Cry Baby

imageApparently blog ideas come in pairs, or in threes, or perhaps in waves, but the flight to Orlando that inspired last week’s post also included a baby. Babies are great. I love babies and I love seeing people with babies and I really love seeing babies having fun. The woman across the aisle from me on that flight was holding a little girl, and she was playing with the stuff in the seat pocket. You know, the safety card we are supposed to follow as the flight attendant points out the exit doors, the Sky Mall magazine and the puke bag. Anyway, this little girl was taking them out and dropping them in the aisle. I was picking them up and the mother was apologizing. I did my best to put the mother at ease, which probably had the effect of encouraging the child.

It’s OK. Babies don’t know any better, and this wasn’t a “teachable moment” (I need to tell Faith Antion to add that to her list of banned phrases).

This was a baby exploring a new part of her world, and the distracting aspect of her exploration was really our fault – the adults in her world. If we weren’t so obsessed with cheap airfare, the airlines wouldn’t have crammed so many seats in the plane and the little girl wouldn’t have been able to reach the puke bag. We need to remember to think about the consequences of our actions. (Yes, that a link to the Blues Brothers scene with Aretha Franklin), but this isn’t a post about that.

Each piece dropped onto the floor was accompanied by a giggle, a laugh or a little scream. The noise was bothering the guy next to me, but he was the guy who wouldn’t switch seats, so he deserved to be unhappy. Other than him, the laughter was infectious. I was laughing, the mother started laughing, and the flight attendant was laughing. Before the plane took off, the little girl was tossing the stuff farther and farther away and people in the rows ahead of and behind us were picking it up and laughing. All in all, the situation was handled very well.

The best handling of a baby situation ever happened when our imagedaughter was still an infant. We were taking her to church with us, but we always had to work to get to the pew. The entrance to the church was flanked with well-intentioned albeit over-zealous women who wanted very much to remove our daughter to the day care center. Our daughter wasn’t in daycare during the week, and we weren’t interested in Sunday daycare. We wanted our daughter to stay with us; we were funny that way.

On the other hand, we didn’t want to be disruptive. The church had an unused choir loft, and the minister’s wife had placed a rocking chair up there. When our daughter started to cry, my wife would climb the stairs to the loft and deal with Faith (our daughter’s name is Faith, not some ‘deal with faith’ thing).

One Sunday, we had a visiting minister giving the sermon. This was a Methodist Church, and he joked that it was the first time he was preaching in a church where the clock was off to one side. He said most churches had that clock straight in front of the pulpit. My wife may have thought that he was joking, but I knew from my experience growing up that this was going to be a long sermon.

As the minister got rolling, Faith started to fuss and then to cry. My wife got up quickly and headed for the loft.

“Young lady, you sit right back down!”

Keep in mind, my wife had grown up in a Roman Catholic Church. She wasn’t used to the “interactive nature” of Methodist services and she certainly wasn’t used to being singled out. Still, the guy’s voice was thunderous and she sat back down. Of course, Faith was now fully involved in crying.

The minister looked around. He could see the unhappy faces of the women who wanted our daughter in that daycare center. He could see the self-conscious look on our faces, and he couldn’t see the clock.

“Everyone here should be grateful for the sound of a crying child. That sound is the sound of the future of this church. The day that I can’t raise my voice above the level of a crying baby, I will retire from the ministry.”

Wow.

A couple of years later, the congregation leaders voted to replace the minister in that church. During the transition, the daycare ladies removed the rocking chair and closed off the loft, denying young mothers the benefit that my wife had enjoyed. We changed churches.

Meanwhile, back on the way to Orlando, the baby across the aisle nodded off once we were in the air. The idiot next to me mumbled something about being glad “that” was over, and I attempted my “what is wrong with you?” look. As I recently replied to a blogger friend and excellent writer, I think it’s easier for women to give those looks, but I tried.

Maybe crying babies should remind us to think about what they need. Not their immediate needs, but their future needs. What are we doing for that baby? How are we working to make that child’s life easier, safer or better? For that matter, are we even the least bit concerned about whether that child will have the world and the world full of opportunities that we had?

23 thoughts on “Cry Baby

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  1. Picture – I have pictures of babies but they (the babies) aren’t mine and I don’t want to just stick someone else’s kid out here. Also, I’m not sure what baby-Faith pictures Faith would approve of. OK, I know she would approve of the one in her Steeler sweat suit. The Little People were one of Faith’s favorite toys. The rocking chair is at Bradley International Airport. I’ve seen rocking chairs popping up at airports and I think it’s a good idea.

