August 2020 - We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic where wearing face masks is high priority, hand sanitizer is hooked to our purses, feeling burnt out on Zoom calls to family and friends, scrambling to do our virtual workouts, vigilantly watching the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hoping we can still make plans to see friends and family despite the consequences. We’re working late into the night to get work done and during the day, playing with our kids to keep them engaged, learning and enjoying their summer. We have found joy in the small things like running through the sprinkler, walking the dog, bike rides, short hikes, and baking cookies.
Our son is 2.5 years old, and we have decided with some hesitancy to put him back into daycare 3 days a week. Working into the night has been hard for me, and while I am so grateful that I still have a job, the reality is that working remotely is necessary and at the same time very difficult. As many of us well know, this is hard. Pandemics happen, what, every 100 years or so? I feel anxious, scared and frustrated with what’s going on in our country but I find comfort in knowing that all I can do is take care of my family and make decisions that are best for us as a family unit. We have no control over other people which is frustrating but I have found peace in what I can control which is something.
I wrote the following “Travel Reflection with My Toddler” in March before the USA went into lockdown. Before school and daycare was closed until further notice. Now I can’t tell you when we will be on a plane again. The commercial flights are so slim that airlines are laying off numbers of pilots, including my brother-in-law who flew for United Airlines. I actually remember turning around on one leg of our travels to see an Asian passenger wearing a face mask and thinking that we don’t see that too often. Now, it’s common practice. It’s part of our new normal. I wear a face mask to protect those around me, and as I do so, I hope others do the same to protect me.
We are ALL doing the best we can based on the circumstances. I have to remind myself of that when things get challenging.
March 2020 - I waited a full month before sitting down to reflect on traveling with my toddler because it was a lot. I look back and reflect on the packing, the lugging of luggage, the running after my 2 year old through crowds of people, me scrambling to find that boarding pass, trying to keep him clean but fed and entertained, to make sure I had also eaten and went to the bathroom myself. That’s just a lot to think about and do all by myself. I also remember the times we giggled, the family we got to make memories with, the moments of perfection while snuggling and watching as others admired his cuteness.
Then of course there was a bit of a dark side which was when things didn’t go as planned, at all. I made conversation with a couple that happened to be child-free, and they told me of how their niece was a real terror during a flight recently. They described how people were just miserable with her wailing. Well, all I can say is, she probably shouldn’t have jinxed it, because what do you know, my son was no better than she described. I don’t travel with him on airplanes much so it’s been a while for him. He’s older, more independent, more curious, more mobile and stronger. We were fine for a good chunk of the flight but he didn’t sleep initially because it was exciting to fly in a plane. The thrill of touching everything, kicking the seat, flipping open the tray table, booping the buttons on the screen, turning on the overhead light, standing on mommy’s lap, reaching out to touch other passengers -it was a zoo in our aisle.
As the plane began to descend to our destination (which felt like forever), he was semi-awake and just wailing. He was pissed that he had been woken up, and I’m sure the pressure in the plane didn’t help. He was inconsolable. The flight attendant was kind enough to offer her assistance in holding him or providing me with milk, but neither helped. I knew that he wanted a proper bounce which meant I had to stand up in the aisle to do that. Well, I wasn’t allowed to as the plane was descending. So that’s where we were, several thousands of feet up in the air hearing the screech of my babe and nothing I could do about it. It was torment for me, and I know it was for everyone else on the plane.
I looked over to my right, and I saw a young woman grinning and holding her phone towards us, glancing sideways at her screen. She was recording my son having a fit and me struggling with him. I found it appalling, but what was I to do? I really wanted to flick her off, I wanted to take her phone and chuck it. But instead I gave her a dirty look and just went about my business because any of those things would just feed the entertainment and would entice her to record my anger.
I thought desperately to myself, “Maybe you don’t have kids, maybe you have no interest in them whatsoever, maybe you have them, maybe you can’t have them, whatever it is, try to find compassion for a struggling parent that is just trying their best!”
By the time he finally settled down, the plane landed and passengers were ready to deplane. I did not apologize to anyone. I am sorry, I’m not sorry. I tried my best in that situation. Thank goodness a woman did walk up to me and said, “You did great, mom.” And that was enough for me at that moment. I wanted to show how grateful I was for her comment, but at the moment I was still so disturbed that it was hard for me to really show it. I said “Thank you, I appreciate that.”
I got off the plane and spoke to my husband with a crack in my voice and tears forming. You try the best you can, and it’s okay to be upset and cry. It’s okay to not say sorry when frankly you did all you could. I am a good mom, and I know any parent in that situation needs compassion and some understanding. Hearing that woman’s words meant so much more than she’ll ever know.
As we navigate pandemic life, the context of stressful situations may be different. Maybe you’re struggling to keep a mask on your kid or prevent them from hugging your beloved elderly neighbor or even stop them from licking the grocery cart, being a parent of young children is challenging. We could all use a bit more kindness and empathy. Even if it’s just a few encouraging words to someone in distress, a little bit of compassion can go a very long way.
With love, Heather
Heather Devine is a wife, mother, creator, and love spreader in the Jackson Hole area. She works as a Creative Director at Gliffen Designs - she loves to help businesses grow. She enjoys hiking, skiing, journaling, running and dancing. She LOVES writing letters to her friends and family so naturally she started People Spread Love in 2015, a movement that spreads love to people facing adversity through notes of love written by volunteer community members. She is also active in the leadership of M4M and serves as an Alma Mama.