I'm the Mother of That Screaming Child

Scream - stefane  / pixelio.de 

I remember traveling before motherhood.

I was really good at traveling. Airports, flights, busses, cars - they all seemed within a arms reach. I remember arriving at the airport just by myself. Long stays at airports were slightly boring but most of the timeI was able to use the time to nap, write or read. A good cup of coffee or a stroll around the airport did much to lift the mood or take away some of the tiredness.

Many times I saw families with small children waiting at the gates and I remember hoping that I would be seated far away from any of them, away from the sobs and chatter of a toddler, away from the crying or - even worse - the high pitched wailing of an infant. Although none of the babies and toddlers sitting near me on a plane ever cried for very long, a few minutes of crying were usually enough to make me roll my eyes in annoyance. Everyone knows it's hard to sleep during a flight - and even harder with noisy neighbors.

On a few occasions, the child's crying turned into wailing and then into screaming. I could hear mothers and fathers trying to soothe their child to no avail, rocking them gently, or walking them up and down the aisle until the longed for quiet filled the air. I remember thinking that they should be better at calming their child and asking myself why they had to fly with a toddler. Little did I know that I would be in their shoes one day.

Now, I am the mother of that screaming child.

It wasn't the first long trip my son and I were taking. The last time we flew to Switzerland to visit my family everything went smoothly. No crying, no wailing and certainly non of the high pitched screaming that terrifies even the most experienced parent.

It was supposed to be a fun journey, an easy one. Our flight was scheduled to leave the airport early in the morning. 1.30 am is not a good departure time for any traveller and much less for a small child. Therefore, we were counting on a long afternoon nap so I could pass through check-in, security control and immigration with my son wide awake. It didn't quite work out that way. Since my son didn't remember he had flown before, he was really excited at the prospect of flying on a real plane. In fact, he was so excited that he wouldn't (or couldn't) nap the day before the flight.

As my husband drove us to the airport my son fell asleep. After a long day filled with playing, family visits and more, the monotonous buzz of the car lulled him to sleep almost immediately. At the airport, we were asking around for a stroller but none were to be had. I realized, I should have brought one but it was too late. There was no other option. Since the airline required the presence of all passengers flying at the check-in counter, we had to carry him there at the risk of waking him up.

And waking up he did. Crying and sobbing, angry at begin woken from his sleep. Thankfully, my husband managed to rock him back to sleep while I completed check-in. He was so beautifully and peacefully asleep in his fathers arms. I didn't look forward to the moment I had to pick him up and carry him through security control and immigration. Yet, if we wanted to maker our flight we didn't have a choice.

Inevitably, he woke up again at security control where I had to set him down to put my things on the conveyor belt. I mean, can anyone remove a laptop from a backpack without waking a sleeping toddler in his arms? He was crying and screaming in desperation because I had - once again - interrupted his much needed sleep. Tears were running down my cheeks, too, because I didn't have a remedy, not at that moment. I knew it wasn't his fault. If anyone was to blame it was me for choosing a flight with such a terrible departure hour and for not bringing a stroller.

After security personnel checked everything and helped me repack my bag, my son fell asleep in my arms again as I walked to immigration. I had our passports and documents ready in my hand but even just the small movements of my hands as I shifted his weight so I could hand everything to the officer startled him and the screaming started again. Louder and more desperate. I could see the immigration officer was uncomfortable. So was I. Yet, we both had to go through this. There was no turning back.

Already exhausted I walked to the gate and found an empty seat to sit down. It was uncomfortable for me but I didn't dare move for fear of waking him up again. The waiting gave me a moment of rest, a respite from the commotion I needed very much. I'm sure people around me were just as uncomfortable at my sight as I once was. Will he cry much? Will he turn our flight into a nightmare?

My son was asleep as I carried him into the plane but he woke with a terrible scream when I walked down the aisle to find our seats. At the top of his lungs he cried and screamed, moving his arms and legs all at once expressing his anger and despari. The cabin crew member assisting me looked at me and said "He is NOT happy!".

At that moment, I was afraid he would have a terrible flight. This time, I would be the mother of that screaming child everyone is annoyed at and complains about to their friends on social media. Yet, I wasn't concerned with their stares and frowns. I knew that if I tried to calm my son for other's people sake it wouldn't work. I had to calm him because he needed to be comforted and feel my arms around him. He needed to feel safe and loved so he could sleep peacefully through the flight for the benefit of everyone.

Thank God, he went back to sleep almost immediately once we settled into our seats and was soundly asleep through most of our long flight. Before dozing off myself, I heard a baby cry just a few rows from us. I heard the mother talking softly and then saw the father walking the baby up and down the aisle. I was thinking to myself:

I'm a mother of a screaming child, too.



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