Mama Bear In The Air

by admin on April 17, 2012

When my now 6 year old was about 2and a half we went to visit a friend who lives a 3 hour plane trip away. My son did really well on the plane.  It’s actually another passenger and myself who were “out of control”!

About 2 hours into the trip after my son had had enough of colouring, reading, looking out the window, etc. I bought him some cartoon to watch on the back of the seat in front TV. He was getting sleepy so I swapped seats with him so he could lay his head on my lap and watch, so I then had to tilt the TV screen down by pushing on it a couple of times to get it on the right angle for my son to see.

The woman sitting in front of us had the whole three seats to herself. She was sitting at the window seat but had put her legs out over the other two seats, mainly reading magazines and I had noticed her flirting with the male flight attendant while she ordered alcoholic beverages throughout the flight-it was actually rather amusing.

Anyway when I pushed the TV she must have felt it as she turned and looked through the gap in the seat. I pushed it again and she quickly put her legs down and started fiddling with the seat belt before she threw it back over the seat at my son. The metal part missed his head and I thought, “What is this woman doing??” She poked her eyes through the seat again and I said to my son to move up the seats and I purchased the cartoon again off the next seat being the middle seat and I was now in the aisle seat. As my son got off his seat to move up a seat the woman threw the next seat belt over the seat and this time it did hit my son. I jumped up and checked my son out and when he was okay I started screaming at the woman.  Yes, I know that was wrong but I lost self control I was so angry that she would deliberately hurt my child who had done nothing to her. I wanted to rip her hair out but I did stop myself from doing that. The flight attendant asked the woman to move seats and she refused so he moved myself and my son to a different set of seats and I told the flight attendant I wanted the woman charged when the plane landed.

As we got off the plane several other passengers came up to me and said they saw what had happened and were appalled by this woman’s behavior and said they thought my son was very well behaved.

Anyway the woman ran out of the airport as quick as she could and I was very unhappy as the airline didn’t organize to have anything done about her behavior and assault on my child. Also she refused to move seats when asked by the flight attendant so surely that is an offense?

Interested to hear others thoughts-should I have reacted differently etc 0411-12

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Iris April 17, 2012 at 5:35 am

On the one hand, yes, you probably should have reacted differently. On the other hand I’m really very impressed that you didn’t, in fact, rip her hair out. The mama bear urge is a strong one.


LeeLee88 April 17, 2012 at 6:23 am

I’m a bit surprised that nothing more was done, but maybe the witnesses didn’t think to speak up in time to make the airline act faster? As far as your reaction, I don’t blame you. She purposefully hit a toddler with a metal buckle, and those airline seat buckles are serious suckers. I don’t know what I would have done, but screaming at the offender sounds like a viable option. I don’t see this as an etiquette issue so much as a safety and legal one.


Erin April 17, 2012 at 6:47 am

What a horrible woman! I’m glad your son is OK.


Susan April 17, 2012 at 6:58 am

Wow, I think your reaction was WAY over the top. You have no idea if this woman was actually trying to hit your son (I don’t see any reason why she would want to?) or if she just wanted the seatbelts out of her way and it happened at an unfortunate time. The fact that you started screaming, wanting to tear her hair out and press charges against her makes you the rude one, in my opinion. What on earth could they have possibly charged her with? Also, she did not commit any offense by not changing her seat.


Michelle April 17, 2012 at 7:06 am

You didn’t react very well. I don’t think that there was any need to scream and behave the way that you did. Sure, the woman was also behaving badly. She was making an assumption and having a little tantrum with her seat belt which unfortunately knocked your child. But it wasn’t ‘assault’ and you haven’t mentioned anything about him getting badly hurt and being upset over it. You probably could have been authoritative with the situation, immediately addressed the problem with the flight attendant and told told her what she had done to the child. Maybe even asking her to apologize in front of everyone to him would have shamed her.


Lily April 17, 2012 at 7:19 am

Could you have reacted better? Yes. But the reality of the situation is when someone tries to harm a (or more importantly, YOUR) child, in any way, civilities can quite easily go out the window. I don’t blame you at all. This woman was out of line. She could have quite easily have asked you to stop instead of her appalling behaviour. Protecting your child comes before etiquette here. It would be a different scenario entirely if you were rude off the bat without provocation, but by the info it is given it is not.


