Motherhood, Reflections

To The Strangers On The Plane Staring At My Two-Year-Old

If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world. – Francis Bacon

If you were there, you could probably feel the anxiety running through my veins.  Is he going to get triggered by something to make him snap again?  When? How do I keep cool?  Am I keeping cool?

Dominic cannot stay still anymore.  He just can’t.  It’s not in his genes.  We learned recently that when Tristan was about Dominic’s age, he couldn’t stay still either.  There’s an impulse to touch everything and a desire to just run aimlessly.  He’s generally very well-behaved, but keeping him entertained enough to stay put in his seat in the airplane for hours straight proved to be an exhausting and anxiety-filled task.  Tristan couldn’t help me either; Dom only wanted me.  If Tristan and I traded seats, he’d start crying, or worse, screaming – the very thing I wanted to avoid.

About 2 hours into the flight, it happened. As Dominic was wrestling to get out of his chair, kids probably around the age of 10 turned around.  They started snickering to each other.  Are they snickering because this is cute or because they’re getting annoyed of him?  No clue. I took a deep breath.

Eventually Dominic ended up playing on the floor.  I felt like a poor mother letting him play on the filthy floor, but it gave me about 5-10 minutes of calm to recharge for the next bout of entertaining my toddler.  The kids snickered again.  I convinced myself to brush it off. Just a few more hours…

Moments later, Dominic was in his seat again when one of the kids turned around and basically waited for Dominic to notice.  I immediately got curious.  Are you waiting for this toddler to make a scene?  Is this fun for you?  The second Dominic noticed, I could tell he was intrigued too.  The kid laughed.  Then, he went to look through the other side of his chair.  Dominic saw and laughed.  They laughed together.  Suddenly, they were playing peek-a-boo.

Every now and then during this long 8-hour flight leaving Iceland, the kids would turn around to entertain Dominic with a little game of peek-a-boo.  It would last less than a minute, but it gave me relief that we were at least surrounded by some good people.

At one point, Dominic started fussing again, and the boy turned around to him and smiled.  Dominic stopped and smiled.  Then, something charming happened.  The boy looked at his dad with a grin, and his dad gave his son a high five while saying “Good job.” As simple as those few seconds were, I got an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

To the strangers on the plane that were staring at my rambunctious two-year-old, “THANK YOU.”  This is mostly to the parents, but thank you.  Thank you for rearing good children who remember how toddlers can be.  Thank you for teaching them that it’s okay to help and to enjoy the joys of making a toddler smile.  And, although this may be peculiar to some, I have to say it.  Thank you for teaching your kids to not see differences in color.  As you and your family are white and I’m Asian, in the current political climate I can’t help but feel more insecure in situations where there’s potential for division.  The whole time a part of me was worried that your kids could be judging us for our difference, but your kids saw simply a toddler who needed some entertainment and happily partook.  You clearly showed how proud of them you were.

I worry all the time for the day someone will outcast my son because he looks different because a part of me feels it’s inevitable, so when gestures like this happen to me, it means the world.  I have more hope.  Hope that my son will be less “different” and simply just “American.”  Hope that more kids out there will be respected as kids.  Hope that maybe we really aren’t becoming as self-centered as people say thanks to technology.  Hope that the next generation will truly be more compassionate and aware that we’re all unique but simply human.

You may never know how much those little tiny moments on the plane meant to me, and because I didn’t think fast enough to say something and let you know, I have to say it now to at least put it out there in the universe.

Thank you.

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