I Give Other People’s Children The Mom Look

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shutterstock_2111934One of the things that annoys me most about air travel is people who try and pass off huge duffle bags as carry-on. Actually, the most annoying thing on planes is toddlers or little children. So that’s when I pull out The Mom Look.

The Look is something you give to the person behind you who has a child or toddler who keeps kicking the back of your seat. Yes, you may get a “please-don’t-let-that-mother-and-baby-be-seated-next-to-me-look” when you get on the plane with a newborn. But the worst a baby can do is scream or cry. I actually have a lot of patience for parents with babies on planes. I can block out screaming. I can’t block out kicking, however. One can’t put earphones on a back. So I actually don’t find babies on planes as annoying as toddlers or children, especially children who keep kicking the back of your seat.

On my recent holiday to Mexico, I happened to be sitting in front of a maybe 5-year-old who had kicked my chair continually before we even took off. I whispered to my fiancé to do something. It turns out there is sort of a science behind The Look. One has to ask, do you give The Look to the child or do you give The Look to the parent of the child?

The Look, after all, is a non-verbal way to communicate, “Kid, ( or parent of said kid) you are bothering the shit out of me. Stop kicking my chair immediately!” My fiancé, who has sat in front of numerous kicking children, always gives the child The Look first. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. When a child continually kicks the back of my fiancé’s seat, and after he’s given the child The Look and they don’t stop kicking, he’ll then give the parents The Look. Sometimes this works and the mother or father will tell the child that they have to stop kicking and keep their legs still. And other times, well, The Look doesn’t work at all and the parents are either oblivious to what you are trying to say non-verbally, or they just don’t give a shit.

Even if you haven’t experienced kicking on a plane, you’ve probably experienced it in a movie theatre, especially if you go to see a children’s movie. There’s always a kid kicking the back of your seat. I always give The Look and, for some reason, The Look works better in movie theatres. I’m not sure why. Possibly because there’s more legroom or they are seeing a new movie and totally forget to kick.

I’ve gotten The Look before when I traveled with my daughter. As a toddler, she would kick the back of seats. Since I have a brain, and know how annoying this is for the person in front, I always told her she had to stop. Three minutes later, I would tell her again. Three minutes after that, I would tell her again. And three minutes after that, I’d tell her again. Even now, at age nine, she still has the habit of kicking the seats in front of her.

In my experience as a parent, if someone turns around and looks at you, it’s not because they think you’re cute or want to start a conversation. They are giving you The Look that your child is bothering the shit out of them. Sometimes there’s not much you can do though. Maybe you can go to your “happy place.”

Even as someone who employs The Look, I’m still not sure if it’s right to tell a child who is not your own to stop kicking your chair. Mothers aren’t always the nicest when it comes to criticisms of their child, even if it has to do with kicking the back of your chair. Still, other options seems scarce.

It generally comes down to addressing the parents or the child. I’d be mortified to say to a flight attendant, “Um, that 4-year-old behind me is bugging me. Can you tell him to stop kicking my chair?”  So for now, I’ll stay with The Look and go to my happy place.

(photo: Wallenrock / Shutterstock)