Recently I went on a 10-day trip with my little boy. Before we left I made sure I was prepared. I packed food, drinks, and new toys. I had a daily schedule of activities to keep my toddler occupied. I had even borrowed a portable DVD player for the plane if all else failed.
I was a bit uneasy as we headed off, but I had no reason to be – I couldn’t have asked for a more well-behaved two-year-old! On the first plane ride one woman even went out of her way to tell me what a “perfectly behaved little boy” I had.
Throughout the week (and several different locations) he went to bed each night without a fight, laying down on his makeshift bed on the floor and going right to sleep. I even managed to get him to nap 9 out of the 10 days we were gone.
I crossed my fingers as we drove to the airport for our flight back home. After ten days of holding himself together beautifully, was it too much to ask that he last another 5 hours?
Construction delays got us to the airport much later than I had planned. Knowing we would have to move pretty quickly to catch our plane I told Conlan that he was going to have to carry his own backpack, walk quickly, and stay with me. Translation: I cannot carry you or chase you all over the airport. I gathered up our suitcase, my purse, and giant carseat. Conlan followed exactly as I had instructed. “Mommy, I’m coming! Mommy, I follow you! Mommy, I carry my backpack! Mommy, I go fast!”
With a sigh of relief we eventually settled ourselves into our seats in the very last row on the plan (along with all the other small children), right next to a man with his 18-month-old daughter.
The plane pulled away from the gate. The plane taxied. The plane took off. And my son curled up, put his head on my lap, and quietly fell asleep. So I pulled out a book and spent the plane ride leisurely reading.
While the man next to me tried desperately to calm his fussy, active, noisy little girl. And apologized profusely when his daughter dumped an entire cup of water in my lap.
I couldn’t help but imagine how that poor guy felt. While he struggled, here I was – relaxed as could be. I felt bad for him, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit I felt a little proud. It feels good to project an image. Especially the image that you’re a great parent with a perfect kid.
How quick we are to feel smug when things go well – and when other people can see things are going well for us. Apparently, I had forgotten that just a few months earlier, we were that family on the airplane home. Or that for our first couple of trips after Conlan was born, bedtime involved more tears and screaming than I care to remember. Or that up until this year he slept with Rusty & I whenever we went camping because any other option was too much of a battle. In fact, just a few moments earlier I was a much more frantic mother rushing through the airport with my luggage and toddler trying to catch my plane.
Oh, how quickly we forget!