Notoyax17 April 17, 2012 at 7:22 am

I don’t blame you for your anger. It’s clear she knew what she was doing was wrong, but some people just lack the empathy to bother being good. I don’t fly often, so I don’t know if she could get in trouble for refusing to be moved, but I’m just glad that you got your child out of the situation before serious harm could be done.


m April 17, 2012 at 7:23 am

If it were any other context, I would probably send OP to EHell, but when the safety and well-being of a child is involved, I cannot criticize. Sure, OP probably shouldn’t have yelled, but her reaction was understandable.

On the other hand, passive – aggressive people who take out their aggression on little children have no such excuse. There were plenty of options at the lady’s disposal if she truly saw the boy’s actions as a objectionable: address the child, talk to the mother, get a flight attendant involved. Instead she chose to hurl a belt buckle at the child’s head and feel no embarrassment for her actions as illustrated by her refusal to move. Truly horrible human being!!!


vanessaga April 17, 2012 at 7:42 am

I know you will hear that yelling is rude but if someone hurt my child on purpose I don’t think I would be at all calm. I suppose you could have said something about pulling on the back of her seat, maybe an apology but after that behavior I doubt it would have helped.


AMC April 17, 2012 at 7:46 am

As a mom, I don’t think I would have kept my composure either. The woman had been drinking and was witnessed purposely assaulting a small child. It doesn’t matter whether he was well-behaved or not; nothing excuses a strange adult purposely hurting a child. My gut reaction is that she should have been detained by security the moment the flight landed. I’ve heard of airlines doing just that for much less.


Katy April 17, 2012 at 7:49 am

Just a question- wouldn’t the airline have record of this woman’s name and address? And some of the witnesses could give quick statements to authorities. If you really wanted charges filed, there are ways to go about it. Deliberately assaulting a child because he had the audacity to want to watch a TV at his level is beyond the pale, and I doubt this woman hasn’t done something along this line before. Part of me is wondering if she were trying to get a worse reaction out of you or the airlines.
I can’t honestly give advice as to what you should have done, because etiquette correctness or not, I probably would have done the same thing. Yelling better than smacking.


Brian Katcher April 17, 2012 at 8:05 am

It’s easy to say you shouldn’t have yelled…that could have easily backfired. However, if someone had deliberately slammed their seat into my kid–not once but twice–I can’t see myself staying calm.


Agania April 17, 2012 at 8:20 am

I personally would have punched her lights out! But that would have lead to her charging you with assault. Well done for keeping your physical cool and letting her have it verbally. No one messes with a Mama Bear!


L.J. April 17, 2012 at 8:35 am

It feels like you left out large chunks of the story.


Margaret April 17, 2012 at 8:39 am

Obviously screaming isn’t great, but I don’t know that I would have been any more restrained. I doubt I would have moved my child and paid for the cartoon again. Mind you, I also doubt the woman would have been able to retrieve her seatbelt from my area until after she had called the flight attendant and explained why it was stuck behind her seat.

If this is a recent event, I suggest you write to the airline giving all the particulars you can and ask that the woman be banned.


Shea April 17, 2012 at 8:46 am

The woman’s behaviour was clearly bizarre (I suppose, given that the OP says she had been ordering alcohol, that she was on the drunk side), but screaming at her was definitely not the best course of action. The OP should have pushed the call button and told the flight attendant what was going on. These days, airplane crew don’t tend to put up with passenger shenanigans. It doesn’t sound like the OP brought the flight attendants into it until after she lost control, which probably made them less sympathetic to her plight than they would have been had she controlled herself and calmly told them what was going on.

I understand the OP’s reaction, she was understandably angry that someone was deliberately trying to hurt her child, but she should not have confronted the woman, and she absolutely should have kept her temper. The woman’s behaviour was obviously atrocious, but the OP doesn’t come out of this one smelling like a rose either.


