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Family Ties: Airport Meltdown


You hear about kids that have meltdowns on planes and in airports and you feel for the parents, not ever really believing it will be you. And, then it is. My daughter is a trooper and a traveler, my son is a different story. After three trips without incident, we never could have anticipated what happened to us.

My charming darling who points out every airplane he sees in the sky pitched the mother of all fits as our family was about to go through airport security. At 20 months, he unleashed a guttural howl that could peel paint off walls and make a person's eyes bleed. With one hand on my umbrella stroller and the other wrapped around my flailing child, I flew across the airport looking for an elevator to take him outside where I figured he would fall asleep. But in fumbling for an exit, an airport employee approached my son and ordered him to be quiet. Giving us both the evil eye, she told me he was terrorizing travelers and that I was a lousy mother. A kind woman in her sixties came up behind her asking if I needed any help just as the elevator doors shut and my out-of-sorts son and I descended. A few moments later, she tracked us down, told me the airport staffer had been out of line and noticing my dwindling milk supply, offered to go buy my son a refill. The woman, a grandma, who had just dropped her granddaughter off for a flight, returned with milk, a muffin, and encouraging words for my son. In the process, he calmed down.

Not knowing if we'd missed our flight, she checked its boarding status. We went back upstairs as I braced myself and she told me we could stay with her if we were unable to fly. I gave her a huge hug and expressed my gratitude before filing in line behind a hundred people to go back through security. To hear what happened, read more.

We met my husband and daughter just in time to board the plane, and then we sat on the runway for thirty minutes, before being told that everyone was being deplaned as a storm had come in and there were dozens of planes stuck on the runway. After exiting, my husband and I discussed the possibility of driving home for thirteen hours through the storm as we didn't know how long our son would last at the airport. We stocked up on beverages and snacks and while he took my daughter and proceeded to the gate, I strolled my son down the people movers determined to put him to sleep. It worked and we re-boarded, only to sit on the runway for another 45 minutes. At the time we should have been back home unpacking, we finally took off. And, with an hour left of the flight our lil guy woke up.

I spent the next sixty minutes reading books like I have never read before — acting out the characters and flipping the pages back and forth to hold his interest. All the fluids caught up with him and I felt a bit of a leak on my leg, but stayed seated knowing that if I got up, it would be over. I have never been more exuberant or exhausted than when the plane touched down at SFO. As we taxied, having not made a peep during the flight, my wild child waved to the other landing planes. As we exited he high fived the pilot. Though we won't be flying again until next Summer, in addition to giving me a few gray hairs and wrinkles, the experience strengthened the bond between my son and me. As a mother, the piercing stares, shaking heads, and opinions of a stranger don't matter because the only person you are focused on and committed to is your child.
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