To the gentleman on Flight 1451,
I first noticed you when you sighed loudly as you laid eyes on my toddler and me boarding the plane.
In a momentary lapse of judgement, we sat behind you. It was the nearest set of seats, and I couldn’t wait to put my child and our heavy bags down.
From the over dramatic huffs and puffs you let out as we buckled in, it was clear you were annoyed by our very presence.
At this point, my little girl was laughing and playing, obviously too loud for your liking.
I wondered if you’d had a bad day, or if this grouchy temperament was your normal behavior.
I wondered if your wife was embarrassed as she quietly nodded at your frustrations.
I wondered if you had children of your own.
I wondered a lot about you.
Did you wonder about us?
Did you wonder about this mom and little girl who were flying alone? We were so excited to go on an adventure, but I was also very nervous.
This was the first time that I had ever flown with a child, and I was making half of the trip without my husband.
For weeks, I researched tips for flying with kids. I packed toys and games and books and downloaded movies.
I dosed up my child with Benadryl, but it didn’t work. She only slept 20 minutes on a cross-country flight.
I did everything in my power to keep her calm and quiet. I shushed her, and made sure her little feet didn’t kick your seat.
As we took off, her tears started. The kicking and the screaming tantrums came on fast.
She had been up since early morning.
She hadn’t had a nap. She hadn’t eaten much.
She was recovering from a sinus infection, and I wondered if the pressure from the altitude hurt her ears.
She was exhausted and fussy.
You did not let up with your mutters of annoyance and looks over your shoulder.
I apologized to everyone around me.
I almost started crying myself.
I was feeling shame and guilt for not being able to control my own child.
I was at the end of my rope, but then, an angel to the rescue—the flight attendant came by and gave my daughter a cup and straw to play with.
And just like that, the screams stopped and my baby was suddenly content.
The kind attendant told us, “It’s OK! Flying is tough on everyone, and you are both doing great!”
Somehow, her kindness calmed my baby.
Somehow, her simple words made me feel better.
She was right. We were doing great!
We were doing our best, and that’s as great as it gets.
The problem wasn’t with us, it was with you.
What you need to know is that while children can be terribly inconvenient now, they will run the world when you are old and grey.
Kids can be annoying and downright obnoxious, but they are also innovative and brilliant.
These kids might one day discover the cure for the type of cancer that runs in your family.
They can be selfish and loud, but they can also be precious and loving.
They might grow up to build systems and make laws that benefit us all.
They may grow up to serve others in a way that makes us wish we could go in time back and do it all over again.
They are the future.
They are gifts to their families, to their communities, and to the world.
We will need them one day, and they need us now.
They need a kind word.
They need the novelty of a plastic cup and conversation from a new friend.
They need someone to look square in their mama’s nervous eyes and tell them that they are doing great, and that everything is going to be OK.
If you can’t muster up a smile and a hello, then simple silence will do just fine.
I get it, kids can be a nuisance—but next time you are forced to be near one, I hope you will be more like the flight attendant. I hope instead of frustration and annoyance, you feel hope and goodness.
This world certainly has enough negativity without us adding to it, and just maybe the kindness you give out today will be returned to you in the future.