by Judy Dutton
One evening I spent three hours with a squirmy 2-year-old on a plane waiting to take off… only we didn't. The flight ended up cancelled, so I towed my daughter home, then spent three hours on hold before I managed to re-book my flight. The next day, I packed us all up once again and headed to the airport. Only as I checked in, the airline attendant droned, "Your flight's been cancelled. And there are no more flights to your destination today."
Had I been traveling alone, my only option at that point would have been to walk off in a huff. Only I wasn't alone. I had a 2-year-old, which is equivalent to carrying a nuclear warhead. So I stood my ground, plunked my daughter's diapered butt on the counter, and I played the baby card.
"But my BABY is flying to see her GRANDPARENTS!" I wailed, then started sobbing with gusto. Then, as if on cue, my daughter started crying too. Sure, there were some real tears of frustration in there, but mixed in that cocktail was a strong dose of Machiavellian maneuvering which gave me a hunch that a hysterical mother clutching a hysterical baby might cause this impassive airline attendant to crack.
I was right. Rattled, the airline attendant said, "Wait here," scurried off for 5 minutes, then reappeared. "It turns out we've found a seat for you on a flight leaving later today!" she chirped.
Battle won, my tears stopped immediately. I smiled. Thank you, airline attendant! And thank YOU, baby!
More from The Stir: Parents Deserve Special Treatment on Airlines (& Other Places, Too!)
You know how on sinking ships, captains always say, "Women and children first?" In addition to life rafts, babies are your ticket onto overbooked planes and far more, if this ace up your sleeve is played right. It got me priority boarding onto that plane, to start. People also give up their subway and bus seats for me and my child. And if there's a long line to use the bathroom, my dancing toddler is carte blanche to cut to the front.
I know this "entitled parent" attitude rubs people the wrong way, but I would actually say that I don't feel "entitled" to plane seats, bus seats, toilet seats, or any of the perks I've enjoyed with a kid. I agree, wholeheartedly, that the baby card hits below the belt. But I use it anyway.
If I have any defense, it's this: moms face so many disadvantages -- in terms of work, wages, even in our struggle to carve out time to take a spin class -- that I feel it's okay to sometimes fight dirty to make up the difference.
And besides, moms are supposed to look out for their kids, sometimes to a fault. So while I do make my kid wait her turn for the baby swings or a seat at Chuck E. Cheese, I might not be so "fair" with more pivotal opportunities. For instance, I've seen plenty of parents pull strings to get their kids into private school. Is that fair? Hardly, so let's just admit that pretty much everyone pulls strings when they can. It's a war zone out there, and babies are great ammo.
For the record, if I were on a sinking ship and there weren't enough life rafts, I'd be the first to bellow, "Women and children first!" and make sure my daughter made it out alive. If that's the baby card, then sign me up for a lifetime membership.
Where have you played the baby card? Would you do it again?
Image © Marc Romanelli/Blend Images/Corbis