An Awesome Kid Story
Ok, so all of you that know me well enough know that I don’t want kids. Ever. It isn’t because I don’t like kids, I just don’t want them. I want to travel and take risks and explore and go places that kids can’t or shouldn’t, and I want to live a life of financial security and abundance. All things that you can do with kids, but are easier to do without. I’ve been accused of hating children, and I’ve had people call me selfish because of this decision (and I agree, my offspring would be epic, and the world better for them) but at the end of the day my mind is made up.
When I checked into the Fiji Airways counter I had two seat options, an aisle seat next to a baby or a window seat. I don’t normally like the window – being cramped into a small space and blocked by two strangers isn’t a charming idea to me so I really wanted that aisle seat. I don’t like babies though, I just can’t deal with them. They stress me out until they’re a few years old. So I took the window option.
When I got to my aisle there was a little girl in the aisle seat and her mom sitting in the middle seat, my window seat empty next to them. The rows were thin and just getting to my seat would displace both of them.
I smiled and pointed to the empty seat, “that one’s me.” I said.
The mom looked to be of Indian ancestry but spoke with a New Zealand accent when she looked up at me and then started to re-arrange their stuff to move out of my way so I could get to the window. “You know, if you want the window, I don’t mind if she takes it. It’ll be easier for you instead of moving everything.” I offered, pointing to the seat again and making an offer that we all won by.
“Oh, really are you sure?” The mom looked relieved and surprised by the stranger giving up a coveted window seat.
I smiled and replied, “Absolutely, I don’t mind at all.”
The little girl didn’t want to sit by the window, which blew my mind – as a kid I would ALWAYS sit by the window. That was my seat no matter who in our family got the window ticket. They knew it, and I knew it, and the flight staff knew it. So the mom took the window and the little girl took the middle seat and I grabbed the aisle. As I was getting settled I was aware this little girl was staring at me and watching my every move, trying to figure out who this guy was that was sitting in her former seat. She must have decided I was interesting enough to talk to because then the questions started.
“Who are you?” she asked. I paused, looked at her and told her my name and asked hers. “Mattie” she replied.
Her mom hushed her and told her to let me be, I smiled back at them both and went back to organizing my passport and tickets and pocket full of itineraries and papers.
“I used to be sitting there, and now I’m sitting here and you’re sitting in my old seat.” Her little voice chimed again. I paused and looked back at her,
“Yeah, I know – thank you for letting me sit here.” I replied.
“What are those?” she asked pointing at my white earbuds wrapped around my phone. Her mom hushed her again, telling her that she knew those were headphones and remind her that she had her own pair of purple ones. Then she apologized to me.
I told her think nothing of it, I didn’t mind and then went back to my stuff. The questions came one after another, the entire time we were sitting on the tarmac. Despite her mom hushing her every other question she kept asking more and more. She was quite the little conversationalist. I assured her mom that I didn’t mind, so she joined in and asked me what I do for a living. So I told her I was a pilot, and little Mattie’s eyes lit up.
“I want to be a pilot too!” she exclaimed.
“I thought you wanted to be a doctor like your uncles?” Her mom asked.
“No, I want to be a pilot. An airplane pilot.”
“Well ask Nick what you have to do to be a pilot.” Her mom was encouraging, and then looked up to me, and before I could answer she began coaching my response. “You need to study a lot right?” she prompted.
“Oh yeah, lots of math…” I started.
“She loves math” her mom commented.
“And science. Lots of science too.” I continued.
“Like physics.” her mom added.
I was starting to realize I had become a pawn in this child’s upbringing – a role model in an instant. “Yeah, sure like physics.”
“And do you have to eat lots of broccoli?” her mom asked.
I’d be lying to you all if I didn’t think for a moment to sabotage the game and say something that broccoli isn’t good for pilots, and that you shouldn’t eat any of it ever again. But in the interest of having a good rapport with my aislemates I played along. “Oh I eat brocolli all of the time, and lots of carrots too. I love vegeteable, you have to eat them so you can be strong, smart and healthy.” I gave the canned response one gives to a 4 year old when there parent is prompting a vegetable to them.
Mattie finally had a moment to get a question in edge-wise, “How’d you get big?” she asked.
It took me a moment to ascertain that she meant grown up, and I told her that I grew up and got taller every year, just like her. She thought that was awesome, that she was getting taller. Her mom reminder her that they measured her height at home.
“Where are you going?” she asked now, “We’re going to Fiji.”
“I’m going to Fiji too!” I told her, smiling.
“Mom! Nick is going to Fiji too!” she grabbed her mom with both arms and shook her.
“Everyone on the plane is going to Fiji.” I finished
Her eyes grew wide and she turned back to her mom and told her that EVERYONE was going to Fiji. It’s a good thing her mom was there to figure out where the crosswire was because I didn’t get it, but she translated quickly and cleared things up for Mattie.
“Yes, everyone is going to Fiji, but not everyone is going to your grandparents house.” Her mom said, laughing a bit.
The takeoff roll down the runway had Mattie in a fit of giggles and laughs as the plane shook and thundered down the runway, she clambered for her mom but laughed still. After we leveled out she asked a few more questions about how old I was, and birthdays and told me she was 4 years old and her birthday was September 25th. Moments later, like someone had flipped a light switch, she passed out cold and the questions stopped.
“I was just like her when I was that age.” I replied when her mom apologized for her again now that she was asleep. I used to look forward to sitting next to a stranger on the plane because I’d get to meet someone new. I once exchanged drawings back and forth with a guy not even in the same row as me. I’ve always been quick to meet people and make fast friends, and it started when I was that age. She reminded me a lot of myself during that exchange and the entire time I couldn’t help but think that the world had a funny way of taking things full circle. All those years ago I was that four year old with innocent questions; excited at the shake of a plane rolling down a runway. The universe had given me a gift, the chance to be as influential on her as so many other great people had been with me.
I hope she grows up and becomes a pilot. She comes from a family of doctors and lawyers and it didn’t sound like anyone really broke with that tradition much. Her mom was a teacher and was one of two that didn’t go down the doctor or lawyer path. And when she’s a pilot, traveling the world, I hope that the universe gives her the same chance to meet a young inquisitive mind.