Mom Breaks Down During Toddler’s Airport Tantrum — and Gains an Instant Village

Traveling while pregnant is hard. Traveling with a tantruming toddler is even harder. But traveling while pregnant with a tantruming toddler? Well, that might just be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Such was the case for one pregnant mom, who was recently traveling alone with her toddler when he refused to board a flight from Los Angeles International Airport — and spiraled into an EPIC meltdown that involved kicking, screaming, laying on the ground, and running away.

The young mom, exhausted and completely overwhelmed, did what we’ve all done in similar situations: She stopped. She put her weary head in her hands. And she cried.

Hawaii resident Beth Bornstein Dunnington, who was traveling for her job leading writers’ workshops for women, was one of many passengers who witnessed the overwhelmed mom’s silent surrender on February 2. She detailed what happened next in a Facebook post that is truly the stuff of mom magic.

Dunnington tells Babble, “I’m the mother of two kids and my heart went out to her. (And my mom instincts kicked in.)” But she wasn’t the only one called to action.

Beth Dunnington
Image source: Beth Dunnington

Within moments, six or seven women — strangers to each other, but clearly intimate in the challenges of motherhood — gathered together to help calm the hysterical boy and his defeated mother in the most beautiful way.

” … we knelt down and formed a circle around them,” Dunnington writes. “I sang ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ to the little boy … one woman had an orange that she peeled, one woman had a little toy in her bag that she let the toddler play with, another woman gave the mom a bottle of water. Someone else helped the mom get the kid’s sippy cup out of her bag and give it to him.”

Are you tearing up yet? Because I am.

Beth Dunnington and kids
Image source: Beth Dunnington

These women, all from varied walks of life, were called to diffuse chaos and provide a calming distraction to a mother in desperate need of a village. And the best part? It worked.

“It was so gorgeous, there was no discussion and no one knew anyone else,” Dunnington shares, “but we were able to calm them both down, and she got her child on the plane.”

But if you think these incredible ladies patted themselves on the back for a job well done, you’d be wrong. According to Dunnington, they simply did what needed doing for their fellow mom in distress. “There was nothing heroic about it,” she shares. “It was just women in an airport helping a young mom in distress. It was instinct.”

Thanks to this mom’s instant village, she and her son were able to board their flight.

“She … [thanked us] profusely, as she headed towards the door to board the plane,” says Dunnington. “She was so grateful, very emotional at what just transpired, and clearly relieved to get him on the plane and to wherever they were going.”

Beth Dunnington
Image source: Beth Dunnington

But this story’s happy ending was about so much more than boarding a plane. It was about compassionate action.

“After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn’t talk about it… we were strangers, gathering to solve something,” Dunnington writes. “It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world.”

Yes! A circle of woman can indeed save the world … and likely already has.

I remember being a young mom and experiencing a particularly brutal tantrum with my toddler son in the checkout line at Walmart on a very, very busy Sunday afternoon. As a working mom putting in 50+ hours a week, and with a husband who was both working full-time and going to school full-time, I was often left alone to run errand after errand during the busiest possible times with my always fussy son.

But that day, when it finally came time for me to load the contents of my heaping grocery cart onto the belt, my son decided he was DONE.

He screamed. He thrashed. He ran. He cried. I tried everything to make him stop. I grabbed three candy bars as a bribe. I offered my phone. NOPE. It was over. And I needed these groceries. He needed them. What I also needed in that moment was help. That’s when the woman behind me said, “Honey, you take care of him. I’ll load your groceries. It gets easier, sweetie. Go on, now.”

And I went. I handled my son. And I showed back up in time to hand over my debit card. And while I didn’t cry while all this was happening, I cried when I thanked the woman with calm energy who took care of me.

Dunnington said, “I will never forget that moment” at the airport, and I get it.

It’s been over a decade since that kind woman in Walmart helped me out, one mother to another, and you better believe that I’ll never forget it. Neither, I’m sure, will the mother at LAX.

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