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Another Pair of Arms on an Airplane

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A few years ago I was traveling from Chicago to New York for work. My two kids were at home with a babysitter and I was feeling pretty pleased about being able to travel alone even though I missed them. It meant I’d get to read a book, worry about only my own snacks and entertainment, maybe even get to take a nap.

I boarded my flight and settled into my seat but as I sat down, I heard the dreaded wail of a baby a few rows back.

Thinking the child would settle as we taxied out and took off as most usually do, I closed my eyes to rest.

But the baby kept crying. And then the cries turned into full fledged screams and there was no stopping it.

My eyes snapped open with annoyance, there would be no rest for me. My time to relax between work and kids totally ruined. And as I looked around I could see people muttering and rolling their eyes in aggravation, sneaking glances at the mom and child.

As a mom myself, I’ve been in similar situations.

I imagined how I’d be feeling if I was traveling and one of my children were crying like that. I’d be mortified. Embarrassed, upset, and anxious. My husband would be trying to help. We’d be passing our child back and forth like a hot potato hoping one of us could soothe him.

And then a thought struck me. Maybe this mother didn’t have anyone to pass her baby to.

So I stood up and made my way back a couple rows to the screaming child and mother and sure enough, it was a mother with two young children and the baby in her lap. No one to help her.

She was trying to give the baby a bottle, which she was refusing and the mother looked exhausted.

She gave me a weary look as I approached, probably thinking I was going to tell her to quiet her baby because she was traumatizing the whole plane. But instead, I did the only thing my mama’s heart thought to do in the moment. I offered to take her baby.

“Maybe she needs a change of scenery?” I suggested and the mother handed her over to me without even the slightest hesitation.

I bounced her in the aisle for a few minutes while the mother went about settling the other children. Then as I adjusted her blankets and kept bouncing the baby, she started to quiet.

“Do you want me to hold her for a while?” I offered. “It looks like you have your hands full.”

And she said words I’ll never forget, “Yes please. It looks like she likes you more than me.”

I knew for a fact that the baby did not like me more than her mom.

But that mama needed a break.

So I went back to my seat and sat with the baby. She fell asleep in my arms and stayed asleep until just before landing.

I didn’t have a magic touch. It was just a different pair of arms.

When I was waiting for my bag later in the baggage claim area a woman came over to me and asked if I was a nanny.

“No,” I told her. “I’m just a mom.”

Wouldn’t the world be a happier place if instead of getting annoyed next time we heard someone in distress, we offered to help? What if instead of judging, we offered some grace.

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Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

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