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To the Person at the Airport Who May Think My Child Is Poorly Behaved

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To the person who glared at me at the airport,

I was a fantastic parent at one point…before I had children of my own. My children were respectful and listened to my instructions. They were agreeable, fantastic at self-entertainment and never talked back to me. I had it figured out, and let me tell you, I was awesome.

Then I had children of my own. It’s funny how actually having children and being in the moment makes you realize what wonderful parents most of us really are. Kids are hard work. If I wasn’t working my butt off, I’m pretty sure I would have lost one while scrubbing the permanent marker off the other.

While you were in the line waiting to board your flight, I caught your cold stare and felt your disapproval. Was that your hope when you shook your head back and forth after meeting my gaze? You could say I was ripe for reception since I was already at that oh-crap-mom-moment of fearing what others were thinking and feeling crushed by the weight of overseas travel, excessive luggage and playing referee to two kids. 

I have a few questions for you. When you see me trying to stop my child from weaving in and out of the line, what do you see? When you look at him lying on the floor and rolling around, what do you think? When you hear the desperation in my voice as I plead with my kids to stop using each other as punching bags, what are you thinking?

You might be thinking this child is naughty and in need of some discipline. I understand how you can think that. It’s the lens of our culture today. I believe we assess and judge as swiftly as our sound-bite driven culture has trained us to. We are masters of our thoughts, perceptions and opinions, and there is rarely room for difference.

Let me tell you what you don’t see. You don’t see a heartbroken mother bursting at the seams with fear for her child’s life. A mother desperate enough to brave a 14-hour flight back to her home country alone with her two children so her son can get the medical attention unavailable in their current country of residence.

While you might be worried if your flight will be disrupted by my children, I am terrified my son might have a medical emergency during the long flight home. While you are seeking out eye contact and perhaps trying to shame me, you fail to see a child whose brain fires seizures day and night, a child who must take medication to prevent those seizures.

Part of me resents that I am even taking such a defensive posture. But then there’s the mom part of me that wants you to understand what it might be like to walk in another’s shoes. The mom part of me that wants to change things for my child so he and others like him can live in a more reasonable world. And that’s the part of me that wins out in this moment.

My kid, not unlike many others, has some hurdles and challenges in this life. And if I can get others to think outside of the box of how life “should” look or how children “should” behave, and prevent anyone from pushing a stare of disapproval into another child’s psyche, then that is a great accomplishment.

Follow this journey on Jennifer’s website.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were traveling that was either challenging or where you faced adversity. Tell us how you handled it or wish you had handled it. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 18, 2016
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