Saturday, July 13, 2013

Traveling mercies: Lessons on the journey

Our family spends a lot of time traveling. It’s the nature of our work with the non-profit, Christian Friendship Ministries, that Ericlee directs, and The Haitian Bead Project, which I’ve been leading these past two years. We also love to travel for fun – exploring new places, embracing new cultures, sharing the world with our three daughters.

Of course, traveling with lots of bags and 3 wiggly (and oft-whiny) kids is not easy. Sometimes my patience wears thin. These are the moments I have to train myself to remember that life is about the journey, not the destination. 

My hubby and I choose to laugh when we feel like crying about the obstacles. I try to take a deep breath instead of barking orders at my kids when I’m overtired or they are not “behaving” the way I feel they should in public. I'm know im far from perfect at this art form of parenting. I have to force myself to open my eyes to the gifts and the lessons around me.

 I have to share one story from our last week of travel that gifted me some perspective.

We departed at the crack of dawn from Fresno early last Thursday morning. We just barely made our flight with our 8 bags plus 8 carry-ons and 3 crusty-eyed, bead-head bearing kids in tow. We sprinted. The baby fussed. We realized when we had already taken off from Fresno that my oldest had left her carry-on in her bedroom back home so there were tears.

When we landed in Dallas, a wave of relief spread over us as we headed for baggage claim to meet our cousin Margaret. We were eager to get to the hotel where we would spend the next four days with extended family from across the United States for a Big Fat Italian Family Reunion. After the reunion, we would fly on for 7 weeks in Haiti.

As we were exiting the gate area and moving into baggage claim, we had to go through one of those glass turn-style revolving doors. Ericlee went first carrying most of our things, leading Meilani and Zayla. Giada was following them a few steps behind and I brought up the rear with our stroller and several carry-ons. Giada entered the revolving door but I was having trouble fitting through with the stroller, all the bags and myself in the same glass compartment with her. It’s every mom’s nightmare, I suppose.  A well-meaning gentleman ran up and pressed the button on the door for wheelchair assistance. This caused the glass revolving door to speed up. The door snatched up my stroller. I heard the whirr-crunch as the stroller wheels caught in the door. 

The door stopped. Stuck. 

When I looked up I realized the door had also trapped Giada in her compartment so she could not get out. I saw the tears start to well in her eyes. I took a deep breath and waved at her through the glass. “It’s ok,” I coaxed. “You’re going to be ok. Just wait, sweetheart.”

Ericlee was on the opposite side of the door and also assured her she would be ok. We tried to push the door forward but it wouldn’t budge. The airport worker on the other stood their frozen. I knocked on the glass door and pointed to the phone she was sitting near to urge her to call someone to help.

We waited about five minutes and surprisingly Giada calmed down. A woman standing next to me encouraged me. “She’s watching you, Mom,” she said. “She’s not scared because you’re not scared.”
Soon after, a maintenance guy showed up with some tools to try to disable the door. It wasn’t working.

A businessman who was standing by jumped in. He helped dislodge the stroller and move the door forward with Ericlee’s help on the other side. All the while I knew I had to stay calm for my Giada. She was being so brave.

When we finally made it through the revolving door with all our bags and stroller, I was able to hug Giada. “I’m so proud of you!” I heard myself say. Then the airport worker commented, “She handled that a lot better than most adults would have.”

In that moment, I learned a powerful parenting lesson and a deeper spiritual lesson. 

So often when there’s an emergency situation I want to look at the danger for my child. I focus on what could happen or the worst case scenario. This situation taught me that my kids are often relying on me in that moment of crisis to anchor them. It doesn’t mean I should pretend there isn’t danger when it’s there but I do have to calm my own heart so I can help them.

How do I do that?

I know I have to keep my eyes focused on my Heavenly Father in those moments. He’s the one whispering to me, “It’s ok. You’re going to be ok. Just wait.”

I am challenged to search for His eyes like my Giada did mine. As long as her eyes did not see panic, she did not have to internalize it. I know I can always count on my Father to anchor me, to provide strength in my human weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Later we were able to laugh as a family about that crazy situation. Could anything else go wrong in one morning of travel? We were able to commend our Giada who is the most prone to “drama.” My husband and I were able to check our own spirits as we journey down this road as parents.

 I am grateful for another lesson on the journey.

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