There are two things sure to bring a frown to the face of an airline traveler; notice of a flight delay and a passenger with a baby heading towards your row.
So, when a woman carrying a small baby in a pouch on her chest made her way into the row ahead of mine on a flight last week, the other passengers near me and I all looked at each other with that look; "Oh no," we said with our eyes, "a baby!"
She met our gazes, smiled sweetly and said "lucky you!" Lucky us, indeed. I conjured up my best maternal instincts, remembering not so fondly how my then-infant son cried all the way from NY to Italy all those years ago, and tried to remember this mom was probably no more pleased than we were.
And then she did something incredible. Out of her diaper bag, instead of pacifiers and diapers, she pulled out Ziploc bags filled with candy and started handing them out to those of us sitting near her.
"Here you go, this is for you," she said with a smile. We all looked at each other again and then at the bag. It was filled with individually-wrapped mini chocolates, gum, ear plugs and a hand-written note that read "We apologize in advance. It's out first time flying. Please be patient. Thank you."
As we read the note and started to laugh, a great sense of responsibility came over all of us. This woman was traveling alone with an infant. It's hard enough for me to juggle my rolling bag and my backpack and my jacket and I don't have an infant and all that baby gear to carry. Immediately, the man next to me offered to put her bag in the overhead, the woman next to her offered to hold the baby while she took her bags off, sat down and buckled her seat belt. I took her bag with the bottles and gear and tucked it under my seat.
It was as if we were all suddenly in charge of making sure this sweet mom and her adorable baby were comfortable and safe.
When the baby cried and his mom tried to shush him, I realized just how considerate this woman was being. With all that she had to do to prepare for a trip with a baby, she took the time to break the ice with her fellow travelers. She cared about them and their comfort. While it's true that sometimes babies cry, or kids throw tantrums and there's not much you can do about it, she was not one of those moms who says that's the way it is, tough. She went out of her way to be caring and considerate, and got it back in spades.
During a flight from London to New York last month I was truly stunned at the behavior of some of the parents traveling with young children. One toddler screamed and cried on and off for close to an hour and when I went to use the restroom in the rear of the plane I saw that he was just trying to get his dad's attention. Dad had headphones on and was caught up in a movie while the young boy stood in the aisle pulling on his arm. It didn't matter to Dad; he was watching his movie. Never mind that his kid was driving an entire plane full of people crazy, he was happy. He was also inconsiderate.
That's what made it all the more incredible how considerate this mother was. It made me realize that I don't have to wait to be asked, I should offer help and assistance if I can. In fact, we could all be a little more considerate and thoughtful of people traveling with young kids, especially during the busy holiday travel season. You don't have to wait for a parent to offer you candy or earplugs in order to help with their bags. Ask if they need a helping hand.
You might just get a reward that's better than candy -- like a big, toothless baby smile. Thanks for the candies Mom, but more importantly, thanks for the reminder that consideration is always the best way to go.