This is where the viral, much-celebrated trend of parents with infants contritely bestowing gifts upon fellow plane passengers has brought us: A mother of a four-month-old dispensing 200-plus sets of earplugs. Two hundred. For the entire freaking plane.
The mother was reportedly flying from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco, according to Lonely Planet. As is now the custom with these adult goodie bags, the mom gave out candies and a little note, too. “Today, I am going to the US with my mom and grandmom to see my aunt,” read the note. “I will try to go quietly, though I can’t make any promises. Please excuse me.”
THIS BABY DOESN’T OWE ANYONE ANY GOD DAMN EXCUSES FOR BEING A BABY. What children are adults if we now expect candies and earplugs, along with imaginative notes written in the voice of a non-verbal infant?
The gift bags got the attention of the media after a fellow passenger posted photos to Facebook, along with the remark, “A very touching gesture by the mother but as you know when you have kids expect the unexpected.” It garnered over 100 comments, many of them effusive, although there was this remark: “That was a nice gesture, but I think people need to be more understanding on flights and not make parents and their children feel so ‘unwelcome’ on flights. We were all babies at one point in life... .”
Some of us still are, it seems!
If you are a grown adult human and don’t know enough to bring your own earplugs or noise-canceling headphones on a flight you deserve every second of baby-screeching and deafening plane noise and unbearable seat-mate small talk that you get. Can we stop expecting parents (and so often moms) to parent not only their small children but also other adults? And can we stop applauding them for it, too? Because applause implies its own value judgment, just as there is a flip-side implication to Lonely Planet describing this woman as “a thoughtful mother.”
This mother is thoughtful in the sense that thoughtfulness can be driven by anticipatory fear of what others will think. More than thoughtful, at least in the sense that we typically mean it, she was probably filled with cuticle-biting anxiety over the prospect of causing offense to her fellow passengers. At least, that’s how it was for me ahead of flying, multiple times, with a noisy baby cross-country. Before each of those trips, I had to reason myself out of handing out goodie bags as performative penitence to the assholes who might have passed their judgments on the basic realities of reproducing, and caring for, our (apparently kinda shitty) species.
A mom handing out 200 earplugs on a flight isn’t a sign of human kindness, it’s actually a sign of the lack of it. Not of her lack, but of her anticipation of that lack in her fellow passengers. So, where’s her goodie bag?