Bint April 17, 2012 at 8:46 am

I don’t understand why you didn’t speak to her the first time she did this. She was probably drunk and this was appalling behaviour, but you should speak up for your child – it’s a plane, there are staff to help you if she gets nasty. I know it is difficult but if someone ‘accidentally’ flung a seat belt at my child I would have confronted them immediately.


JillyBean April 17, 2012 at 8:54 am

It honestly sounds like something was wrong with her. Who throws her seat-belt at a child? I’m also appalled that the airline didn’t do anything. I would have written a letter and called. That’s entire unacceptable. She had 3 seats, and my gosh, I’ve had people pushing on my seats for far longer than a few moments. That’s ridiculous!


LovleAnjel April 17, 2012 at 8:56 am

A little communication might have helped. (I am NOT excusing the woman, she passed the point of being rude and became violent and purposefully hurt a child…she should have been meeting with security.) Once the women looked back through the seat, the OP could have smiled, apologized, and explained she was just adjusting the TV. When the seat-belt was thrown, OP could have said, “Excuse me, I’m sure you didn’t mean to, but you almost hit my son with the seatbelt. Please be more careful.” It became a not-so-passive-aggressive escalation of hostilities.


Kitty Lizard April 17, 2012 at 8:58 am

Unfortunately you’re talking about an incident that happened four years ago. If this had happened today, she would almost certainly be charged with at least a battery on a child, but four years ago, security aboard planes was a little more lax. Sorry. Apparently, she really, really didn’t like children. It’s kind of creepy, really, since your son seemed to be behaving himself and bothering no one.


Rap April 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

Based on what you describe, I don’t think you or your son was rude or deserved to be treated badly. However, I also don’t think you have enough proof to have someone charged with assault. It could have been accidental, or she could have been too drunk to realize tossing the seat belt over the seat could hit someone.

Was your son actually hurt? Did you take him to a doctor or the ER? I’m not asking to be an ass, I’m asking the same questions you’d be asked at the trial for assault. I don’t want to disparge your feelings on the matter, but if your child wasn’t injured and you can’t prove intent (and unless the woman involved said she was intentionally trying to hit your child, you can’t prove her intent since what you’re describing is easily just someone being inconsiderate) then its very unlikely that the cops would have arrested this woman to begin with.

Depending on what airline this was, the woman might have spent extra to procur her seat. Yes, you *can* refuse to move if you specifically request and pay for a certain seat (I like to sit on the aisle for example and yes, I am allowed to say no to moving depending on the airline).

I’m not saying the woman wasn’t rude and its certainly possible her intent was to hit your son, but if the seat belt had hit you and not your son, would you consider yourself a victim of assault and demand an arrest?


Michelle P April 17, 2012 at 9:37 am

Yes she was wrong but you certainly should have reacted differently. The first time she gave you a look was a warning; you shouldn’t have been pulling on the seat. I agree she certainly shouldn’t have thrown a seat belt behind the seats, but the first time she did it you should have gotten the flight attendant right then. It’s not the airport’s responsibility to detain her in my opinion; I’m not sure what the laws are in your state regading assault, however.

Your son sounds lovely but you should have watched your own behavior as well. The next time you pull on the back of someone’s seat repeatedly and then scream at them they might not be the type to take off.


Jenny April 17, 2012 at 9:40 am

I don’t think you did anything wrong. Someone who thinks it is okay to hurt a child has some serious issues and she SHOULD have been arrested.


AS April 17, 2012 at 9:58 am

That is appalling! It can be annoying if the people behind you keep fiddling if the seat. But one can tell the offender instead of resorting to passive-aggressive modes which can result in hurting someone, that too a small child! Also, this woman might have all the three seats for herself, but she purchased only one seat, and she has no right to claim she is disturbed by other seats.

Maybe you could have called up the airport authorities and still complained about this woman. They should be able to trace her based on seat numbers and the flight.


Library Diva April 17, 2012 at 10:28 am

Neither of you covered yourselves with glory here, and I agree that it seems like chunks of this story have been left out. Her looking at you through the seats should have been a sign to you that you did something to disturb her. Would it really have been that hard to just say politely, “I’m sorry. I’m just adjusting this screen so my son can see. We’re almost done.” She should have reacted better than to throw the seatbelts, but the scene you caused must have been scary to your son. Calling the flight attendant would have been a better response. And I agree, there’s nothing this woman really could have been charged with.

