As luck would have it, my wife, daughter and I (stroller in tow) reached the shuttle bus to our hotel just as it was leaving. As luck often goes, the coach was full. So we had to stand.
My wife tucked my daughter between two sets of seats on one side of the bus, I held the stroller facing the other. My grasping for the strap above must have triggered the curiosity of a young girl who boarded behind me. I saw her try to grab the strap near her just out of her reach. Her mom quickly told her not to “play around” and hold the bar in front of her.
I felt bad. I may have spurred on the exchange, but also the dad in me recognized the quick-to-scold reaction I once held myself. It was then I took note of those seated in front of us: 3 or 4 weary kids, an even wearier mom on one side, and a father (different family) on the side closest the curious girl.
The man made no attempt to offer his seat to the girl nor the mom. He must have heard that exchange. I did my best not to judge, not knowing his circumstance and minded my business. Brushing it off as another privileged man acting thusly.
As the bus drove on, I lost myself in thought, doing my best to just hold on. His two kids in front of me were also lost, but in their handheld devices. I hadn’t noticed at first, but in the jostling of the bus, the boy and girl must have bumped into one another.
My first hint of this sibling tiff came when I heard the dad breaking up their “she started it”/“he started it” banter. He seemed to shrug it off and merely tell them to stop. Having had siblings, I knew that is never how it ends. I thought: Simply sitting between them would have solved this. But again, reined in my dadding: Not my kids. Look away.
Of course, it soon escalated. I hadn’t seen the actual slap to the head, but the sound was audible and the look on the young girl’s face unmistakable. The dad immediately took the boy’s phone away and scolded him. I couldn’t make out much of what he said under breath, but I did catch “Embarrassing!”
Embarrassment? My mind raced with a flurry of more pressing worries. Being embarrassed seemed to be the least of the problems. After more words and the boy’s unrelenting whines — seemingly unfazed with no remorse for his actions—the father gave the boy back the phone.
What?! A monumental “teaching moment” completely lost. I stewed. So many things I wanted to tell that boy, all basically versions of “never hit a woman,” but bit my tongue. I felt such disappointment in the dad. In myself more for not saying something.
Finally aboard our plane after a two-hour delay, my wife passed out before takeoff. Our daughter splayed across us, head on my lap. In the quiet as the cabin lights dimmed, I noticed a person across the aisle pulling a blanket upon them. The fold of the corner didn’t quite make it over their shoulder. It was just out of my reach. I wanted to pull the edge over for them. But I didn’t.