Rochester Local

Open Letter To The Parents of 3 Rambunctious Children in The Chicago Airport

airplane, airport, apology, comfort zone, community, empathy, experienced parents, family travel, judgement, mom shaming, tired kids, travel, travel weary, travel with toddlers, village, rambunctious children

Dear Mom and Dad of 2 precocious sons and an observant wide eyed daughter, 

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I judged you.  You don’t know that I judged you because I did it in my head and under my breath.  I never said anything to you, and anytime you or one of your rambunctious children made eye contact I smiled.  Maybe it’s the Minnesota nice that people talk about, but I was far too uncomfortable with confrontation to have said anything – and in this case,  thank God for that.

 rambunctious children, airplane, airport, apology, comfort zone, community, empathy, experienced parents, family travel, judgement, mom shaming, tired kids, travel, travel weary, travel with toddlers, village

Your three children probably fall between the ages of 5 years and 10 months.  Your daughter is  the youngest.  Your two sons certainly are a bundle of energy.  They were not interested in staying seated in the airport.  In fact, they weren’t interested in anything you wanted them to do.  Instead they were only interested in running and jumping around while using their highest pitch, nearly sonic, ear piercing whines.  “I don’t *WANT* to sit by him!!”  “I don’t *LIKE* chicken nuggets!!”  “HE TOUCHED ME!!”  “Why does HE get to do that?”  “BUT I WANT TO GO WITH MOOOOMMMMM!!!!”

Trust me kid, I wanted to go with your mom too.  In the busyness of the bustling Chicago airport, it was still quieter wherever she went.  My husband and I whispered under our breath that our sons would *never* have behaved like that.  We would *never* have allowed them to carry on and disrupt the people around them the way your children carried on.  And I am completely ashamed of myself for having uttered those words.  Even if they were in private.  I’m ashamed for even having the thoughts.  First off, we never traveled on planes when our sons were young like yours, so I have no idea how they would have behaved.  Secondly, I have no idea where you were going, I have no idea where you had been.  Your children were probably exhausted.  I’m certain they were out of their comfort zone, and based on the refusal of McDonald’s chicken nuggets (every child’s favorite!!), they were obviously overly hungry.

Parenting doesn’t come with a rule book.  The doctor didn’t send you home from the hospital with a list of ways to deal with rambunctious children in the airport.  No one conducts a class on how to wrangle a 3 year old with a 10 month old on your hip.  We’re all just doing our best – for better or worse – and we can only hope for support from the rest of the world while we figure it out.

We heard you speaking to your young children in Spanish, and for all we know you were saying things like “So help me if you don’t sit down I will take away every toy you’ve ever loved”  or “Dear son, Mommy is tired, and Daddy did his best to find you something to eat, please just try the chicken nuggets, you’ve liked them before, maybe you’ll like them again?”  Whatever you were saying, I’m sorry that I judged you.

I sat high and mighty on my throne while we waited for our flight.  Once we had boarded and I was belted into my seat and looking out the window at traffic control preparing our plane, it sunk in.  What was wrong with me?  Have I been out of the ‘parenting little ones’ loop for *that* long?  How many times have I failed as a parent – in the last week hour alone?  On past flights, my husband and I have listened to sobbing babies and had empathy for the parents.  I’ve praised exhausted moms at the end of flights who maintained patience and calm auras in the midst of crocodile tears and ongoing sobs from their infants.  I’ve soothed babies of strangers on my lap because I’ve had the window seat and they just wanted to get away from their parents.  Why didn’t I offer you that same empathy?  

I’d like to blame the fact that I too was hungry.  Exhausted from traveling and a long layover.  I was recovering from a medical procedure from the day before that made me uncomfortable, and I took my discomfort out on you.  I typically pride myself in putting myself in another’s shoes.  I’m a hopeless devil’s advocate, I genuinely try to see all sides of a story.  I often find myself playing out scenarios in my head to justify another person’s questionable actions.  It’s a fault.  Or a quality.  At any rate, I failed to do that in the airport, and I’m sorry.

Thank you.  Thank you for reminding me to take a step back.  You’re close to my mind these days.  Your children were fantastic on the flight.  Not a peep was heard.  I hope that wherever you are that you are all safe and together.  I hope they’ve gotten rest and a good meal.  I wish you nothing but the best on your parenting journey.  Your patience and dedication to your children is far clearer to me now that I too am rested and fed.   Thanks to you, the next parent I see dealing with rambunctious children will encounter a more compassionate version of me.

My best to you and your family, 

An embarrassed Jodie

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