Unfortunately, airplane flights could not do a better job of bringing out the worst in people if they were custom-designed to do so. It’s got the stress of being out of your normal environment, coupled with a large number of people crammed together, climbing over one another and vying for overhead, under-seat and armrest room. Some will want to sleep in quiet and darkness. Others will want to watch TV and look out the window. It’s foremost in the minds of at least a few passengers that the plane could crash or get hijacked by terrorists, and then to top it all off, they pour alcohol over the whole thing. No wonder so many E-hell submissions feature airplane travel. You notice that these types of stories about trains are pretty rare.


nannerdoman April 17, 2012 at 10:32 am

Couldn’t a little communication have averted this whole incident? The woman in front of you gives you the stink-eye for pulling on her seat. At this point, wouldn’t it have helped to explain, “I’m sorry–I’m just trying to adjust the TV screen so my son can see it”? That might have defused the situation.


The Elf April 17, 2012 at 10:35 am

If we assume the OP and the OP’s son was far more annoying than it sounds – jerking the seat around, making lots of noise, etc – it still doesn’t justify what the other passenger did. Why didn’t she just say something if she was annoyed. Is there ever a reason to start chucking metal objects at toddlers?

So, yeah, OP reacted poorly. And two wrongs don’t make a right. But I really can’t blame the OP on this one.

Can I just say that I’m a little jealous of the amount of available space these passengers have? I swear the last dozen flights I’ve had have been fully booked without an inch to spare.


Clair Seulement April 17, 2012 at 10:44 am

OP I don’t see what using available seats, purchasing drinks, and talking to the flight attendants have to do with anything; all it tells me is that despite being distracted by a small child, you nevertheless managed to scrutinize and judge everything this woman did over the course of the entire flight. Your desire to have her charged with assault (and by the flight attendant–that’s not how crimefighting works) is a massive overreaction. This post reads as though you were looking for things to get up in arms about, and lo-and-behold found them.


Hellbound Alleee April 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

Plenty of people will be available to tell you that being a parent gives you the right to be an idiot. I happen to think that being a parent gives you the responsibility to *not* be an idiot.


Soundgardenklok April 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

As others have said, maybe the alcoholic drinks she was ordering affected her behavior. Or maybe she’s really just that deranged. However, I also agree with those who say that screaming probably wasn’t the best course of action. That brings the whole plane in on your business rather than just letting the flight staff handle her. I do understand the whole “mama bear” thing, but I think that attitude unnecessarily escalates a non life-threatening situation. Anyone who says that physical retaliation is appropriate should remember we actually aren’t bears in the wild 😉


kj April 17, 2012 at 11:17 am

I am NOT, NOT, NOT, an attorney, andI don’t know about the laws in the air, but Kentucky law states, in part:

KRS 508.030 Assault in the fourth degree.
(1) A person is guilty of assault n the fourth degreen when:
(a) he intentionally or wantonly causes physical injury to another person; or
(b) with recklessness he causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
(2) Assault n the fourth degree is a Class A misdemeanor.

Depending on what that buckle looks like, it could be construed to be a dangerous instrument, and remember, you don’t have to intend to hurt someone for it to be assault.


wowwow April 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

As far as the “other” woman goes, that is not an etiquette issue. Anyone who hurts a child, steals from someone, assaults another, murders (the list goes on) has serious issues that are not resolved by saying they need to learn better manners.

Mom, on the other hand, has got to learn to put child first–never the offender first (which she did by jumping up and screaming at her). First, is the child okay? Does he need medical attention? The attendant should have been called over next. Then, to the issue. First, set the example for the child on how one really reacts in these situations, the steps you take to resolve it. Now, NOW–if you need to scream at her–go for it. 🙂 I have seen so many people –both men and women–who put the offender first by going off on them, while the child is standing there, scared more by mom or dad’s reaction than what the actual offense was to them. The child could be standing there with blood running down it’s nose and mom would be off having a screaming match with some other woman. The best etiquette is to put the offender last, and the child first.


