Back when I was a parenting expert (before I had kids, obviously), I was totally judgmental of those moms whose kids were throwing tantrums in public. I often thought, “I will never allow my kids to act like that.”
Then I became I parent.
A few weeks ago, Mariah and I flew home for my sister’s engagement and my kid was that kid. I mean, I guess I thought traveling was in her blood and that the whole ordeal would be a piece of cake. In my head, my strong-willed, squirmy, on-her-own-program, 18-month old daughter would sit calmly in my lap for six hours and enjoy our relaxing travel day without complaint.
I was so very wrong. No amount of fun little activities I had painstakingly stuffed into our carry-on could tame the beast. The back-arching, bloody-murder-screaming version of Mariah had decided to join me that day. My first mistake was booking a super early flight and thinking Mariah would just fall asleep because she was so tired. She entered into the dreaded overtired, crank mode and let me hear about it up until she finally fell asleep on the first flight AS THE PLANE WAS LANDING. My second mistake was thinking that the cute little teddy backpack with a leash on it was a good idea. Independent toddlers don’t do leashes. Most of the time she was trying to turn around to get it off her and the one time we actually made forward progress, she tripped and I accidentally ended up dragging her a few steps. I felt like that terrible mom on CNN. We promptly trashed the leash after that little disaster.
My third mistake was thinking that a two hour layover was long enough to get through immigration in Miami. The sweet businessman who tried to help me with my screaming child was kind enough to point out my folly. Apparently Miami has a horrible reputation for immigration lines. As we inched through the turnstiles, Mariah became more and more agitated and it became more and more apparent that we were going to miss our flight. Then, my toddler just completely and mercilessly lost it. Flashbacks of me judging other moms paraded before my eyes as I watched my offspring scream and roll on the floor. As I looked on totally defeated and attempted to pretend Mariah was someone else’s kid, the woman behind me said, “It’s humbling, huh?” She went on to say she had five kids but today she was traveling alone and that she totally felt my pain. God bless her. I was humbled and so thankful she wasn’t looking at me with judgey-eyes.
Right then, an immigration officer came up to me and said, “Ma’am, you can go to the front.” I’m pretty sure my eyes filled with grateful tears. “Thank you,” I gushed, “I am about to miss my flight!” Her rude reply, and I kid you not, was: “I’m not letting you go to the front because you’re about to miss your flight, I’m letting you go because your kid is screaming.” (Thank you, Mariah).
So we made it to our flight on time. I was pouring sweat from hightailing it across the airport with my chunky kid in her demented umbrella stroller (it’s a piece of crap) and a huge diaper bag, but we made it. We boarded the plane and ended up getting stuck on the tarmac for an hour. Just about the time I started regretting my decision to not take Pinterest’s advice and make goody-bags to beg for mercy from the innocent passengers around us, the captain said we were cleared and we took off. And she slept. Praise Jesus, she slept.
My fourth mistake was sharing a hotel room with my parents while we were in DC. Mariah was obviously out of sorts and wasn’t sleeping well. One night she had two night terrors. I’m pretty positive she woke up the whole Hampton Inn both times. She wakes up screaming and you can’t get her to calm down because she’s not really awake. It takes about twenty minutes for it to pass. The first time, as I’m trying to calm her down, my dad rolls over in his bed and tries to say something but it comes out totally incoherent. I believe he asked, “Well, is she in bed or not?”
What does that even mean? My mom told him to shut up and go back to sleep. Mom and I finally calmed her down and she fell back asleep. Two hours later, she woke up screaming again. This time, my totally rational father asks if we realize people are trying to sleep. No dad, I didn’t. In fact, I pinched her so she would scream and wake everyone up. Then my favorite question came: “Id see poop?” My mom and I looked at each other. “Did he say ‘poop?’” He swallowed and said it more clearly, “Did she poop?”
What da heck? “What does that have to do with anything?” I snapped. He “reasoned” that maybe she woke up screaming because she was constipated. Obviously. Because toddlers always have night terrors when they haven’t pooped.
Anyway, we finally calmed Mariah (and my dad) down and got back in bed. Suddenly my mom started with the sniffly-giggles. She was laughing so hard the bed was shaking. She started imitating my dad, hissing “Id see poop?” and I lost it. We were howling with laughter. My dad twitched and told us to “sut-up” from the other bed. This sent us into another fit of hysterics that surely had the neighbors asking for a full refund the next morning. We were a hot mess.
The good news is we all survived. My sister said yes, we had a great weekend, and yes, Mariah did poop (I know you were worried). I was definitely humbled by my toddler being that kid on the plane, in the airport, in the hotel, etc, etc., but I guess I had it coming for my pre-mom self giving judgey-eyes to other people. Now that I am so very aware of how little of a parenting expert I actually am, there is so much less pressure to be perfect and so much more grace for the eternity of mom fails I commit daily (sigh of relief).
To all the moms out there who just said, “Amen”: don’t beat yourself up. You are doing enough. Sometimes you’ve done all you can do and your kid will still go buck wild in an airport here and there. And to those who aren’t parent yet, take this as a reminder to have compassion in those moments.