Adults should be able to understand why we all need to wear masks. Toddlers, though? That's another story. Sometimes it's hard to reason with little kids and to make them do something they really don't want to do. It's hard to know when temper tantrums will hit and how long they will last.
Rachel Starr Davis's 2-year-old son, Lyon, recently decided he simply wouldn't wear a mask. The problem is, they were on a plane where the flight attendant was insisting he had to put one on and keep it on or else they'd be kicked off the flight. What happened next, Rachel says, was "traumatizing."
In a post on Instagram, she explains what happened. Along with an emotional photo of both of them, she writes, "I’m at a complete loss of words. The eyes of a mama-bear who just bawled her eyes out as she was forced off an airplane because her 2-year-old wouldn’t keep his mask on.
"I tried repeatedly, begged him, bribed him, pleaded with him, did everything I could while he was screaming and crying as I tried to hold him and put the mask on, feeling my absolute lowest of lows as a mother.
"Before I even sat in my seat, flight attendant Terry on American Airlines flight 5595 from Charlotte, NC to Manchester, NH on September 17, approached me and asked how old my son is, and demanded according to their policy he wear a mask. I told her this is our fourth American Airlines flight this week, and he has never been asked to wear a mask. She informed me he (my overtired two year old son) would need to comply with their company policy or we would be asked to leave the aircraft.
"As I tried to put down my things and get a mask out, I heard Terry on the phone saying, 'Yea it’s clear there is going to be a problem and we will need you to come down.' The nastiest smug look on her face."
Rachel desperately tried to get Lyon to put the mask on, but he just wouldn't. He is 2, he was tired, and he didn't understand. Rachel was crying, "desperate to get home after the worst week." But the flight crew didn't care.
She writes that rather than escort her off the plane and making a scene, they made everyone deplane and just wouldn't let her and Lyon back on when they reboarded. They moved them to a different flight that night, but one on the same airline.
Luckily, Rachel and Lyon didn't have any trouble on that next flight. In fact, she told Yahoo Life that the pilot on that flight "apologized profusely" that they had been treated so badly. But that didn't undo the trauma from earlier.
Rachel said the flight attendant who approached her on that first flight was "immediately aggressive," even though she clearly saw that Rachel was crying and struggling to put a mask on her screaming, squirming child.
Currently, the WHO recommends that children 5 years old and under should not be required to wear masks. "This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance."
But the American Academy of Pediatrics says that children age two and up can safely wear masks. This seems to be the guideline that American Airlines has adopted. At least that one specific flight crew.
In a statement, the airline clarified its policy: "To ensure the safety of our customers and team, American Airlines requires all persons 2 years and older to wear an appropriate face covering throughout the entirety of their journey." That doesn't account, though, for the three other flights Rachel and Lyon took without a problem.
Rachel, who wears a mask herself and seems not to have a problem with them in general, has received some criticism for her post from people who think she's anti-mask. But it's not about that. It's about the lack of compassion for a mom traveling with a tired 2-year-old.
It's one thing to apologetically say that he needs to be wearing a mask and to give her time and assistance if needed. It's another to aggressively kick her off of a plane because her overtired toddler doesn't understand why he needs a cloth covering his nose and mouth.
Rachel has decided never to fly American Airlines again because of the incident. "I will not put my son again in that situation. That was very traumatizing for him. I felt horrible guilt."