My recent posts on flying with children resurrected a fleet of memories for me. One incident in particular has floated up through the years- an experience that makes me cringe and smile simultaneously.
We were living in Chicago and Paul had flown to Sydney for work. I was to follow two weeks later with our kids, aged two, four and six. A dear friend kindly decided to time her own trip to Sydney with mine, and planned to meet me in L.A. and accompany me from there. On the flight between Chicago and California, I was on my own.
I wasn’t worried: I had made the trip numerous times, the kids were seasoned travelers and I felt relatively organized. Even when we arrived at the airport to find our flight delayed two hours, I felt confident that we could quickly adjust to the new schedule.
I first took my three to Kids on the Fly, an interactive play area near Terminal 2 run by the Chicago Children’s Museum. They loved it and played for nearly an hour before we strolled over to the food court for some dinner.
I had just paid for two trays of food when our sweet two-year old mutated into some strange, demon child. She began shrieking hysterically, flung herself from the stroller and attempted to push anything (stroller, car seat, any of our carry-on luggage) back the direction we came.
Beside me, her older brothers stood wide-eyed and petrified, the oldest tugging my hand and whispering, “Mom! Everyone is looking at us!”
I remember staring at her, then looking at her brothers, our pile of carry-on luggage, our food and the packed food court and thinking: I have absolutely NO IDEA what to do next.
Suddenly, an amazing and beautiful thing happened: strangers rose up from the crowd to help.
One woman dashed over to tell me she was holding a table until we got there: from across the food court I could see another woman waving and smiling. Another two women grabbed our food and carried it to the table. An elderly gentleman transferred our drinks and proceeded to set them up in front of each seat, complete with straws. Two burly men gathered our luggage and made their way across the food court, leaving me to scoop up my daughter and follow them, my boys in tow. Finally, as we gathered at the table, a woman sat down with us, introduced herself as a pediatrician from Alaska and talked to me about how two-year olds don’t always know how to communicate their fears and frustrations. (Which I do know after three kids. But still– REALLY nice of her to talk to me).
I have to admit, I welled up a bit. I wasn’t overwhelmed by our daughter’s hysterics (I mean, that’s what two-year olds DO, though her timing was less than ideal…). I was just so touched by the kindness and goodness of strangers. And I found that happened throughout my trip whenever I was by myself with the kids. Whenever I needed anything, a stranger would magically appear and offer to help me.
On a final note, we were later boarding our plane when a woman gestured toward my daughter giggling at strangers and asked, “That wouldn’t be the same child I saw at the food court?”
“Oh, no,” I replied, “That is most definitely not her.”
“Hhhmmmm…” was her answer. “It’s amazing what a few french fries can do…”