Tara April 17, 2012 at 11:50 am

I question how the seat belt throwing would have worked. The seat belts don’t have enough length to be thrown over the back of a seat and low enough to hit your child. Unless your son was standing up the first time, it should not have been anywhere close to his head.

I think you over reacted.


Lilya April 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

Sorry, if the other woman had a problem with the OP’s actions, she should have said something first instead of throwing stuff around like a Neanderthal. I hate people who won’t say anything but expect you to be able to read their mind.


Rap April 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I’d like to know peoples opinion on the whole “mama bear” phenomena, honestly. One reason I am not inclined to be around children is because of this sort of reaction. Speaking as someone who is occasionally not self aware, I could see this entire scenario playing out with the drunk woman assaulting a two year old not even realizing she was bothering these people until she hit the kid with the buckle. This case, to me, seems like a classic overreaction – I don’t see anything that suggests the woman was intentionally targeting a child with intent to harm. She was being petty and a bit passive aggressive – if she was bothered by the pulling on the seat she could have used her words and said so, but nothing about her demeanor sounds like she was getting her jollies on physically injuring a child.

If it had been an adult, its rude but not not assault, but its a child so the OP has the right to “mama bear” and be affronted that the airline didn’t have this woman hauled off the plane in handcuffs for assault. For something that can’t clearly be defined as intentionally wanting to hurt the child. And I am not just asking about this incident – I see this term “mama bear” used in a lot of instances where a child is involved and frankly it makes me nervous to know if I turn too fast in a line and trip your kid (I’m clumsy) a “mama bear” mother has the right to openly scream at me and call me out publically for *assaulting a child* just because I accidently knocked her kid on his or her bottom. There’s a reason intent is important. In the OP’s example, I don’t see the *intent* to assault the child – the woman may have been tossing the seat buckle to register her annoyance… she may just have been inconsiderately tossing the belt buckle. There’s no way to know but the child was hit (no description of any injuries) so its time to tear out someone’s hair?

Over something that may have been an accident? I actually love kids and hate to see them hurt, but I have seen enough of these sorts of freak outs and heard about others to question the wisdom of this mentality that its ok to mama bear maul someone since when a child’s involved, no self control is required in response and no reaction is an overreaction.


Calli Arcale April 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

A few things come up for me.

1) People are wondering how you could expect a flight attendant to charge this woman; after all, flight attendants are not policemen. They aren’t, but in the air, they actually are the law. Disobeying flight crew instructions is illegal, and airlines have had passengers arrested for less. It’s true, they can’t actually charge the passenger, but they can *press* charges and hope a prosecutor takes it to court. Also, they do actually have legal authority to do everything up to and including restraining and anesthetizing passengers. Seriously. Obviously they try not to have to do that, because it’s a bad situation. That would not have been required in this situation. But the point is, flight attendants are not powerless.

2) That said, I understand why the flight attendants did not have the passenger arrested. They were able to defuse the situation by moving OP and her son; no further action was required. Although they can definitely make your life miserable by having you removed by security at the end of the flight or even diverting to have the passenger removed, they don’t want to do that. It’s dangerous, because such a thing is sure to anger the passenger in question (and they are, after all, trapped in a plane with them), because it inconveniences all of the other passengers, who will have to wait to deplane until security has done its job, and because it will cut into their pay — flight attendants are generally only paid for gate-to-gate time. Once the plane has arrived at the gate, they’re actually off the clock. So they’ll only do it if they think there’s a really good reason.

3) How the heck do you toss a seatbelt hard enough to even leave the seat area, much less swing onto a child in the row behind? I find it difficult to believe that was accidental. People are blaming the OP for not addressing the woman at the first incident, but if you suspect a drunken person of attempting to harm your child, you might not be eager to confront them. Instead, you try to defuse the situation; in this case, she attempted to defuse the situation by moving her child. This failed. I don’t think we can blame OP for that.


June April 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

@Library Diva- good point about the effect screaming at a stranger probably had on her son.


