Becoming a new parent has given me a different perspective on parents I see out in the wild. It has confirmed some of my frustrations and melted others away. Like many people, when a person got on a plane holding a baby, I suddenly found faith and prayed that the baby was seated far far away, like, maybe the cargo hold. What was I afraid of, the confused and pained wail of a newborn? I know that I’m a little desensitized, but even the childless, what are you worried about? You have earphones on probably, watching a movie or flipping through the insipid magazine, what is the baby really interrupting, your enjoyment of Reese Witherspoon’s latest movie edited in a confusing way?
It’s not like the parent isn’t trying. Look into the parent’s eyes, you can taste the exhaustion. The parent just made it through airport security with a fussy baby, tried to time the feeding properly, having to take off his/her shoes while holding a baby and hoisting bags on a carousel then putting belts back on after security or having a gloved high school drop out fondle their nether regions. The parent isn’t a bad parent because the baby is crying. Babies cry. That’s all they know. And right now, on that airplane, they don’t know how to pop their ears so it feels like their tiny baby brain is about to be squeezed out the top of their soft spot like a container of mustard under a truck tire. That baby is concerned about their baby brain.
What if the baby understood that screaming on an airplane is rude? Imagine a baby, capable of speech gets on the plane before they make the insipid and-for-some-reason-played-for-laughs safety instructions, “Ladies and gentleman, just reading the vibe on this plane, let me say, I understand your concern. And let me address it head on, yes, at some point I will be crying. Will it be when I crap myself? Perhaps. Will it be when air pressure causes me to wonder if my underdeveloped cerebellum will be crushed like that time Mom and I fell asleep together and she rolled over on top of me? Most definitely. Or maybe, if it helps you monsters empathize with me, maybe I’m screaming because of the world you’re leaving to my generation.
“Gravity is a new concept for me, so the mere defiance of that natural law is confusing and terrifying to me. You’re looking at me sideways, but the fact none of you, with your equal lack of understanding of basic physics, not screaming in terror, is weird. Also, I have not learned how to modulate my volume, which is why my expressions of discomfort will be loud and why I am speaking to you now without the aid of the amplification system. I now cede the floor to the flight attendants whose sense of humor is so sad and atrophied that it aspires to dad-joke levels.”
The momentarily screaming baby ought not concern you. It’s the parent of the toddler sitting behind you who doesn’t know or care that the toddler has made a game out of opening and closing the tray while kicking your chair or the kid next to you whose parents allow him/her to order coffee during the most turbulent part of the flight. Or the incalculable hordes of narcissistic adults who will assault your comfort in innumerable ways.