I was on a recent flight with our family and encountered something unexpected. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the trip, just another full plane with hundreds of people squeezed together, row upon row. On this particular segment, though, I happened to be sitting right across the aisle from the boys and kept an eye on them as they read and talked with each other.
Then it happened.
Troy proceeded to put up his tray table. He didn't slam or jam it, he simply pushed it up and into "its locked position."
Suddenly, the gentleman in the seat to which the tray was attached swiveled around and proceeded to give Troy a stern warning about not kicking the seat, which of course he hadn’t done. But no matter, this fellow was convinced of it and really laid into him.
At this, Troy looked up at him with somewhat startled wide eyes. He looked a bit shocked at the accusation. He was speechless, obviously intimidated.
If you were the mom or dad, what would you have done?
Here's what I did:
I stood up and introduced myself to the man. I told him what I had seen. I also suggested to him that it's usually best to address concerns about a child to the parent, not the child. He sighed and sheepishly descended back into the seat.
Showing respect and practicing good manners are a big deal in our family, as I suspect they are in yours. And I am not a dad with rose-colored glasses, believing that our boys are angelic and beyond the need for correction. I'm also aware that the man who hollered at Troy might have been having a bad day or carrying significant burdens or grief.
However, the incident was instructive to me. It was a good reminder how easy it is to take out your frustrations on a child - simply because you think you can get away with it. A little person is still very much deserving of the benefit of the doubt.
On a related note, a recent article in the NY Times on the challenges of flying with children highlighted the widespread indifference in the travel industry towards families. For example, the Lins were on a long-distance flight with their 18-month-old twins and ran out of milk. They asked a flight attendant if they might have some to quiet their crying children. They were told the available milk was only for coffee, not for children.
Do you treat all children with the proper degree of respect? Do you sometimes feel like society treats our children as second-class citizens?
I do not believe there's a sliding scale for worth and dignity based upon a person's age.
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About Jim Daly
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of its National Radio Hall of Fame-honored daily broadcast, heard by more than 2.9 million listeners a week on more than 1,000 radio stations across the U.S. He is husband to Jean and father to Trent and Troy.
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