I’ve been at the airport since 5:30 am this morning — which means I’ve been up since 3:30 am. I am exhausted. My patience is starting to wear thin and I have no idea if I am actually going to make it home tonight.

I ventured out to Texas this weekend to visit my ailing grandfather. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much more time he has earthside and it was important for me to spend some time with him — without the chaos of having all of my monkeys around. So, I decided last minute to take a trip to see him but knew I would need to get back early enough to tuck my babies in and kiss them good night. Mother Nature had a different agenda.

You can imagine how I (and thousands of other adults) feel after spending an entire day in the airport with no control of the outcome. Now, imagine how an infant, or toddler or even young child would feel. There are only so many places to run, things to eat, tv shows to watch or games to play when time seems to be dragging on. Things get hairy real fast.

flying with kids

For the last hour, I’ve been sitting at the gate waiting for updates and people watching. Of the hundreds of people frantically walking by or talking on their phones to figure out alternate plans, one momma sticks out to me. She has a little boy strapped to her in a carrier. This little guy wants to move. And eat. And probably needs to sleep. He’s content for a few minutes, then starts to cry. The momma tries everything in her power to calm him down. He finally settles and then the whole cycle starts over. While all of this is going on I also pay attention to the passengers around us. Some get up and leave. Some roll their eyes. And others just stare at her with laser beams and “why can’t you get that baby to stop crying” looks.

The little boy starts to cry again. And — I’m sure out of pure exhaustion — so does the momma. She removes her glasses. Fumbles to take the little boy out of the carrier and lets the tears flow. I’m only a few seats down from her and can feel her exhaustion, and frustration and all the emotions that come with spending an entire day in the airport. I think to myself, “This could be me.”

Without a second thought, I put my computer down, move to the seat next to her and whisper, “You got this.” She looks up with a surprise and whispers back, “No I don’t.” Again, this time a little louder, I say, “You got this.” I ask her if it would be okay for me to hold the little boy so she can get the carrier unbuckled and take a deep breath. I was either her saving grace or completely delusional in her eyes. Either way, she trustingly let me take the little boy from her arms and entertain him for a few minutes. I talked to him, made funny faces and told him about my baby girl and bigger siblings. He wasn’t entirely excited about being held by a stranger, but he was still next to his momma and I was being silly so he didn’t seem to mind it too much.

Once the momma caught her breath and calmed down, we started talking about our babes. Her son is 11 months old. Turns out, he was born eight days after my baby girl. We chatted for a few minutes about how we are experiencing the same types of developmental milestones right now and how hard traveling is for little kids — oftentimes more for them than adults. I told her about the first time I flew with my baby girl and how she cried for an hour straight on the airplane. It. Was. So. Stressful. And there were many times I wanted to also cry.

Minutes later her older boy (only 4!) wandered over, along with her husband. He was busy entertaining the 4-year-old and looked just as exhausted as the momma. They needed a change of scenery and decided to go walk and eat dinner. We said our goodbyes and they sauntered away — the momma still exhausted but standing a little taller.

I don’t know why I felt the need to say anything to this particular momma. I do know that it was what she needed at that moment. Maybe her husband could have said it to her. But, I’m sure he probably already had several times. I don’t know how it made her feel, but like to think it gave her just enough energy to get through the rest of the day.

Parenting is hard. Even harder in stressful situations. So, instead of shooting laser beams at a momma trying to keep her baby calm at a crowded airport gate let her know you see her. And, “You got this.”