Kids have a way of presenting a completely inaccurate impression of you, as parents, and as a family.
Let me explain.
We've just returned from a family trip visiting friends in New Zealand. When you're a family of six, travelling anywhere is quite an ordeal – both for your sanity and your wallet. Thankfully, our latest trip was a budget holiday – flights were booked on accumulated frequent flyer points, our friends kindly lent us a car and we stayed at their house for half of the trip. It was perfect for us plebs.
Our flight choices were extremely limited if we all wanted to fly together so we opted for the "red-eye" that left Australia at 11pm and arrived at 4am local time. Yep. Crazy. But my husband and I talked ourselves around that madness. We successfully convinced each other that the kids were old enough to cope; we don't have babies anymore, our youngest is four. They'd all sleep on the plane anyway, right?
Save your snorting, there's more.
We knew we had the comfort of the airline lounge to hang in while we awaited the inevitable delays. My husband is a member thanks to his business travel and he was allowed to "grant" his wife and offspring a ticket to the heaven behind those secret doors.
t was to be the most luxurious part of our expedition. The kids thought it was Christmas, with all the free food and drinks. We were diligent to limit their alcohol intake, though. We're responsible like that.
The kids flitted here and there finding new sources of nourishment and entertainment, as though they were the offspring of cashed-up celebrities. We did our best to keep them calm and quiet around all those lethargic business people who looked drained and generally miserable about their existence.
We tried to coax the younger ones into a possible lie down before the flight left. Dream on, sunshine.
My four-year-old opted for a movie on the iPad. We put some headphones on her so she wouldn't disturb others and hoped the lull of the screen would lure her to sleep. Yes, I hear you. Sleep? No chance. She was high on white rice, mini cans of lemonade and lollies.
A staff member came to clear the debris of plates my daughter had gathered. Without so much as a glance from her screen, the four-year-old screamed "DON'T TAKE THAT!"
I blame the headphones for the volume – she had no idea just how loud she yelled, and I blame her techno-obsessed father for her addiction to screens, and therefore her inability to raise her head to assess the situation before she opened her mouth. I blame her four-year-old-ness for being the most embarrassing, un-PC child in that lounge. And I'll take the blame for whatever is left over.
The woman trying to do her job was horribly embarrassed and apologetic to Princess four-year-old. I was doubly embarrassed and apologetic to the poor woman being reprimanded by a child. Then my daughter looked up to see she has just bellowed at the woman, caught the horror on my face and started howling.
My defense to that unfortunate staff member was, "I'm so sorry. I think she thought you were one of her brothers trying to steal her food". You know, because we don't feed our kids. We make them fight for their food at home. Then we bring them out in public and have them scavenge around airport lounges for scraps.
So that comment wasn't aiding my cause.
The lady nodded, forced a tight smile and skulked away, plate-less.
That woman either thought we were desperate vultures who dined out on freebies, or world travellers who graced airport lounges over the globe. Perhaps she thought we had maids and "staff" of our own and that our children were accustomed to dictating to others. If there is some small glimmer of hope that the employee reads this article, please know we are not who you think we are.
The flight couldn't board quick enough - then, 50 per cent of our children slept, 100 per cent of the adults remained wide awake (and 50 per cent of those adults worried about the impression her child had left and whether she'd ruined that poor woman's day).
I figured the trip couldn't have started off any worse, so at least it was all up from there. The 10 days in between were full of typical family holiday delights – waking up too early, tantrums, car sickness and disagreements over who won mini golf (it was me, by the way). There were also some slivers of delight that made me realize despite the difficult and embarrassing moments, family holidays are really worth the effort.
Although part of me believes "nothing ventured, nothing gained", the other part of me knows "nothing ventured, no horribly awkward moments sustained".
We did learn from our experience, however. When we visited the airport lounge in the departing city we ensured the four-year-old had as much food as she could fit in her mouth, so there was no chance she could speak to (or yell at) anyone.
Have your children ever behaved in a way that is misrepresentative of you / your parenting / your family?