This post isn't actually about our flight home, during which we endured Poopmageddon, which probably is the worst thing that could happen, but about the stress of traveling with a baby - what causes it and what I did about it.
I thought a lot about the stress of traveling. A lot. I didn't quite obsess about it, but close. I was afraid. I was afraid that The Baby would be loud and obnoxious. This is what we all fear when we think about traveling with a baby, right? Or any kids for that matter. I don't think these feelings will magically go away when The Baby turns five or something. So I thought about what would be happening if The Worst happened and our baby was the obnoxious one ruining the flights of dozens of people around us. What would be happening?
It's not that I'm worried about the actual health and wellbeing of my child. At worst, she may be obnoxious because her ears hurt, and that's pain and it's real and as a parent, I will never want my child to experience pain of any kind. But it would pass, and she would be ok. So I'm not stressing about doing harm to my baby.
Without question, we would be making those around us uncomfortable, and for that, I would feel bad. We might get dirty looks from people. A monumental asshat may even make some comment, maybe ask us to move elsewhere in the plane? I mean, let's be real - unless your kid actually shits or vomits on a stranger, that's about as bad as it would get, right? So I thought, "well that's not that bad." And if it's not that bad, why am I so worried about it?
And it finally hit me: the stress is because I worry people will think I'm a bad parent. I worry that too many people, those without kids or who were magically blessed with easy babies, don't understand that you cannot, CANNOT, make a baby sleep if s/he doesn't want to. You can trot out every soothing technique ever devised, and none are guaranteed to work. A screaming baby is one of those things over which you only have so much control. So I worried that if my baby was upset, people would think it was my fault and that I was a bad parent.
Once I realized this, it got easier. I know I'm a good parent. Some days I'm only good enough, but a lot of days I'm a really good dad. So I'd tell myself that and it made me feel a little better. And you know what? When Poopmageddon happened, we got far more understanding nods than dirty looks. Stay tuned.