Throughout my years I have developed a love for people watching – wondering who people are, where they’re going, what their story is. So it’s no surprise that the other evening I took notice of you in the airport. You were on my flight going back to Chicago from Orlando. You had three children – one, a teenaged girl who was wearing a dance team jacket, who I assumed is the reason you took the trip for (for a dance competition going on that weekend), and two toddlers – aged around 3 and 4. You were also extremely pregnant with your fourth. I couldn’t help but think “my gosh, you are a super woman” for taking on a vacation with three kids so far along in your pregnancy.
Our wait in the Orlando airport was a long one. A spring snowstorm in Chicago had completely messed up the flight schedule for the day. Our 6:45 PM flight became 9:30, then 10:00, then 10:30, and finally 11:00 PM. I was traveling alone, but I could only imagine what a long wait that would be in an airport with such young children. I, for one, know my children probably wouldn’t have been as patient and as well behaved as yours were. I watched your teenaged daughter chase your toddlers around the terminal, trying to let them blow off some energy before they had to sit on the plane for three hours. I smiled every time she scooped them up and your young daughter let out an excited squeal. I pretended not to notice the strangers giving them eye rolls and muttering under their breath – probably something to the extent of you not minding your children. I’m on the other side though – I get it. I put myself in your place and knew that would have been me if I had been traveling with my daughters.
When we finally were going to board our flight, it had been a long wait. Even I, who was in a pretty chipper mood, was growing pretty weary. I was getting tired and impatient, and I just wanted to get home. When the airline worker finally started to board our flight, everyone erupted in cheers. He started with anyone with medical concerns, elite members, and finally anyone traveling with strollers and young children.
The rest of us were waiting to board when you walked past the rest of us with your gang and your stroller. I am really hoping you didn’t hear the woman next to me say aloud that your daughter was “too big to even consider needing a stroller”. However, if you did hear her say that, I am truly hoping that you heard me telling her that the airport is a really big place for such little legs, and that I am sure it would be extremely difficult for you to carry her right now with how pregnant you were – not to mention all of the stuff it takes to travel with young children. There was no way you could handle it all without a stroller. She was not too pleased with my response and made sure to move away from me as quickly as she possibly could.
As we boarded the plane, we moved past you as you were attempting to close up your stroller and get all of your things together so you could join your older daughter and two younger ones on the plane. Thank goodness you had her with you – I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been without her. There were some people huffing and puffing as they tried to walk around you, and I hoped you would look up so instead of annoyance you could get a smile from me.
When we finally took off, it was after 11 PM – much later than any toddler’s bedtime. For most of the flight, one of your children cried. I felt so sorry for you. I know that toddlers are people too – people who have emotions, get tired, have cranky moments, and have difficulty controlling their reactions like (most) adults can. Listening to your baby coughing because she was crying so hard, and then hearing your soothing voice and your quiet “shhhh’s” to calm her down made me want to give you a hug. I am sure that even though you weren’t showing it, you were exhausted too, and getting a little shut eye on the plane was exactly what you needed – although it wasn’t happening. Landing around 1:00 AM Chicago time, I watched you as you held your composure to gather your things and try to get off the plane. I was talking to the man next to me about what time we had to get up for work the next morning, and we got to talking about how I was a teacher. His response? “So I guess you’re used to all that horrible screaming and crying that was going on back there, huh?” I told him that while my students were a little older, I had small children at home so it didn’t bother me one bit. In fact, I felt horrible for the mother because I was sure she was exhausted as well as paranoid that other people were judging her parenting abilities on factors she had no control over.
You were a super mom that night.
You were loving and kind.
You held your head high.
You smiled through the undesirable circumstances.
In case you were wondering, I saw you.