Traveling with Children: Compassion as a Tool
That includes kids.
Airplane travel is somewhere that we need the most understanding, support, and compassion from the people around us. Sadly, it is often a time that we receive none of these things. Children are often viewed as a burden and nuisance to those around us, and rather than opening the channels of community and support, people tend to close them off. People roll their eyes and say things under their breath about children and I'm always shocked at the lack of compassion people have for others, especially children. A crying baby could have sore ears or a sensitive toddler could be overwhelmed by all the smells and stimulus. You just never know what is going on in someone's life. If we, the grownups, can remember to have compassion, we can shift this energy.
We can change this.
One time I was traveling with my daughter. On our flight was a family who had a sleeping baby and an inconsolable toddler. Judging this small person for being tired and overwhelmed would create more tension for her, for her parents and ultimately for everyone on the plane. The mother was with the newborn and the father was doing his best to soothe this child. The flight attendants and passengers were not being compassionate, and it was difficult for me to observe all of this, as I knew it could have just as easily been me in their situation.
I was reading a book to my daughter and I'd heard the child's name, and so I said her name aloud (in the middle of her meltdown) and I showed her the picture in the book. Almost immediately she jolted out of the state that she was in and she shifted completely. The shift was palpable in the air. I asked her if she wanted to read the book with my daughter and me. I asked if it was ok with her dad (it was). She came to me, sat on my lap, and listened to the story of an overfed fish; then she immediately fell asleep. I looked to the father who I thought was going to cry from relief.
I said, “Let me hold her. You should rest.” My daughter stroked this little girl’s back and it was a deeply moving moment for me as a mother—to see my child exhibit compassion in a way I could only dream that she would. The little girl slept in my arms for a few hours, which was almost the whole flight. Her parents were grateful, but surely the gift was to me.
On the flight home from this trip, my daughter was the one having a difficult time. If I've learned anything in my parenting, it's that at some point we will all be on the other side of whatever it is we are judging. There is a saying in Kundalini yoga which essentially says, “see the other person as you.” Collective compassion is a radical tool with profound, tangible effects.
In travel, it is compassion that will bring the peace we desire. It is compassion that will save us all from the stress of covering hundreds of miles in the air with our babies. Remember, compassion comes from within, in each of us. We bring it with us everywhere. We can create a new world by practicing this. Compassion for the children, compassion for the people judging the children, compassion for the parents, compassion for ourselves.
What is the alternative? For me there is none…