to finish – including the wait in the airport, the twenty minutes hanging around at the gate and the half hour sitting on the plane waiting for take-off. By the time we landed in Gatwick, we’d been on the go and been kept in mostly confined spaces (car, bus, airport, plane) for just over 6 hours – a long time for anyone, let alone little people. Upon landing, Toddler Boy had just had enough; he hadn’t napped so was overtired, yet was desperate to run around and burn some energy in that weird totally contrasting way that only toddlers are capable of.
As we had slings, two babies and about 467 bags to deal with, we waited for everyone else to leave the plane before we made our escape – something I always do when flying with the boys. At this point, we get out the iPad/my phone and YouTube whatever the current fave TV show is so Toddler Boy gets engrossed and sits quietly. This time, however, it didn’t work – the wee monkey has recently discovered that touch screens are fun, except he has no idea how to use any electronic device and keeps knocking off the show he’s watching, not knowing how to get back to it and getting annoyed. So that’s what kept happening which got him more and more irate every time. On top of that, he was rubbing his eyes with exhaustion and watching everyone else leave the plane while he was being told to sit down. It all sounds pretty manageable unless you’re a just-turned-two-year-old with little ability to properly express yourself and zero understanding of why you can’t just do what you want, in which case, this is a mega shit situation that can only be responded to by crying and shouting.
So that’s what he did and it is absolutely his prerogative as a two year old, to behave that way. His emotions are overwhelming and he gets cross like we all do but hasn’t yet learned how to handle it. That doesn’t make him naughty or unruly or uncontrollable, it makes him an emotionally under-developed human being, which is completely normal when you’ve been on the planet for two short years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that tantrums are ideal, they’re bloody awful to be honest, and I’m definitely not saying I don’t get stressed by them but I understand that it’s a normal developmental stage and as long as I keep this in mind, I can usually deep breathe my way through it without getting upset/angry or raising my voice.
Of course, tantrums in public are a different kettle of fish altogether, and tantrums in public in a small space that people can’t immediately escape from are different yet again so in these situations, I admit, my emotions run high and I panic. Most people are incredibly kind (at least to my face) when we’re in full swing but unfortunately it would appear that this time, all the kind people had disembarked the aircraft and we were left with two very grumpy old men sitting directly across the aisle from us. One of them, rather hilariously sat with his fingers in his ears, staring straight ahead with a disapproving, verging on disgusted, look on his face, and the other one verbalised his displeasure and said some pretty shitty stuff to me about my gorgeous little boy – the one who, admittedly, was screaming but who’d been great the rest of the time and who was now just doing what toddlers do.
At this point, I could relay the entire angry exchange between me and the grumpy old man, I could tell you how long afterwards it took me to calm down and for my heart rate to return to normal, I could approximate how many times I had to fight back tears of rage when I thought about what he said and how offended I was, I could declare that fellow passengers/members of the public should applaud me for being brave enough to travel with two babies even though it really is terrifying every time. But to be honest, I just want to do an Elsa and let it go; I don’t want to hold on to those feelings and talking – or in this case, writing – about it will only force me to do just that. I don’t want the negativity; yesterday, I bought Toddler Boy a jumper that says ‘Good Vibes,’ so let’s go with that.
Instead of stirring up more anger, I’m going to use my boy as an example to convince you all that toddlers really are wonderful, we don’t have to dread being near them in public and if the grumpy old men just opened their heart to my little boy, they could have been lucky enough to witness some beautiful little moments that can’t help but make you go ‘awwwww…’:
1 Toddlers remind us how incredible the world is: when we first took off and soared into the sky, Toddler Boy said “wow, mummy! Douds!” (Clouds) When’s the last time you looked at clouds and thought about how awesome – in the literal sense – they are? Toddler Boy makes me marvel at ordinary things on the daily; he claps when he sees a motorbike and gets excited when our strawberry plant bears fruit (and then he pulls it all off so we’re just left with the stalks) because toddlers are wonderful and have a glorious little way of reminding us that so is our world.
2 Toddlers have hilarious, over-dramatic reactions to little things: when the captain introduced himself over the speakers on the plane, Toddler Boy, who’d been looking out the window, whipped his head round, looked at me with a great big gasp and hand over mouth like the ‘speak no evil’ monkey emoji, and said “what’s that noise?!” with Oscar-worthy drama. Oh the innocence.
3 Toddlers say things incorrectly, which means they say things better. Toddler Boy’s speech is coming on in leaps and bounds and it is soooo cute! He can’t say all his words correctly and he has a glorious little lisp which makes it even lovelier. Some of my favourite mispronunciations are:
‘Nice’ – knife
‘Pebba’ – Peppa (Pig)
‘Sairs’ – Downstairs
‘Toot toot’ – Scooter
‘Bit bit’ – biscuit
Come on! How could you not love that?!
