The Time I was THAT Mom

I’m not going to lie, I’m THAT mom more than I’m comfortable with.  I’m THAT mom whose kids melted down at the dinner table after a full day of sightseeing while other children sat beautifully and quietly in starched dress clothes and said things like, “Please, Mother, might I have a bit of cheese?”  At least, that’s what it seems like the other kids are doing when I’m THAT mom at the restaurant.

I’m also THAT mom when my son chooses to run-off to the bathroom without telling anyone while we are checking our luggage at the airport and in a time crunch due to unexpected traffic.  You know the one, THAT mom who loses her mind and marches her child, goose-stepping toward the immigration officers who look like they are caught between fear of bringing the matter up and causing an explosive incident and wondering if the flight will be safe with that much frustrated anger  in one economy seat.

This time, though – this time I was the mother who should have been featured on Passenger Shaming. Specifically, this mother,  although not really that mother, just one with the same sort of detritus left by my offspring.

It happens.

It was absolutely humiliating.

My kids are world travelers – they’ve been to more countries than there are teeth in their heads.  They’ve flown on so many airlines and been to so many airports that they have a game they play where they attempt to identify airlines by the stylized imprint on the aircraft tail.

AIR ZIMBABWE!  First! I win!
AIR ZIMBABWE! First! I win!

My kids KNOW, they know better than they know their own names, not to be problem passengers.  They know not to backtalk the flight attendants, to say please and thank you, and to always ask the person behind them if it is okay to recline before doing so on a long-haul flight.  And ONLY after meal service.

And yet my son left behind an array of Kit Kat bites that were not only spilled everywhere, but had been stepped on and ground into the floor as well.


As we were sitting two by two, I was behind Mr. Dirty and the Surly Teenager with the Evil Blond Child.  It wasn’t until we got ready to leave that I saw the horrifying carnage on the floor.

I apologized profusely to the flight attendant, and I offered to clean it up myself.  “No,” she told me, “It’s not my job.  No worries, just go ahead and get your luggage.”

I’m sure she just wanted to get rid of me and my filthy spawn.  I know it. I wanted to run and hide.  And I checked the Passenger Shaming page for an entire week, expecting to see my son’s post-Lenten candy binge featured prominently. I dodged a bullet this time – no one sent it in.

The next day my son was galavanting around Atlantis the Palm in Dubai for all the world as though he hadn’t nearly caused a revolting international incident.

I like to think the pool waves were karmically smacking Mr. Dirty in the face for his atrocious airplane behavior.

It has been eleven days since that incident and I still blush red when I think about it.  My child was the pig on the flight.

Dear Emirates Airlines Cleaners:  I apologize with my entire being and I wish I could slip you thirty dirhams each for your trouble.  I apologize for any gagging you suffered and how many times you wanted to just set the plan on fire so you didn’t have to clean up the ground-in Kit Kat babies.

But our vacation went on.  Fabulously, in truth.  Even through the haze of my parental guilt.

Like, gorgeous Arabian desert fantastic.
Like, gorgeous Arabian desert fantastic.
...and "Here's me holding a hunting falcon!" fabulous.
…and “Here’s me holding a hunting falcon!” fabulous.

And then, on the flight back home, we were seated in the same cabin as two mothers with very, very fussy babies.  I can’t tell you how much I wanted to tell them – and one of them was fairly close to tears herself as she tried to get her baby to calm down so people wouldn’t keep tutting at her.

I wish I had been close enough to her seat to let her know that we’ve ALL been there – even those of us with older children.  Because kids… Well, they’re kids.

Most of us are trying our best to keep our kids well-behaved and quiet.  I know I’m not the only one who nearly melted down when faced with the tsunami debris of a traveling child – and my son was made to understand in no uncertain terms that such a thing would NEVER, EVER, FOREVER NEVER be happening again in his life.  On the return flight he even picked up the few bits of rice that dropped from his tray table during meal service.

But it happens.  And it even happens to adults sometimes, and sometimes the very adults who were tut-tutting the cranky baby on their last flight.

And next time your normally well-behaved child snaps on an airplane with no warning and you are doing your very best to calm them down and not have fellow passengers throw your entire family out an emergency door – remember you’re not alone.  We’ve all been THAT mom.