I don’t mind screaming children so much as I mind their doting mothers. Eyeing the antics of the parent, sometimes you can clearly see why their child is screaming. Recently, believe it or not, I heard a 1-year-old, coddled in the arms of her exuberant mother, scream at the top of its lungs, “I am not a Chihuahua!”
It all started when I sat down in the airplane seat that sandwiched me between my husband on the aisle and Psycho Mom at the window seat.
I excused myself as I sat down, but the mother didn’t make eye contact with me. She couldn’t; she was too busy having an intense conversation with her baby. She was, in fact, reading the in-flight magazine to her — in four different languages! Perhaps this in-flight magazine was the study text for the Aoyama Gakuin kindergarten entrance examination — hey, it’s never too early to start; the exam is only three years away! “Man, this is going to be a long flight,” I thought to myself.
Kyoiku Mama (Education Mother) had chosen the window seat, no doubt, to instruct the yearling on the mechanics of flying. “This is a wing,” Mama said while pointing out of the window. The child was not impressed.
After a deep one-sided debate with the baby on “Abenomics” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the mother started to — and I knew this was coming — sing! “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream . . .” We went through a few rounds of this (and I say “we” because by now I was a reluctant but active audience member). Just when I’d cleared my throat to join in, the woman deftly changed keys and launched into a Chinese lullaby, which her prodigy was soon grunting to.
Our airplane row was positively rocking now. An imaginary tambourine joined in, some female backup singers and dancers piped up from the row behind, and really, how could this child possibly not win the next “American Baby Idol”?! The only thing missing was a microphone and Jennifer Lopez gushing, “Those are the cutest grunts I have ever heard!”
After a lengthy imaginary round of applause and standing ovation, the woman was onto the next activity: coloring! Who cares that the little sprout could not hold a crayon? Kosodate Mama (Child-rearing Mother) was helping her apprentice — surely the next Georgia O’Keeffe — by holding the little girl’s hand and drawing a flower for her. That poor, exhausted child must be so happy when Mommy finally goes night-night!
While infants are often said to coo, in this case there was a bit of role reversal: It was the effusive mother doing the cooing. The child was gurgling and grunting — in all four languages, I presume.
Finally, the baby got a chance to sleep (or perhaps it was faking it to gain a “time out”) and the overachieving mother, with no one to play with now and perhaps regretting that she hadn’t given birth to a Chihuahua instead, finally brought out a book to read. I was stunned when I saw the title: “Dancing, Merriment and Murder.” I bet she won’t be reading that one out to her little precious.
But my mind couldn’t help wondering what it would be like if the woman did narrate this text to her child: “Then she murdered him” (in English), followed by “Then she murdered him” (in Japanese) and “Then she murdered him” (in Chinese) and lastly, “Then, she murdered him” (in some unidentifiable tongue). The poor victim would have been murdered four times, each in a different language. But I suppose one can’t leave out the possibility that this might be a question on the kindergarten entrance exam: If a woman gets murdered four times in four different languages, how many times does she die?
Then, the pilot came on the loudspeaker, telling passengers to buckle up because of turbulence. The mother, engrossed in murder while her child was passed out on her lap, tried to buckle her seat belt with her one free hand. She tried several times, failing, but she just couldn’t take a break from the murder long enough to properly belt up. I reached over to help her but she continued fumbling. Maybe she needed help, but she clearly didn’t want it. Surely, it would have been an insult to her multitasking skills.
Finally, she put down her book, buckled her seat belt and went back to “Dancing, Merriment and Murder.” It did not escape me that the dancing and merriment had already been achieved on this flight. There was only one thing left unfinished.
An hour later, the child awoke. I watched to make sure the woman didn’t pick up any sharp objects to aim at me.
But then she had to stop reading and give full attention to her child. She followed her maternal instinct, petting the child’s head, kissing it and scratching it under the chin. She then started nibbling on the tyke’s ear.
Ah, cannibalism! This was too much. You want to kiss and pet your child? OK. You want to nurse your baby while sitting next to me? No problem. But nibbling on its ears? Go away! Even if it were acceptable to those sitting next to you, one would worry that this act might turn into an ugly habit, like biting fingernails or chewing on straws.
Not surprisingly, it was during the ear-chewing episode that the child started screaming out what sounded like “I am not a Chihuahua!” — in four different languages, two of them tonal.
The mother immediately brought out a rattle and started tossing it into the air and catching it. The child whimpered.
Truly, the era of the Chihuahua Mama is here.
From April, Japan Lite will appear on the third Monday of the month. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org