You think you know, but you have no idea

I was on a flight not too long ago that connected through Newark. For late evening flights, I always book a window seat so I can turn away, cover my head and have some quiet. Coming down the aisle, I spot the 4 year old and his mother. Of course, they settle in next to me. This little one was immediately interested in me. Mother tells him to leave the nice lady alone, but he has other plans. About 30 minutes in to the flight, I have a little boy on my lap watching Nick Jr. while his mother sleeps. Turns out, they were on their way home from her mother’s funeral and she was overcome with emotion and exhaustion, a horrible combination. Her gratitude was almost embarrassing.
The moral of this story? Don’t be an asshole.
I have no data to back this up, but I’m going to put this out there and suggest that 99% of people traveling with children are not doing so because they enjoy it. I’m guessing it’s out of necessity. I also have news for you. Even if you are on a flight to Orlando, those parents aren’t happy either. They just want to get from point A to B in one piece without too much collateral damage. If you have children, had children or have parents, then you should get this. Kids are like Murphy’s Law; if something can go wrong, it usually does. As an innocent bystander, you can roll your eyes or try to help.
For those of you getting to know me, you have probably determined that I have a pretty good sense of humor. It has been sharpened over the last 14 years since becoming a mom. It just doesn’t pay to be tense. You learn to move through the world at a different pace, seeing things differently, deciphering what is truly important. Unless you move to Mars (and I cannot prove or deny there are no Martian children), expect to deal with adolescents. Some of you need to remember this when you act “put out” by the presence of a youngster. You were probably no picnic for your parents either. I might also add that after the past 17 days of babyish behavior on behalf of our government, I would welcome a conversation with a kid any day. At least it’s truthful.
My youngest child is autistic. By far, he has been the best teacher of priorities, life, love and happiness. Because of him, I don’t take shit from anybody. I have become a fierce protector of those who cannot protect themselves. When we board a flight, I make an announcement to fellow passengers. “This is my son. He is autistic. He loves to talk and meet new friends. If he greets you, say hello. If he asks you where you’re going, tell him. Don’t treat him like he’s not there. I will do the best I can to keep him seated, but sometimes he just needs to stretch his arms and legs. Thanks for understanding”. It really sucks that I have to announce this, but it seems to put people at ease. I’m not looking for sympathy, just a chance not to have to curse someone out for being a jerk to a little boy.
You may see a mom in the grocery store with one or more screaming children. Do you really think she wants to be there? She doesn’t need your condescending smirk as you pass. How about a pat on the shoulder and a “been there, done that”. You may see parents out to dinner, struggling with a new infant and trying to enjoy a meal. Send them a dessert instead of a glare. This shit ain’t easy. When you’re at a pool and get splashed by some sprogs, remember, you’re at a pool. You’re supposed to get wet. Don’t be a wanker.
You think you know, but you have no idea. There are parents you see every day who are silently challenged with special needs kids and regular old kids. Imagine a job that NEVER ends. Imagine a responsibility that never lessens, only increases and never allows you to slack. Let me tell you, the vast majority of parents are freakin’ awesome. We are all trying our damnedest to raise responsible adults without losing our sanity in the process. Next time you are confronted by a 2’ dervish, get a grip on yourself. You are the bigger person. Act like one.