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  2. Well said! It is those early formative experiences that shape and mold our children the most, I think. There will be more appropriate times LATER for people to act like disapproving elders. Those times come when a kid hasn’t been nurtured or properly supervised and is deserving of being outed for his bad behavior and lack of respect for others, etc. Of course, in those situations, such a child shouldn’t be chastised alone…his parenT(s) should also be held accountable for it. A little kindness, patience, and foresight to see the bigger picture goes a long way in a tiny child’s life of learning and growth. In so many ways I believe it DOES take a village to ensure the hope of our future (children) are given a good environment and good examples to start off on the journey to becoming a good human being.

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  3. I love babies, in all their forms, even crying babies.
    Your two stories are really lovely. The plane one is funny and with four kids and lots of traveling I relate to the mom and the baby and the passengers.
    As for the church, that minister was someone!
    Babies are indeed the future of our world, and if we can’t bear the fact that they are human beings just learning about almost everything, we are missing big.
    Whenever I see one who is fussy and the parents seem overwhelmed and embarrassed, I try to say something nice to make them feel better. And the baby too.
    After all, we all have been babies once.

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    1. I never quite no what to say to the parent, but I will usually say something to the baby to try and make the parent feel better. Thanks for reading and for adding your thoughts.

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  4. Your post made me think of this apt sign outside the Presbyterian Church near our home. It reads: A child is God’s opinion the world should go on. (It’s a quote from Carl Sandburg.)

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  5. this post reminds me of another story too… where my own brother asked me to leave a funeral for my favorite uncle because me then 3 year old was ” noisy”.. I was heart broken. Thankfully my mother asked my older brother who would have watched him? Everyone we trusted was at the funeral. She told him to get over it. Hard hearing that statement from my own family not even a stranger on a plain. He even has kids of his own.. who knows what he was thinking

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    1. I’m glad your mom stepped in. Sometimes people simply aren’t thinking when they say things (I’ve been accused of that on a few occasions). Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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  6. Hi Dan – after seeing Damyanti’s praise for you, I came to read 5 of your most recent posts, and was intrigued by the variety of topics and the quality of your writing. Thank you for following me. I’m somewhat intimidated to be in such esteem company as you and Damyanti when my blog is mostly “bemuzins light”, but I will continue to write for me, and not stress myself about how others do or don’t judge my work.

    Meanwhile, there is so much “meat” to digest on your blog, it will certainly broaden my horizons. I’m particularly interested in your post about education and competency testing, and will look into some of the links on that post when I have time. A-to-Z was a wild and wonderful experience, and Damyanti wins high praise from me for bringing so many together.

    PS I was raised Presbyterian – somewhere between the oppression of Catholicism and the more interactive Methodists. We NEVER joyfully sang a hymn. It was very difficult as a child to feel connected because it was all so somber. I just couldn’t embrace a judgmental God when I already had a mother who fulfilled that role quite adequately!

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    1. Thanks for such high praise Sammy. Please don’t ever feel intimidated. I write on a variety of topics because that’s just where my mind wanders. Some are meatier than others, but I have one coming up that is pure ranting about bad marketing so I hope you won’t keep the bar very high.

      Presbyterian might be one of the few services I managed to avoid. I’m thinking about a new church, I guess I’ll scratch that from the list – joyful singing is required.

      The A-to-Z challenge was amazing to watch. I struggle to get two posts out a week, along with a technical blog post. The thought of putting anything out 26 times in 30 days might be the one thing that could stress me out. Good job and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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      1. Flexible bar in place, but I bet I won’t be adjusting it often!

        Occasionally I attend a new-agey church with my son, DIL and kids. Everytime I find tears streaming down my face from the emotion and joy the singing evokes – incredible live music, singers on stage and such uplifting lyrics. The minister talks about every day family and relationship stuff. I leave feeling blessed because the message is God loves me – warts and all.

        On the other hand, I’m an introvert and avoid situations like church where greets, handshakes, join this, join that – well, I just can’t do that, and it’s stressful to pretend when I’m doing it. I find my spiritual solace in solitude.

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  7. I like that part where you say the baby was exploring a new part of her world and the adults were distracting her. I couldn’t agree more. Adults with their infinite don’ts, passing down their fears to the children, and the children’s children.

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    1. It’s true. We would be so much better off if we were allowed to retain the interest in and the acceptance of the world around us. We tried very hard to let our daughter just be a kid, but we had to battle other adults from time to time.

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  8. I definitely agreed with the man In your church and am so glad you attempted to give a scathing look at the person who said he was glad “that” was over! Children cannot help these things and I happen to think that patience and giving embarrassed parent a sympathetic look always makes things go better!

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  9. I like that minister’s attitude . Maybe ” No good deed goes unpunished” applies here . My mother raised 6 of us . I shudder to think , as they say , what she went through .

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    1. It felt really good to hear him say that. 6 kids? Did they all have your special gifts of observation and commentary? There were only two of us but we drove our mother nuts. Thanks for the comment.

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