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How to Make a Mom Cry

Patty Onderko

Last week, I flew from New York City to Denver to visit my family. I was traveling solo with my twin boys who had just turned 3 the day before. We showed up at the airport at 7am for an 8:45 flight. All was looking well until about 8:50 when, after I had just comfortably set the boys up with their mini DVD players and lollipops, we had to disembark due to a tire problem. About 15 minutes later, we got back on. Oh, wait a minute folks, get back off again. After an hour waiting at the gate, we were told it would be just another hour. But that hour turned into two, then four, then six, then TWELVE. Yes, 12 hours at LaGuardia airport (which, if you’re familiar with NYC airports, you know is like a Colombian jail with an Au Bon Pain). And no, my boys didn’t sleep a wink all day. What did they do? They screamed, they cried, they hit each other, they mopped the disgusting airport floors with their curly hair, and in a serious moment of weakness on my part, they developed a gum-chewing habit. We didn’t take off until 8:00 that evening.

Through it all, though, I remained pretty calm. I was proud of myself for not shedding a single tear, especially since I’m usually a shameless weeper.

Naturally, I was dreading the trip back home after our week in Denver. And with good reason: We were delayed another seven hours, at which point we were told only two of us could get on the flight because it was oversold. They presented this option to me with a straight face. (And in a moment of delirium, I actually pondered which child I would choose to take with me.) I would have to come back tomorrow, they said, but in order to get booked on the next day’s flight and receive flight vouchers, I needed to go to the customer service counter. The line there would be short, the gate agent assured me.

Never trust a gate agent. The line, of course, was serpentine. Half an hour into it, one of my guys told me he had to pee. I couldn’t give up my space in line after all this time, so I whipped out a diaper and begged him to use it. But once I got his pants down, he began to throw one of his mega-tantrums where he screams at the top of his lungs, writhes on the floor, and kicks me in the stomach when I attempt to soothe him. The he got up, sans pants or underwear, and ran away from me. My other son thought he was racing, so he ran with him. Each time I tried to scoop one of them up, they smacked me in the face. It was, in short, a scene. Everyone in the line was staring at us and passersby were rubbernecking to get a glimpse of the out-of-control family. I knew what they were all thinking: I was the worst mother ever. But still, I did not cry.

Finally, a woman looked at me and said, in one of the most painfully sincere tones I’ve ever heard, “You are a great mom. You’re doing an amazing job. You’re so patient and kind.” And that, friends, is when I lost it.

So how do you make a mom cry? You tell her she’s doing a good job. Go figure.