I saw you in the airport today. Your son, maybe four years old, was upset because you asked him to put his device away as you boarded the plane. He fell quickly to the ground in the boarding area. I saw your eyes do a quick scan of the space filled with travelers and bags. Your eyes narrowed quickly to focus on your fist pounding son, to connect with him as you held your baby in an Ergo and touched the shoulder of your third son standing close to you. Your oldest son knew what was coming from his brother. He has heard the screams and witnessed the raw emotion of his brother but never like this, never in public.
Your son rolled his body over the ground. He kicked his feet. He pounded his fists. He yelled: “I hate you. You are the worst mom ever. You have to get me a treat.” All the things that would have quickly brought you to judge before you had children, before you understood your son's needs and the myriad of other challenges of being a parent.
Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws. ~ Barbara Kingsolver
That is when you heard a stranger thank his son – just loud enough for you (and me) to hear – for being a “great traveler” and “not needing any devices”. I saw your face. Your cheeks and your mouth sank a bit. Tears filled your eyes only slightly as if you caught the tears. You took a deep breath. You still focused on your son. You recognized that he was in more pain than you could possibly be in at that moment.
You know that if he could do well he would. If he could snap out of it, he would. You know that he is a kind, loving, compassionate child. You know that he won't remember this incident once his body calms down.
But he can't calm down, at least in that moment, on demand. He is telling you again that you're stupid, that he hates you. I can see the words sting but you don't let the sting burn through to your insides.
With your baby in the Ergo around your body, you sat down next to your son. You took his hand. You grasp his eyes and looked deeply. You said, “I'm not angry at you. I want to help you. It is hard traveling. Waiting is hard. I can see how tough this moment is for you.”
He looks at you. He reaches out his hand to grab your hand. He collapses for a moment in your arms. He lets you kiss his head. He lets you caress his hair. Then you stand up and walk together ~ calmly ~ onto the plane.
I didn't see you after that moment but I heard your son begin wailing again. I heard you again stay calm, stay focused on him, and work until he could connect with you again, until he could meet you.
I saw the other passengers eyes roll, their signs, and their whispers. I know you witnessed those moments of strangers judging you and judging your son.
I don't know you. We are strangers on man levels but I am close to you. Please remember this much: You are strong. You handled the moment with such grace. You have no idea that these difficult moments – where you often feel your failure weighing you down, taking every ounce of energy and breath from you – are the ones that will shape your son in a positive, heathy way. These difficult moments that you embrace at opportunities to help guide your son are the moments that will make him the strong man he will ultimately become…
…hold onto that…
Have a great day, mamas,