“I want to get off! I want to get off now! Now! Now! Now!”
This was the sound of a truly glorious meltdown by the 3-year-old behind me on a recent flight. As I listened, I decided to turn around and give the girl's mom a hey-no-worries look — after all, we've all been there — and watched as she sank lower and lower in her seat.
I tried to help the situation by distracting the little girl. I asked about the puppy hanging out of her backpack but was met with an incredibly fierce look instead. This child was at her wit’s end. I decided it was probably best to just turn around and go back to my headphones, in-flight movie and bottled water.
But I’ve felt a little guilty ever since.
Was there more I could have done? I know I could have offered more help to this mom.
As I've thought about this incident over the last few weeks, I'm struck with the realization that as parents — moms in particular — we need to get better at offering and receiving help from others. We should get comfortable saying to a nice stranger on the plane, “Can you help me get my bag from the overhead bin?” Or “Would you mind watching my cart while I take my kiddo to the bathroom really quick?”
Better yet, we need to be better about anticipating when someone needs support and offer to help: “I overheard you say you forgot the bread. Can I run and grab some for you?”
When I think back to this interaction on the plane, what I wanted more than anything wasn't for the child to stop wailing, but for the mom to know everything was OK. Flights are rough, and sometimes kids lose it. As an adult, I've been known to have a little anxiety on planes. I've cried a few tears and glared at a few passengers for taking more than their fair share of overhead space.
I get it.
And I also get that when all the planning, toys and tablet games in the world fail you and your kid loses it — whether on a plane, in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office or wherever — the world stops. I know it feels like everyone is judging you and your parenting.
It's the worst feeling ever.
But please know you're OK. It's OK.
To that mom on the plane — I see you. I have been there. Heck, most days I am you. Please know there's no judgement here.
Now, what can I do to help?
Jessica Janssen Wolford is a mom and stepmom raising three kiddos with her husband, Eric, in Elkhorn. You can read more about her experiences on her blog, "A Step in the Right Direction." You can also follow her on Twitter @jessljwolford.