4 Toddlers sometimes sound like grown ups: Despite stumbling over pronunciation, Toddler Boy often says things that seem too grown up to have come from a little one – the result is always funny. He asks his brother “what’s wrong bubba?” when he cries, he says “no way!” when asked to do almost anything, “he shouts “huyup” (hurry up) when I’m not doing something quick enough and “too dot” (too hot) when he’s finding yet another excuse not to eat his dinner. Now that he’s speaking in full sentences, he also often says things like “what are you doing, mummy?” “Where did you go?” “Oh no, big mess, mummy!” See, didn’t I tell you he was cute?!
5 Toddlers are inherently friendly: Toddler Boy waves and says hello to anyone and everyone (I’ll not go into how much my heart aches when it’s not reciprocated.) On the flight the other day, I asked the flight attendant to fill up his water bottle, when he returned, I told Toddler Boy, “say thank you to the man,” to which he responded “tatu man,” then “bye man” when he walked away. We could all learn a lesson from that, surely.
6 Toddlers are inherently kind: Ok, I’m not going to lie, Toddler Boy is currently in the thick of the grabby ‘no, mine!’ stage, which isn’t always fun but at his heart, like all little ones, he is kind. He always makes sure his brother has a snack when he does, if he wants whatever his brother is playing with, we encourage him to pick something else for his brother to play with and he takes a long time to choose because he takes it so seriously. I like to think this is because he wants his brother to be happy. He says ‘sorry’ to his toys when he drops them, he says ‘tatu’ (thank you) to me when I change his nappy (no, really!) and often asks us all if we’re ‘otay’ (ok) or checks that we’re happy. What a babe.
7 Toddlers look really adorable: From the little bits of dirt that gather under their finger nails, to the tiny looking trousers that are still too big, to the way they pull you by the hand and say “num on,” (come on) they’re so bloody adorable.
8 Toddlers see a game in everything: Before we boarded the plane the other day, I gave Toddler Boy two small boxes of raisins to eat. We were sitting at a table in the airport that overlooked the holding bays for the planes and he’d been watching them with fascination for a while. I asked him to come sit next to me to eat them, he indicated that he wanted to stay where he was so I let him. I handed him the boxes and where I saw raisins, he saw planes. In a moment, he had them flying through the air, making the generic ‘moving vehicle’ noise that we do in our imitation of every mode of transport and it was really lovely to watch him caught up in his own little moment, making play out of something that wouldn’t have occurred to me at all.
9 Toddlers are free in a way that most adults can only dream of: Like it or not, a toddler’s ability to kick, scream and cry with complete abandon is an instinct that we adults have to fight day in day out. It’s only when I’m in the car by myself and someone has cut in front of me that I allow myself to respond with such a primative reaction – and even then, I hold back. Tantrums aren’t fun to see, hear or deal with but they are arguably the most genuine human response possible. As we grow up, society teaches us that we shouldn’t be emotional or ‘feely’ at all and that the most heightened version of any emotion should be stifled somehow. Even in moments of extreme grief, we are taught to be constrained and to hold it all in. Toddlers haven’t learned that lesson yet and although their tantrumming is exhausting from a parenting point of view, it’s real and it’s honest and for now, that’s alright.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, it’s probably for a couple of reasons, either: 1) you’re a parent and can relate to what I write about, 2) you know me and like me and I like you back and so you read my ramblings as a show of support (thank you. LMO, I appreciate you getting stuck in!) or 3) both. Whatever the reasons, I’m probably preaching to the choir because you’re most likely not the type of person who might be a dick about a toddler on a plane. But maybe this will reach the screens of someone who hates the sight of children in planes or who hears a screaming 2 year old and presume his/her parents are utterly inept – if that’s you, fuck off.
No I’m joking! Don’t fuck off, come back, come back!
If that’s you, you’re entitled to dread the duration of your flight because the presence of children does increase the likelihood of it being noisy – but please, if you want to roll your eyes, do so when the parents can’t see. If you want to swear about it, do it under your breath. If you want to move seats, ask, but please do it without the parents of screaming child hearing you because believe me, as stressed as you are about crying/shouting little humans in public, the parents are that multiplied by infinity; knowing you’re the only person responsible for making this stop while pretending you don’t notice the eyes boring into you, while imagining the dozens and dozens of people at the front of the plane bitching about the person you love more than anything, while trying to ignore the tingling nose sensation you get before you cry, while trying to resist the temptation to tell your own child and every other person around you to fuck off – is really, really horrible. Horrible. So please don’t make me and other parents feel like shit by staring at us or pretending to yourself that you don’t know this is normal kid stuff because I swear to god, we’re really trying to make it stop! I’m not asking you to step in and help (although that would be nice) I’m just requesting that you don’t make an already anxiety-inducing situation even more stressful and please don’t say ignorant things that can make another person so sad that it can taint their whole weekend, like that old man almost did to mine.
Thanks in advance of the next tantrum!