A child threw up all over me while I was asleep on my flight today.
However there is a deeper lesson we must reflect upon aside from the abrupt interruption to my sleep.
I was asleep when suddenly I awoke to a strong light turned on in the row behind me. I heard a child standing beside my aisle seat as they insisted repeatedly to “turn off the lights”.
I then heard the child shuffle to the bathroom with his father and didn’t think more of it. However, the pungent smell of throw up soon urged me to check my surroudings, and as I instinctively tried to pull up my jacket a bit closer for warmth, I felt squishy, warm patches on my jacket.
My brain clued in (this was a red eye flight and I was less than a third of the way into the duration of it). “This is most definitely throw up.” Out of fear I patted my jeans to find that there were also patches of throw up on my jeans as well.
With the lights still turned off, I saw three flight attendants hurriedly gather around the row behind me, discussing how to best proceed with the clean up. A child in the row behind me had gotten sick.
Groggily I told them I needed some assistance to clean the mess on me - the entire left side of my jacket and jeans, and also my hair and right shoulder bore marks from the throw up.
Why Is This An Issue?
There is a parenting lesson to reflect on within this situation:
1/ The child would have known/felt that they had thrown up on me - I later determined the child to be 5-6 years old.
2/ The child asked to turn off the lights right when I was groggily waking up. Now why they would want to do that is a mystery - so I can sleep in her throw up?
3/ I was standing outside the bathroom door where the father was cleaning up their child as two helpful flight attendants profusely apologized on their behalf and helped me clean off the residue.
How Could I Have Reacted?
I gave the family the benefit of the doubt. It's rather impossible to believe, because I would have woken someone on to apologize if I spilled a glass of red wine on them, instead of turning off the lights in hopes that they wouldn't discover the damage.
I immediately started coming up with reasons why they wouldn’t have acknowledged throwing up on someone. It was dark(?) their child was sick(?) they must have been worried about the child(?) and wanted to minimize the amount of attention drawn to them on the fully booked flight(?)
My reaction could have been to start a scene, instead I decided to see how the parents would react if I told them their child had thrown up on me.
So I gently let the mom know that “hi, not sure if you are aware but your child threw up on me while I was asleep. I just had to change out of my entire outfit.” The reaction I got was stunning.
First, she gave me a wide-eyed stare that told me she knew but didn’t want to acknowledge it; then after gathering herself she announced “oh, I’m sorry.” She then went back to cleaning her child’s seat.
The lesson here is that these parents have taught their child to cover up their wrongs, and by doing so, are teaching their next generation that they should take care of themselves first, and downplay the wrongs they commit to others. Through this situation they have let their child know that it is OKAY to throw up on someone and not apologize for it.
Let’s make it clear that it’s not the first time I’ve encountered child throw up, taking care of my niece has given me plenty of opportunities to experience it first hand, so I was a really good sport about it, surprising the flight attendants as they expected my reaction to be much worse. For the rest of the flight, 3 hours of the 5 hours from Hawaii to Vancouver, the parents went back to sleep, not once voicing an apology or offering to clean my soiled clothing.
What Would You Do To Teach Your Child The Right Morals?
The situation made me reflect upon what I would have done as a parent if my child did the exact same thing.
I would have apologized profusely on behalf of my child, asked my child to apologize, and then insisted on picking up the dry cleaning tab.
The above process shows the child that their parents owe up to responsibility, and the child is held accountable for their actions (accident or not), and that we must right the wrongs committed (pick up the dry cleaning bill!)
Now, the question for you is, what would YOU have done?