Cat Whisperer April 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

My first response on reading this was to be astounded that there were so many empty seats on that airplane: the woman who threw the seat belts had a whole row to herself, and the OP and her son had empty seats they could move to. My husband does a lot of business travel, and on 90% of the flights, there are no empty seats at all. OP, you and your son were lucky, lucky, lucky that you had so much room to work with!

My second response: OP could probably have avoided the entire conflict with the woman in front of her. OP knew that she was going to have to make an adjustment to the video screen that was on the seat in front of her. She knew she was going to have to push the seat, and that the woman who was in that seat was going to feel it.

That’s the point where you politely lean forward and tell this woman, “I’m sorry, I have to adjust the video screen on the seat, can you please bear with me while I do this?”

What this does is reassure the woman in the seat in front of you that you are aware that she’s there, that you are going to be considerate of her comfort, that you aren’t going to spend the next few hours twidgeting, pushing, prodding, and fiddling with the seat at apparently random and unpredictable intervals. You’ve removed the element of uncertainty: she knows what you’re going to do and that you’re considering how it’s going to affect her. This defuses a lot of the tension that she may have over wondering if you’re the kind of parent who thinks that the comfort and entertainment of her child is more important than the comfort and peace and quiet of the people all around you.

If her response is negative or hostile, you then have the option of calling the flight attendant and requesting his/her assistance in getting the video screen adjusted. The woman in the seat in front is unlikely to behave badly when the flight attendant is doing the adjustment. Getting the flight attendant involved before the situation turns into a confrontation also gets the flight attendant on your side.

As far as the flight crew holding the woman for law enforcement, that’s unrealistic. Do you know the comedy routine comedian Bill Cosby does about how parents aren’t interested in justice, they’re interested in peace and quiet? That’s more than true of flight crews. After a day on duty, when the plane taxis up to the gate and passengers are exiting, the flight crew isn’t interested in what you consider justice. They want to get off that plane and go home/to their hotel, not try to hold a passenger who is certainly going to raise hell at being delayed, spend hours making reports to law enforcement over a matter that will almost certainly never make it to court, and then have to make corresponding reports to the airline over the incident. Get real: the woman in the seat in front of you is going to claim that she didn’t mean to hit your son with the seat belt, that it was an accident, that you were out of line. And, OP, would you really, seriously have sworn out a complaint if it meant spending several hours more delay in getting your son out of the airport? And if it involved you having to appear in court at a subsequent date or dates? I’m sure the flight attendants didn’t believe you would do that any more than I do. They did what seemed the right thing to do: get everyone off the plane and on their way out of the airport in as timely a way as possible.

If you know your actions on a plane are going to affect the people in the seats around you, take a moment to tell them what you’re going to do and apologize in advance for the inconvenience. That will avert most problems. And if you think there’s going to be a problem, get the flight attendant to assist you before it blows up into a conflict. Life is a lot easier if you head problems off at the pass, rather than waiting for them to blow up on you.


Goldie April 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I would’ve reacted differently, but not because of etiquette constraints. In my opinion, once an adult has deliberately hit a two-year-old with a metal object, he or she has identified themselves as crazy and etiquette rules no longer apply. However, in the interests of mine and my child’s safety, I would not further provoke the crazy. So I would probably not have screamed at the woman, as that could cause her to do something even more bizarre and dangerous. Not sure what I’d do exactly, but it would probably involve calling the flight attendant immediately and requesting my child and myself moved to a different row. Sorry that you had to go through this, this sounds pretty scary.


Snarkastic April 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I’m with L.J.: something is missing. The story was not clearly laid out.

I found it strange that the adults in this story did not communicate with words until the very end. It played out almost as if it were a silent film, complete with dastardly villains and innocent, cartoon-watching cherubs.


Frequent Flyer April 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I am a frequent flyer.

There is no need to engage another passenger. Simply call for a flight attendant, then explain your situation to that person. The FA is trained to deal with problem passengers.

By yelling at the other woman, you just made the problem worse.


Dear! April 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I’m not saying screaming was correct, but the OP did say the woman was drinking so this might have played a role in her odd actions. She obviously intentionally aimed for the kid/mom, not an accident, and I think I too may have spazzed out. We’re not perfect, and it’s easy for some people to clutch their pearls, and do declare the mama bear wrong, but you dont know how you would react. Glad the OP didn’t hit the lady, but I do think the call for assault charges was a bit extreme. The lady, probably drunk, was moved. No further incident in seems, as I’m sure the OP would have mentioned that.

