Meeting Tyler: Adventures in Parenting at Twenty Thousand Feet

Our trip started out uneventful enough. Our hotel was acceptable, if not the Ritz. We had a blast at Sea World and the San Diego Zoo; we took in a great baseball game at Petco field; we even ate at a couple of fantastic restaurants. Of course, no trip is complete until you get home, and it was when we headed for home that the real experience of our trip happened. That was when we met Tyler*.

In point of fact, we never actually met Tyler, but we definitely got to know him. Let me go back and try to explain. We arranged for an early flight out of San Diego on Sunday. As soon as possible we did the online check-in so we could get into group A. For those unfamiliar with Southwest Airlines, they have a unique check-in, and boarding process. Southwest Airlines has no seating assignments; once tickets are purchased, seating is first-come, first-served, or, as some like to call it, the cattle call process. After securing your ticket, you check-in online as soon as you can so you can get assigned to a group; the first third of check-ins get group A. These lucky souls have the first run of the plane. Group B boards next, and group C is last. If you have carry on luggage, or want to sit with your traveling companion, don’t be in group C. If you want the exit row seat with a little more precious legroom, you need to be the first person in group A; we were second. When our boarding time came, a few special needs folks went before group A, so the front seats were taken along with a smattering of other seats throughout the plane. The people in front of us made a beeline for the exit row, so we found what we thought were some nice seats toward the front of the plane. We didn’t know about Tyler.

Tyler is a boy, probably between eighteen months and two years old. He and his mother sat directly behind us. Although we never met him we know his name. In fact, everyone on the plane knows his name. This is because his mother yelled it at him about five million times over the course of the next two hours. It started just about the time enough people were filing by that we were committed to our seats and continued until we were out of sound range after we landed.

Tyler, “Aaaaaaaargh!”

Mother, “Tyler stop screaming”

Tyler, “Grelp! Aaaargh! Blech!”

Mother, “Tyler, Sit down right now, do you want a spanking!”

Tyler, “Splork!”

Mother, “Don’t you spit at me!”

Sounds of Jumping and screaming…

Mother, “Tyler, sit down right now, here, drink your bottle!”

Sound of bottle hitting the floor.

Mother, “Tyler, pleeeaaase stop! Here, take your bottle!”

Finally the plane was boarded and the flight crew made the pre-flight announcements, which no one heard because Tyler was screaming, yelling, and otherwise carrying on. The door was closed and the flight attendant walked down the aisle.

Flight attendant, “Ma’am you need to buckle him into his seat for takeoff”

Mother, “I like to wait until the last minute.”

Flight attendant, “Ma’am, it is the last minute, the door is closed and we can’t leave until everyone is buckled in”

Mother, “Tyler, sit down right now!”

Tyler, “Aaaaargh! Snlort! No! Braach!”

Mother, “Get the buckle on right now!”

Tyler, “Screeeeeeaaaaaaaam!”

Mother, “Tyler, I am so angry with you right now!”

Tyler, “Bzzzt! Glap! Yell!”

Mother, “Don’t you take that buckle off! Do you want a spanking! Sit down right now!”

Tyler, “Screeeeaaaam!”

Mother, “Tyler, pleeeaaase stop! Here, watch Bambi…”

The plane made its takeoff run: full power, rotate, wheels up, seat in front of me reclines into my lap. We are off, Tyler and his mother screaming the entire way.

I could give you more details, like the time Tyler started yelling at the poor folks behind him, and the flight attendant had to come to their rescue. There were about five minutes of blessed silence while the flight attendant took him for a walk to help collect the garbage; otherwise, the screaming and yelling were incessant. As we landed, his mother spoke for us all, “Tyler, I’m so glad this trip is over!” Clearly she was trying to make him feel guilty, but I doubt that it worked. As we deplaned, the flight attendant actually apologized to each person as they walked off. We left Tyler and his mother behind us in the arrival lounge, the din of the terminal finally drowning out the fading sounds of their ongoing combat.

In retrospect, I am a bit ashamed that I didn’t try to help. Though I doubt it would have been appreciated, it was probably the right thing to do. Still, I have an excuse; my legs were wedged into place by the seat in front of me, and I couldn’t move. Perhaps, it was a chance to demonstrate love to someone who desperately needed it. In that respect, I probably wasted an opportunity. Even so, this whole episode could have been avoided if the parents-yes, there was a father at home mentioned by the mother in a rant or two-would just follow sound principles of discipline and child rearing.

Tyler needs a mother who loves him and is willing to be the adult; in fact, he wants it. Children want parents who will be parents; it provides them the consistency, comfort, and security they need in order to thrive. He most certainly doesn’t need another child to fight with. Sadly, that is what he had. Tyler was in charge of that situation from the beginning, and that is not where children need to be or-in spite of their tantrums-want to be. I have witnessed the beauty of well raised children and the difference is striking. Such children are a blessing to their parents, a joy to be around, and typically grow up to be fine young adults. It is sad when we can’t or won’t put in the time and effort it requires to raise our children. We turn what should be a blessing into something else. My hope and prayer is that Tyler’s parents figure it out and give him the love and discipline he needs and craves while there is still time. My experience tells me that probably won’t happen.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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