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  • Emily Echols

Natalie with the iPad


We walked to our gate. I wore Little Brother in a carrier on my chest and a backpack on my back. Big Brother had a backpack and I wheeled a wagon full of car seats. A couple older women caught my eye and gave me this look that just said, “Oh, honey.” I almost started crying right then. It was just too much.


Little Brother sat in his car seat on our first flight. An older woman sat in front of him and before we even took off she turned around and addressed him, “Young man, you can not kick my seat.” I apologized. To my knowledge, he had not been kicking her seat.


Halfway through the flight she turned back around and said, “Young man, I am a mean old lady and you don’t want to know what I’m going to do to you. Stop kicking my seat. You’re hurting my back.” I apologized profusely. The seat was half an inch from the end of his foot. He had been resting his feet on the seat but when he pushed or kicked I stopped him. For the last two hours of the flight, I held his feet while he screamed.


The first day we tried to fly home our plane had been struck by lightning coming in. When that happens they have to send out an engineer to check the plane. I was wearing Little Brother as we stood in line to re-book our connecting flights. He was screaming and throwing himself backward because he wanted to bolt. A woman came over to me and asked if we could use some snacks. They’d pulled out the “Please don’t be mad at us” snack cart. I said we were okay but then she brought us snacks anyway because she knew I was lying.


Later, as we watched our flight time get later and later she brought over an iPad. She said her kids weren’t playing with it and offered to let them play games on it. I hadn’t been letting the boys watch movies because I was convinced Little Brother would destroy the laptop or the DVD player if he was allowed to touch it. They happily played games with our new friend, Natalie. Another woman joined our little group, entertaining my kids. They sat with the boys while I stood in line over and over to change our flights. After it became clear that we would be stuck in Atlanta for the night, I finally decided to go back to my in-laws’ for the night and try again the next day. When I thanked them for all their help I started crying.


This is so similar to what I wrote a few years ago after flying alone with Big Brother but it bears repeating. If you ever get the chance, be Natalie with the iPad instead of screaming lady threatening my not-quite-two-year-old. Be the TSA agent who gave my kids TSA badge stickers instead of the agent who (two days in a row) corrected me for doing exactly what the other TSA agents told me.


I have a running list of all the things I want to do to help mothers with younger kids when my kids are older. I want to tell the woman flying alone with little kids that I can tell she’s a great mom. I want to carry car seats on and off planes. I want to help the kid sitting across the aisle from his mom get his backpack out from under the seat and put it back away. I’ll even listen while he tells me about his My Little Pony comic book in incredible detail. I want to come up to the whiny kids and show them pictures of my puppy on my phone. I want to tell a mom that it’s Cow Day at Chick-fil-A and if she wears this cow sticker she can get a free sandwich.


But mostly I want to be Natalie with the iPad.

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