With that said, there are three sides to every story, so the OP may have just been a nut job herself, and the woman’s actions were an accident. – Who knows….


ShinyFun April 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

How does one fling an airline seatbelt into another row at all? If she had a seatbelt extender, she would need it, and there wouldn’t be any extras. So, how could she “fiddle with the seat belt before she threw it back over the seat at my son”.

This doesn’t make any sense. Also, why on earth would you purchase a cartoon twice on an airplane? The first instance should have had you calling the flight attendent, if it indeed happened the way you described.

Personally, I call troll.


Gee April 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

The first time a seat belt flew over, I would have addressed the woman with an, “Excuse me, but maybe you didn’t realize that when you threw that seat belt, it nearly hit my son in the head. Please be more careful next time.” Even if it had been done intentionally, that would have served as a warning that such behavior won’t be tolerated.


Cat Whisperer April 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I also want to make a comment about an issue that really, really bothers me: this whole “mama grizzly” mentality thing.

It seems to me that the idea that a mother must/should defend her offspring against all dangers, which is an admirable idea, has become distorted out of all recognition to the point where people are expected to applaud a mother who allows her kids to run roughshod over everyone else. (I’m not saying the OP did this, this is just a generalized comment.)

I’ve seen the “mama grizzly” thing become absolutely cringe-inducing as whole groups of people find their convenience and comfort banished because a mom with the “mama grizzly” mentality lashes out and goes on attack at the mere suggestion that maybe she should rein in her kids and behave with due consideration for other people.

This is one reason why people who regularly travel on business absolutely quail in fear when they see a mom with small children boarding the plane: the belief that maternal instinct run rampant means that they will have no choice but to have kids kicking the seats around them, climbing on the seat backs and staring at the people behind them, have to deal with kids who can’t sit still, can’t be quiet, won’t let other people alone. Because if they do anything to try to bring a little peace and quiet to the situation, the “mama bear” behavior will kick in and they’ll find themself dealing with a woman who refuses to believe that she has any obligation to put the comfort of other people in front of what her kids want.

“My child, right or wrong, comes FIRST!” seems to be the rallying cry of the “mama grizzly” type. No rationality or reasonableness involved. If you speak up, or, god forbid, do anything physical try to rein in a child that isn’t your own, the wrath of hell will rain down upon you.

I don’t think it’s admirable and I don’t think it’s defensible. And I don’t think people who retaliate against a child who is intruding on their space or compromising their comfort or safety are necessarily bad people.

Again, I’m not applying this to the OP in this situation. Just a general comment about the “mama bear” thing.


Ann April 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm

If OP had behaved with more equanimity herself, I think she would have had a bit more satisfaction from the airline.

As it was, yelling rather than using the attendant call button, made it in to a she said-she said situation.

Behaving well would have been a much better example for her child.


Elle April 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Wow, this is definitely one of those “two sides to every coin” stories. And honestly, my sympathies lie with the lady sitting in front of the OP.

I’m gonna guess the moving around was because she thought the kid was pounding on the seat and wanted to not be in the seat right in front of him. (Also explains the peeking back and moving the seatbelts out of the way – doesn’t explain throwing them with a intent to cause bodily harm natch).

“had the whole three seats to herself”
Yeah, so did you and your kid

“she ordered alcoholic beverages throughout the flight”
And she could very well be griping about the mom who got her kid so hopped up on sugary soda that he started banging on the back of her seat. Now, we all know that this is not what happened. But you had your set of impressions (she assaulted my son over nothing) that could very well be mistaken. She could very well have an incorrect impression of what was going on as well.

“mainly reading magazines and I had noticed her flirting with the male flight attendant”
And you were watching cartoons and amusing your kid. We all have a right to keep ourselves occupied on an airplane.

