Whenever I travel, I usually enjoy driving. I love the experience of being on long cross-country road trips with nothing more than the car stereo and my own thoughts keeping me company. I love the peace of driving down long lonely highways and watching the sunrise through my front windshield. However, I was looking forward to letting someone else worry about the transportation on a recent plane flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Dallas, Texas. I was looking forward to relaxing back in my seat, reading, writing, daydreaming, maybe sleeping a little bit, for the three hours of the flight.
I had to take a few deep breaths, though, as I settled down into my seat and buckled up. I had to remember that other people might not be as anxious or excited as I was. I tried not to sigh heavily as I watched the other passengers struggle to place their large bags in the limited overhead bin space and argue over who was going to get the window seat. I just wanted to be up in the air now. It would be a while, though, before all of the passengers were finally in their seats and ready for take-off.
Across the aisle from me, a family was settling into the row of three seats. The grandmother sat on the aisle; the mother sat by the window. In between them was a small 5-year-old boy. As soon as the child was placed in his seat, he became fascinated with the fold out tray on the back of the seat in front of him. He reached up to turn the small knob to release the tray and bring it down in front of him. His mother and grandmother tried to tell the boy that he could not put the tray down until the plane was in the air. This pronouncement produced a sudden meltdown in the young boy. Suddenly, he began to cry. His loud, high-pitched screams began to echo throughout the entire cabin. His small feet began to kick at the tray and his hands formed into very small, yet still threatening, fists. The young boy kicked, screamed, yelled, cried, and beat on the seat in front of him as his mother and grandmother tried to calm him down. “Stop now!” his mother was harshly whispering to him as grandma was trying to distract him with an array of stuffed animals. Neither method seemed to work. The boy suddenly was completely out of control.
I tried desperately to concentrate on my book and not watch the drama taking place just two feet away from me. It was hard trying to pretend that nothing was wrong as the boy had a complete break. Over the pages of my book, I quickly threw a glance over at the family…and suddenly felt the breath knocked out of me. The young boy was in such a screaming, crying, pounding, kicking tantrum, his mother was now physically restraining him. As she continued to whisper to him to “stop” and “calm down,” her whole body was wrapped around him, holding down his hands and his legs to stop him from hitting and kicking. I quickly looked away again, but still felt myself shaken by the sight I had just witnessed. I know I shouldn’t judge, especially since I don’t have children, but I don’t recall ever seeing a child restrained like that in public before. I turned back to my book and did not look up again until the plane had taken off.
Twenty minutes into the flight, the little boy had calmed down. He was sitting in his seat, chewing on some crackers, and sipping from a clear green Sprite bottle. This was, however, just the eye of the storm. Not more than an hour later, the kicking and screaming started again. Loud shrieks filled the cabin as the mother once again tried to restrain her angry young son. The screams were so loud that this time the flight attendant intervened by taking the boy out of his seat and walking him around the cabin to calm him down. This method worked. After about 15 minutes, the flight attendant returned the young boy to his family. He was again calm and happy. Peace again reigned in the small cylinder cabin.
A few minutes later, I sighed in relief when the pilot announced that we would be landing in Dallas in 20 minutes. I put my book down, stretched as much as I could in the tight space, and just happened to turn my head in the direction of the family.
Suddenly, my eyes flew open wide and my breath caught in my throat. The young mother was once again holding onto her small son, only this time, it was much different. The little boy was asleep. He was nestled against his mother’s chest as she had her arms wrapped tightly around his body. As if she was listening to some gentle lullaby in her head, the mother’s body swayed back and forth as she slowly rocked the boy. Every now and then, her right hand would reach up and stroke back his short blond hair as she kissed him gently on the top of his head. Tears suddenly filled my eyes and my heart began to beat faster as I watched them. Even after all of the recent tantrums, this woman truly loved her little boy. All had been forgiven and mother and son were together as one solid image of unconditional love.
I now thought of the times I had tantrums when I was a child (or a young adult for that matter!), and my mother still continued to love me. I couldn’t help but think what a great world this would be if we could all love the way that mothers do. Can we, as people, ever overlook and forgive each other’s fears, frustrations, stresses, anxieties, and breakdowns? Could we all try a little harder to be more understanding of each other?
I looked at the young mother and son in their quiet, silent, loving moment and I pledged then that, even though I don’t have children, I was going to start showing more of a motherly love towards all people. I am going to make this my New Year’s resolution: I want to love all people the way a mother does.