A Southwest Airlines flight attendant temporarily took a baby from her mother during an in flight altercation that witnesses say included the mother slapping the 13-month-old repeatedly to get her to stop screaming.
The flight attendant said that the woman appeared agitated. Her baby was screaming, and her husband was yelling her to make the baby be quiet. During this time, the flight attendant saw the mother “strike the child with an open hand on the face in an attempt to get the child to stop crying,” and slap the baby on the legs. Other witness heard the mother tell the baby to “shut up” and that “I didn’t hit you that hard.”
The flight attendant took the baby to try and neutralize the situation, giving the father a chance to leave his seat and take the baby to the back of the plane to calm her down. Police met the couple at the airport, where they were released after a welfare check of the baby, who had a black eye due, the parents told police, to a dog bite. When asked if she thought it was okay to slap a baby, the mother replied, “She’s my daughter.”
In a statement, Southwest Airlines said:
“The family was having an altercation and their young child was upset. Our flight attendant offered to hold the baby to soothe the child. Out of precaution for the child, Southwest asked that the local authorities meet the aircraft in Albuquerque.”
Many people are asking if the flight attendant did the right thing. In this situation, I think she did exactly what she was trained to due. In flight altercations can be very dangerous, and this one was escalating. She didn’t snatch the baby, she held her for a moment until she was able to hand her off to the dad, which neutralized the tension between the mom and the dad and the mom and the baby.
Though we, as the general public, aren’t trained to handle situations like this one, we often see them happening in grocery stores, malls, and parks every day. It’s easy to judge, harder to step in and try to help.
I read a post recently at The Stir that really got under my skin. In it, Michelle Zipp describes seeing a frustrated mom trying to get her toddler into a stroller at the pediatrician’s office. Things were clearly going wrong, but Zipp didn’t see a need to help out. She wrote:
Should I have helped her? I don’t know. I mean, she was putting one child, albeit a now flailing child, in a stroller. I figured she could handle it. She’s a mom. Her kid was about one, so she had probably done this countless times before.
Seconds later, the baby pulled the mom’s hair and she yelled at him. Zipp writes with heavy judgment, “Clearly, she was a bad mom.”
I’m going to go ahead and quote Eric Bana here (Funny People, 2009) and say this: ‘Underneath anger is hurt but underneath hurt is love.” When I see a parent yelling at their child, I see anger — but having been a parent now myself for 7.5 years, I know that what lies under anger is usually hurt or fear. Was that mom on the plane right to hit her baby? Not at all. Not even a little bit. But wasn’t she also stuck in an impossible situation — on a plane, trapped by her unsupportive, demanding husband and her unhappy, suffering child? Not exactly a recipe for serenity.
Struggling parents don’t need our judgment, they need our help and understanding. “You look like you could use some help,” goes a long way with frazzled parents — much further than the evil eye and Zipp’s silent, seething judgment.
If you saw a parent’s temper boiling over, would you consider stepping in as this airline attendant did?
Photo: Tacit Requiem, Flickr
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