The flight attendant asked the woman to move seats and she refused”
Not listening to flight attendants as a federal offense? They could only wish. There are scads of people who try to sneak around that “Turn off your electric device until we reach cruising altitude” thing. Now, a FA can physically restrain an unruly passengers (they keep zip ties for that). And they can certainly tell the pilot what is going on. The pilot will then radio ahead to have the relevant law enforcement waiting at the gate (and may very well divert).

Honestly, the fact that all the FA did was break the two of you up leads me to believe your call for assault charges was more than a little over the top.

“As my son got off his seat to move up a seat the woman threw the next seat belt over the seat and this time it did hit my son.”
Your son was in the space between the seats, so I can see how he got hit. This has all the earmarks of accident. Crom’s Beard, she could have been looking through the seats to see if he was out of the way for all we know. Your kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a bump on the noggin that wasn’t even bad enough to break out the airplane’s first aid kit. It happens.

“So he moved myself and my son to a different set of seats and I told the flight attendant”
And here we have the juicy, scurrilous part of the tale. The lady was flirting with the flight attendant!

“Anyway the woman ran out of the airport as quick as she could”
Yeah, I’d want to put some distance between me and you too.

“several other passengers came up to me and said they saw what had happened and were appalled by this woman’s behavior”
And the ones that were appalled by yours were not about to risk a mama bear’s wrath to tell you they thought you were in the wrong. And look at the top entries here. Even on a *etiquette* board of all things there are people telling you that you had every right to go mama bear and scream at someone the moment your kid’s head got bumped.

Going “mama bear” is not an admirable trait people. Yes, if someone is doing something bad to your kid then you have every right – indeed a duty – to protect your child. And there are circumstances where volume, legal action, and maybe even physical violence are warranted. That being said, there is very, very, very, very, VERY rarely a reason to go straight to the nuclear option, which, in my experience, is the first course of action for women who pride themselves on being “mama bears.”

“Yes, I know that was wrong but I lost self control”
Good. Glad you realize that and have resolved to work on your self control for future encounters.


kudeebee April 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I think there are parts of the story that are missing. Also, on the airlines we have been on, no seatbelt is long enough to be tossed over the seat and hit someone–especially a young child close to the floor. So I have to wonder about that part.

She may have purchased all three seats as she needed to stretch her legs out (I have a friend that purchases an extra seat for this reason.) Maybe she needed to get up and use the bathroom at the time that you were trying to negotiate a move. Maybe she was going to switch positions since you were yanking on the tv on her seat back.

I don’t think you could get her charged with assault–you have no proof that she did anything on purpose. Yelling at her was probably not your smartest move though sometimes when we are upset we don’t think before we act. And no, she doesn’t have to move seats if she is asked. If it had been really bad, surely the flight attendants would have detained her somehow. They diffused the situation by moving you two away.


sv April 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm

The first time it happened I probably would have said nothing – even if I felt it was deliberate, it could be passed off as accidental so not much would be accomplished by a confrontation beside a lot of negativity. However, the SECOND time it happened, removing all doubt of intent, watch out. I’d crush her. Let’s hope she learned a lesson about angering Mama Bears!


OriginalPoster April 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Thanks for all the feedback. I have sometimes tried to think how I could have handled this better and I suppose as has been said by some of you that I should have not engaged with the woman but called a flight attendant over, and I think this was probably how I should have gone.
As to my sons injuries he had a lump on his head that bruised. I did talk to the Federal Police at the airport that night but as the Crew on the plane had not arranged for them to be there it took a while and this woman was long gone. They did find out her details but as she was obviously traveling she was not at her address given when they sent someone to call on her. This was all I really heard, I tried to follow it up various times but nothing ever eventuated. I felt as though because I was a young mum with a toddler they weren’t taking me seriously even though my son had the marks to prove what she did they wouldn’t take his word that “lady hit me”, and as I said there were witnesses who at least one stayed with me and also gave a statement to the police.
Again I know I shouldn’t have yelled at her- as soon as I did I felt really embarrassed and that I was setting a poor example to my son.
I don’t think I needed to tell the woman I was about to push on the tv screen as it wasn’t like I was thumping her chair-the passenger behind me was watching the tv and I occasionally could feel when they were adjusting the screen and it was not unbearable.


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