Toddlers & Tantrums: Parents collectively sigh

“Because we all just can’t take off our clothes whenever we feel like it, that’s why,” I explained, half amused and half dumbfounded that I would ever utter such a sentence.

Ever catch yourself saying something you swore you’d never hear yourself say, only to actually do it within earshot of pretty much everyone within a mile radius? If you’re the parent of a toddler, you most definitely have.

“You have to be gentle with the baby, sweetheart – ears aren’t supposed to detach from our heads.”

“Let’s say ‘bye-bye’ to the poo-poo! Ready? ‘Bye-bye, poo poo!’”

Ava is a toddler, a very precocious one at that. She is forever testing the boundaries of her charms, her ability to get what she wants from people, which is pretty much everything. And as all parents know, toddlers have a tendency to march to the beat of their own drums, listen only when they feel like it, and see every object that gets their attentions as theirs and only theirs so help me God I’ll scream and embarrass the living crap out of you, dad.

In other words, it’s not just “mine.” It’s mmmiiiiiinnnneeee!!

So I watched with great interest the other day on the Today Show, as Matt Lauer tried to conduct an interview with the family that was recently kicked off a Jet Blue flight after their daughter allegedly threw the mother of all tantrums. Lauer explained to the couple that a whopping 71% of Today Show viewers sided with the airline.

The couple, who look to be every bit the Tommy Hilfiger ad, had my sympathies from the start. I mean, you have to be a suspected terrorist, pissed drunk or, at the very least, Alec Baldwin to get kicked off of an airplane these days.

So there was the mother, trying to desperately answer Lauer’s questions with all the composure she could muster. There was the husband, taking on the usual husband role, which was to just sit there and not really say much of anything.

Then there were the kids. For them, they saw the lights, they saw the cameras – it was freaking go time. First came the squirming. The little girl was mesmerized by what I would assume was her own image in the in-studio monitors. What kid wouldn’t be amused by that? This was immediately followed by the little girl pushing her father’s face away with his every attempt at getting her to behave.

The father might not have said much, but the pained look on his face spoke volumes, the poor bastard. I could see in every forehead wrinkle and every neck vein what he desperately wanted to say through his fake smile gritted teeth: “Please for the love of everything holy, settle the hell down!

Even the mother, in the midst of describing her family’s woe, needed to jump in with a “not now, sweetheart,” the way all mothers do when on the phone and their kid starts interrupting. Every attempt the parents made to get their daughter to settle down only escalated the situation. The very daughter that got them kicked off the plane was about to get them kicked off of the Today Show!

I wanted to laugh but I couldn’t. Instead I was transported back to the previous Sunday night at dinner, when Ava began running laps around nearby tables and nearly knocking over waiters balancing food trays in the process. Every effort to have her sit still was futile. I could almost hear the snide remarks from fellow patrons. They’re the voices inside a parent’s head in times like these.

Don’t they know how to control their kids? For Christ’s sake will someone not spank that child? That’s why the Chinese only have two children.

Its times like these I feel sorry for my parents; they had five boys to deal with. More often than not, as in my case, parents just have to deal with those embarrassing moments our kids can put us through.

I just hope I’m not the one getting grilled by Matt Lauer one day.

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