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I’m traveling with my family this week. It’s our second trip to Disney with my son and I’m learning so much. In the “before times,” we would have set schedules and itineraries taking us off the beaten track, but now that we’ve got our toddler on board, things are so different.

The airport alone is a mine field of potential disaster. We’ve had good success so far with short flights during the middle of the day, but even then we’ve had our meltdowns. In those moments, when you have no other option than to push forward, trying to remain calm and very aware that every eye is on you, tsking in silent judgement.

Once, on a flight back home, my son had a meltdown on the plane and almost everyone around us pitched in, offering toys and snacks and consolations to the unhappy child. He, of course, wanted none of it, but the unsolicited support from strangers, both adults and children alike, gave me hope for humanity. It helped me remain calm when situations like this arose and strangers weren’t so forthcoming with their kindness. It also helped me from questioning myself, which small children can simply sense and fight that much harder.

Knowing that the tantrum will pass is vital. In the moment, it feels like an unending purgatory. There’s something to be said for the challenge that travel brings as well. There were moments when I really didn’t expect to do an activity with my son, like taking a stroller through an amusement park. Normally my son insists on driving the stroller so the stress we’d save by not having one is mitigated by not having to scream at him every two seconds for ramming it into strangers. But after the first day of carrying a sleeping 40 lb toddler, it no longer became an option. It took a bit of negotiation, and yes, he did ram into some stuff (inanimate objects mostly) but when I needed him to ride, he did, and we got to see so much more than we could have otherwise. 

Experiences like this validate my parenting style, and give me opportunities to judge others silently. But I cut most people a fair amount of slack too, knowing its not as easy as it looks.