Maybe we knew the secret all along?
My flight from New York was uneventful in every possible way other than the fact that it was full of children. Yes. Small adorable humans of all ages, ethnicities, and languages seemed to be strategically seated within earshot of me. And as I heard one of them wail during takeoff, I became fully aware of my reality and began dreading the next 14 hours or so.
However, my concerns were misplaced. Fear soon gave way to awe. I noticed young mothers nursing babies savoring life, fathers saving the day for all of us with well rehearsed two-minute diaper changes, grandmothers singing lullabies to rush their treasures back to sleep and one doting grandfather struggling to do a french braid but carrying on nonetheless. Here we were flying 30,000 feet in the air traveling at over 900 kilometers per hour but all these tiny humans were focused on was rest, growth, and joy. It was heartening to see what we gave our attention to becoming us.
Several hours later all of them decided to wake up nearly simultaneously and this uneasy calm that had existed around me was broken with cries and other sounds of varying intelligibility. Baba. Dada. Mama. Papa. No. Ta. Ok.
I had nothing else to do, having exhausted Qatar Airways’ limited movie library, so I started watching these new parents talk to their children. And after a few minutes, I could see it. They would give their absolute attention to them and focus on listening so meaning could be deciphered from not only the sounds but their expressions as well. Often they would mimic their baby’s head movements and bring their faces close as they attempted to recreate the sounds to continue the conversation. These exchanges would usually end with a big wet kiss on the cheek or a playful lift over the head and onto the shoulder for what may have been mutual encouragement. It was special to see these parents putting in so much effort to both teach and learn at the same time, and yet not tire. Perhaps by giving up control of this process to their little ones they had figured out the secret to making work play again.