My three-year-old middle daughter lay prone on the floor of Sao Miguel airport, her feet thrashing the air in the throes of an epic meltdown. I braced myself to avoid the impact from her Minnie Mouse tennis shoes, violently lighting up with each kick. She still wore her sheer-sleeved Cinderella pajamas and hand-me-down-thin pink cotton socks she had carefully selected for our red-eye flight from Washington, D.C. to the Azores off the coast of Portugal. Her matted hair mixed with the grime of the floor where hundreds, if not thousands, of people walked each day in filthy shoes from around the globe.
I had no sustenance to appease her, no pacifier to calm her. At that moment, her salve lay buried deep in a bag on the other side of the x-ray machine amid the diapers, toys, and snacks. I couldn’t even offer her my arms since they held her angelically sleeping baby brother. She had made it so many hours but had been broken by my placing her suitcase on the scanner. Apparently, she wanted to do it herself. Her face shone red with frustration as she screamed and cried, a huge production lacking any true tears. Walking through that final metal detector on her own two feet to that short flight was her final step.
This wasn’t our first challenge of the trip, and I was pretty certain it wouldn’t be our last. Our oldest had thrown up on the airplane. After discovering my fourth pregnancy just three days earlier on my son’s first birthday, those tingles of excitement I felt in my belly were beginning to morph into nausea. What would be next? I wondered. What had we forgotten?
“Can you imagine if we had another?” my husband joked to my unknowing, but horrified, parents who had joined us.
We were traveling the world, one tantrum at a time.