Last week, while one flight attendant was getting all the attention for his dramatic "not going to take this anymore" antics, a real in-flight hero went virtually ignored. Aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Albuquerque, flight attendant Beverly Kay McCurley witnessed an agitated mother strike her crying thirteen-month-old baby on the face with an open hand. In an attempt to help the mother - and bring calm to an escalating situation that was disturbing other passengers - Beverly intervened by taking the baby and calming her, also enabling the father to leave his seat to comfort his child at the back of the plane.
But Beverly cared more than simply for her passengers comfort; she could not rest after what she saw. She reported the mother's behavior to the head-crew, who arranged for law enforcement to meet the family when they landed. After a welfare check - during which police inquired about the baby's black eye which the parents pinned on a dog bite - the parents were allowed to go. The mother defended her actions, saying she "popped" her because "that's the only way I can get her to stop." As if it gave her all the freedom in the world, she added, "She’s my daughter."
Shockingly, Beverly's actions spurred a debate about whether it was right to interfere in another mother's parenting. Shocking, because, quite simply, no one actually believes that hitting a baby - not a child, a baby - is an actual parenting method. Experts on both sides of the corporal punishment debate believe that it's wrong to hit a child that young. Most parents hear this story and think, "That’s awful." And yet, oddly, most parents would refrain from getting involved.
But why? Where is the room for debate over Beverly's involvement? How can it possibly be argued that she should have let the mother continue "popping" her tired and upset baby? Mind your own business...at whose expense?
I would posit that most parents are uncomfortable with the idea that our individual parenting can be subject to a stranger's scrutiny. So when it comes to other parents choices, we choose our involvement carefully. But is all this so-called sensitivity always appropriate
? While some may be unwilling to accept interference over normative methods of parenting to which there are valid and healthy takes on both sides, no mother should be so confident to think that passersby will accept her out-of-control moments that may endanger her young.
In my eyes, the world of motherhood can use a few more Beverlys. She didn't heed the voices saying "don't get involved." In stark contrast to our "to each his own" society, she jumped right in where she new she was needed.
Every mother can be this kind of hero. Instead of turning your head out of embarrassment for a struggling and agitated mother, kindly offer your help. It will go a long way for a burdened parent, much further than our silent stares and teeming judgment. If more parents looked out for each other and stepped in when it was absolutely necessary, maybe there wouldn't be so many mothers who feel comfortable slapping their kids in the line at Target or dragging their two year olds by the ear to get them to leave the park.
Thank you Beverly for reminding us that we are all each other's keepers. To the out of control mother who said, "She’s my daughter," you answered, "Yes, but right now she's my responsibility."
Because of your heroism, there is one mother who has a lot to think about while vacationing in New Mexico.