I never thought, that some day, I would be that parent and others would feel the same way about my family. So it’s only fair that I offer an apology to everyone on flight AC4186.
If you were on that flight from Edmonton on Wednesday, January 17, you heard the loudest preschooler tantrum on record. I’m not talking about a momentary loss of control, but a full volume, kicking the seats, turning rigid, purple-faced screaming fit, peppered with gulps for air and shrieks of “GET ME OFF THIS PLANE!” It didn’t matter what seat you were in; you suffered too.
The reactions around me were mixed:
Career-people-who-hate kids: Eyes rolled up in annoyance, fidgeting with BlackBerries and wondering if a plane crash could be worse than this endless screeching.
Career-people-who-have-kids-at-home: Knowing smirks to each other, fleeting glares at me, and Mp3 players cranked up to block out the sound.
Parents-who-have-kids-onboard: Anxious glances at each other followed by preemptive threats to their own kids about what would happen if they ever did such a thing in public while thrusting hand-held electronic games at them.
Parents-who-have-babies-onboard: Visible relief that someone else has a child louder than their own, pitying nods to me, openly asking why he is so upset followed by visible disgust when they got their answer.
Flight attendants: Inwardly chanting, Ignore the problem and it doesn’t exist, ignore the problem and it doesn’t exist, ignore the problem…”
The worst part was dealing with the question. “Poor kid. Why is he so upset?” Because the explanation, “Oh we just told him we’re going to Disney World, but he’d rather go swimming at the YMCA”, does not exactly make people well up with sympathy. Instead, they look at your child as though spoilt brat would be too kind a label. I know I’m being judged as the obvious reason he became that way.
Here’s the truth about that morning. I am a fan of Disney. I had dreamed of some day taking my children to Disney World. I’d be the glowing mom, watching her munchkins hugging Mickey Mouse, waving to the passing parades, and flying with Dumbo. My three-year-old son, Jordan, dreamed of some day marrying Snow White. My four-year-old daughter, Jezzy, pretended she was Sleeping Beauty or Belle (actually, so did Jordan, but thats a different story).
The more hyped my kids became about Disney, the more I knew the surprise I was planning with my husband, Alex, would be incredible. We were all going to Disney World. They would remember it forever.
My mother was visiting from Australia for Christmas and would be joining us on the trip. Now get this: We’d simply tell the kids it was time to take granny to the airport for her return flight to Australia, and surprise them there!
My mother wasn’t so sure. “Why not give them a chance to anticipate the adventure? Alex concurred.
“Me, No way! This is going to be priceless!”
We did it, step by step, at the airport, “Oh let’s see if we can go through Customs with granny. Lets look at the plane shell be on! Lets see where granny is sitting.” Every step worked out exactly as I had envisioned. Until we were on the plane.
The drive to the airport had been uneventful. The kids were sad granny was leaving, but they were excited Dad was off work and wed have the whole day together. So what would we be doing after we dropped off granny?
“What would you like to do, Jordan?” I turned to my son.
“Can we go swimming at the YMCA?” he asked.
“If that’s what you really want to do, then sure well do that after
we’ve said goodbye to granny.”
That’s when the plan started to unravel. Alex and I figured that if Jordan was excited about going to the YMCA, imagine what his reaction would be to the news he was going to Disney World!
This was when I learned something very important about my son about many three-year-olds it turns out. They don’t necessarily handle surprises well. Jordan believed he was going to the YMCA a familiar place where he knew he’d be happy. So when I told him we were going to Disney, his mind said, Hey! They’re not taking me where I wanted to go! Where they promised I’d be going! followed by, This is huge, this is gargantuan, this is my biggest dream come true! OVERLOAD! OVERLOAD! Cue meltdown!
When Jordan couldn’t scream anymore, the sobbing began. Finally, he fell asleep. After he awoke, he chatted excitedly about where we were going and which characters he wanted to meet the most. At last, we were able to enjoy the flight (despite the continuing glares from some passengers).
The holiday was as magical as I’d imagined, so were already planning our next one. However, we’ve decided to give the children plenty of notice. Four years notice. Jordan says, The next time we go to Disney World, I will be seven years old, and Jezzy will be eight. Jezzy can tell you how many Christmases, Halloweens, Easters, and birthdays before we go. Anticipation! And no more surprises. PC