I willingly chose to fly with my two kids (ages 14 months and two months shy of three) alone on a three hour flight to Florida. When I told people what I was doing, most gave me a severely concerned look and told me I was ... brave. Others just spoke truth and said, "You're insane."
Looking back now, I fully endorse those that told me I was insane.
You see, initially I thought the actual flight would be the hardest part. The kids were missing their afternoon naps, and so I assumed they'd be crabby and cranky and that my toughest job would be trying to get my one year old to nap on me - even for 15 minutes (which is the exact amount of time she ended up doing so).
But in fact, the most difficult thing was getting on and off the plane.
Yes, that short window of time when one is preparing to board or has just finished deplaning is what now makes me swear off flights with little people forever.
Our stroller is a somewhat complicated double stroller. It's this one, if you're really curious. Which normally is a BOMB stroller - a smooth ride, skinny for doorways and sidewalks, lots of space for the kids, and the parent console is amazing (If you're a mom, I know you're nodding along with me and appreciating these benefits. If you're not a mom, you are now probably wondering if I have any friends.)
And in preparation for the flight (Including an obviously desperate email to all my mom-friends asking for tips/advice/gear for the trip.) I borrowed a carrying case for the stroller from a friend to store it in when I gate checked it. My plan was to bring the kids through security and the terminals in the stroller (Simply because I do not have the required six arms that one would need to care for two children and all their necessities.) then package it up at the gate to check it. And in this process, the stroller had to be broken down - not just in a couple of pieces, but in SEVEN PIECES. SEVEN PEICES. THE WHEELS COME OFF, PEOPLE.
When I practiced this at home, I thought it wouldn't be a huge deal, that it would be worth a little extra work to have the stroller while going through security and to not get it damaged when being gate checked.
But I didn't practice it with my two crazy children running around, all my luggage nearby and a few hundred people watching.
When I got off the flight after landing in Florida, they brought out my stroller last, after everyone had deplaned. There were about three different gates converging where I was standing, about 200 people sitting down and milling about, waiting for their own flights.
I was in the middle of the room with a toddler shouting, "Is this Florida? Where's Papa? I need snacks! My legs hurt. My toes are eating me! Colette is running away! Colette is drooling! Momma! Is this Florida?"
And my one year old was in fact running, er, crawling away as fast as she could accompanied by a high-pitched laugh of freedom.
When I got my stroller, I didn't even know what to do. I felt like I was on a stage with two maniacal, destructive side-kicks who's only job was to push me off the edge, brining the curtain, lights - the entire set - down in flames with me.
So I did the next thing.
When I stood up and looked around, every eye in the room was on me.
Seriously. In my focus to set up the stroller, I hadn't even noticed how silent it had become in there besides my kid's announcements of their own needs.
I stood there, just looking around for a bit ...
And then I said to the entire terminal, "Sheesh, I feel like I need to bow or something."
And right there on the spot, I curtsied. And the room halfheartedly, applauded.
Then I loaded my whining toddler in the front seat of the stroller, my crap in the back seat, and carried my screaming, angry-to-be-held-again, daughter under one arm while pushing the stroller as fast as I could with the other.
I tell you this story, not because it's particularly good, or special. There was no random act of kindness from a stranger (although I experienced many throughout the two flights), no heroic move on my part, no sweet words with a deeper meaning from my toddler, or magical moment with an obvious mom-lesson. I don't even share this with you to scare you off from flying with two kids two and under (Although you should be - kidding. No seriously. Don't do it.), I share this because this is normal life. This was a real moment where I felt incredibly alone, humiliated, inadequate, embarrassed, and just plain wanted to melt into the floor instead of be where I was at.
But instead, I had to press on. I had no choice but to keep moving, keep setting up that stroller, answering questions, bringing my one year old back to safety. I had to keep moving forward even though everything in me wanted to give up.
And isn't this a lot of mom life? Sure, my inadequacy was highlighted by a particularly unfortunate situation (and a large crowd). But aren't we all pretty inadequate? Insufficient for the job? Aren't there so many moments every day where you don't know what the heck to do, and you just want to give up?
But I'm here to remind you, we moms are pretty resilient.
Motherhood is not glamorous. It's not fancy, or beautiful. Sure, there are some moments that are really moving and touching - but normally, motherhood is pretty mundane. It's setting up the stroller when you'd rather be anywhere else. It's chasing down your kids in the airport terminal over and over again, making the work you're doing take twice the amount of time. It's stares, judgements, going at it alone while people just gawk. It's not feeling understood or heard. It's wanting to explain yourself but not having the time or voice to do so.
Motherhood may allow us to bring life into the world, but we still have to figure out what our own life stands for. Because motherhood hits like a hurricane and unless you figure out who you are and know deep in your core that you're not defined by others, it'll drop you to your knees.
And among many, many other things, motherhood is about finding our own resilience, realizing our own ability to bounce back from difficult, embarrassing, awful situations. It's about figuring out who you are, what you stand for and believing for the first time that you don't owe anyone anything when it comes to your motherhood.
You'll mess up. You'll be embarrassed. You'll falter and question.
But you are resilient. You are durable. You are strong. And you are not defined by other's perceptions of you or the pressures they put on you. It's stubborn motherhood at its finest. Where we keep moving forward all the time, even when life does everything it can to beat us back. When you're lost, remember who you are and what you stand for, then just do the next thing.
Find your resilience.