While we were in LA one afternoon last week, my five year old was an absolute train wreck. Cranky, sassy, rude, whiny, embarrassing. A brat. I was so angry with her I cut short our super fun day. No amount of bribery helped either. Anna's babysitter, Samantha (AKA Miss Sam, AKA the favorite human) was spending this week assisting with Anna while I spoke at a national lawyers conference in downtown LA. For the remaining days left in the week, the girls and I headed up to my favorite LA spot, West Hollywood for some relaxation, sightseeing and good food. There is nothing relaxing about a whiny 5 year old. Even Miss Sam, who is a living doll, lost patience with Anna.
When we returned to the hotel, there were no snacks or TV or toys or the pool. I sat Anna on the bed and rather than ream her out about her terrible behavior, which I already did in the middle of the Cheesecake Factory (and did not help), I explained to her why it was so important for her to behave appropriately in public and at home. I explained in terms I hoped she would appreciate: that other children look to her as an example at a store or a restaurant and if she is talking back to me or whining or using poor manners, the other children will start doing that too because they will think it's ok. And also, the parents will be annoyed that their children are misbehaving and even the adults without children will be angry because her bad behavior is causing them not to enjoy their time. And that isn't right, is it?
"So, I am teaching other children?" She asked me.
"Yes, you are. You have such a friendly personality that lots of children and adults like you, but if they see that you are not acting in a good way, they may not want to spend time with you or talk to you."
"Like brats. No one likes kids who are brats and they look at them at stores and stuff because their moms are yelling at them to stop doing things. Like that?"
"Right, like that."
"Oh," she puts her head down," I was being like a brat."
"You were, but I know you know how to behave like a good girl. So we're going to sit here for a few minutes because mommy needs a break and you are going to think about how you're going to act for the rest of the day. You're also going to think about how you are going to apologize to Miss Sam."
About 20 minutes later: "Mommy, I love you and I'm sorry I was a brat. I should talk to Miss Sam so we can be friends again." And she did. Except for complaining that she "couldn't walk anymore" as we strolled along Sunset Boulevard to our dinner destination, her attitude transformed entirely. It was a long day, but I felt like I reached her in any case.
The funny thing is, moments when she is so frustrating and difficult are quickly wiped away by moments like this:
We are hanging out in the United Club Lounge at LAX ('cause that's just how we roll). Sam and I are chatting in between checking emails on the free wifi and enjoying our complimentary cocktails and snacks. Anna is quietly watching a movie on my iPad. A woman and her two young daughters come into our seating area. The mom asks if the seat next to me is taken to which I reply, "just by my giant pigmy puff" (it's the ginormous pink puff of a stuffed animal Anna desperately wanted from Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. So big, it needed it's own chair.)
I look up to meet the woman's expression and she is relieved to find a seat for her girls who like us, I learn, are awaiting a very delayed flight back to Newark. Anna immediately throws off her headphones and rushes the girls.
"Hi, I'm Anna do you want to play with my toys and stuff. I have so much stuff to play with."
Anna loves other kids. Doesn't matter who they are, what they look like or how old they may or may not be. I love this about her because she makes friends where ever we go.
So Anna and the younger girl, Cosi, begin to ravage Anna's backpack for stuffed animals, books, coloring and they settle on sitting together in a chair and watching a show on Cosi's iPad. Gotta love technology. Romy, the mature for her age, sweet older daughter is already deep into whatever she is watching on her own iPad.
The mom strikes up a friendly conversation with me about Anna and her daughters - how old? What grade in school? And I start to think I know her. She takes a phone call and much of it is in French. As she is speaking, I Google because I'm pretty sure I know exactly who we are hanging with and I am right. I start to get that goofy star struck nervousness in my tummy. We are sitting with Hollywood Royalty - this is Sofia Coppola. Holy Lost in Translation, Batman! I probably started smiling like a dork and sweating. Had to remind myself to "be cool," as if I ever am or was cool and know what that means.
Our plane seems to still be delayed and I have made it my job to be the informer when there is a change in status. Well, there was an immediate change in status - our flight went from "awaiting aircraft" to "closed."
"Uh, ladies," I report to my girls and our new friends, "We must go right now. Our flight has boarded and is reported as being closed."
Quickly, we gather our things and we are up and out the door headed to the elevator. I realize Sofia and her girls are not right behind us and wait. If I'm going to miss a plane, I'm thinking who better to miss it with? I dramatically yell to some guy to hold the elevator and we all finally get in. Sofia thanks me for waiting and for "being on top of things." Of course, if I was really on top of things, we wouldn't be possibly missing our flight.
Cosi and Anna are holding hands running to our gate giggling and yelling "We're late! Wait for us plane!" We get to the gate and there is no one there expect two women waiting at the counter, on stand by. I can tell Sofia is about to do something - what I don't know, but I assume she's on this...nope. She's slightly panicked, which makes me kind of nervous. She must know something I don't!
I ask one of the stand by women if they know what's going on and she tells me, someone has to come back to the desk to tell them whether they are getting on the flight or not. Phew! I'm thinking no problem, somehow we'll get on this flight. It hasn't actually left yet. The cabin door has not been "secured" as per TSA guidelines. And if I have to sacrifice my seats for Sofia Coppola because she NEEDS to be in NYC tonight, I can do that (as I fantasize about attending the Academy Awards as her special guest...)
Sofia did not hear my conversation with this woman and is on the phone with her travel agent - I'm wondering what good that is going to do and I learn quickly, no good. She/He sends her running to the next gate to "find someone to help us." I suggest that I will stay with the kids (who are still holding hands and laughing) and wait for someone here. Sofia is not buying my calm act, so she takes her oldest daughter to the adjacent gate. Meanwhile, as expected, someone from the flight crew comes back. I apologize for being late, but we have 6 of us here on this flight ready to go.
"No problem - but there is no more overhead storage space," she says as she glares at the giant pink pigmy puff. "What is the last name?"
"Fraser and Coppola and..." I stammer realizing that Cosi and Romy are not Coppolas, but I can't remember what Wikipedia told me their last name was...Sofia has made her way back and I let her know that everything is ok and we can still make the flight. She is so relieved and cannot stop thanking me. Really, I did nothing. Literally. Stayed where I was and hoped for the best.
Cosi wanted to sit with Anna, but naturally they were in 1st class - we were not. But we told the girls maybe we would see each other after we landed. And in fact, although we got off the plane ahead of them, as we are headed down the escalator to baggage claim, Cosi is yelling for Anna. They reunite as we wait for our bags and I spend nearly an hour chatting with Sofia Coppola about normal people stuff. Why I was in LA, why she was in LA, more about our kids...totally normal and she is totally nice. Not every celebrity cares to engage in post flight chit-chat with a stranger. I always admired her work, but now I can add "and she's so nice" to brilliant, talented, creative...
Sofia thanked me again for helping them and for keeping it together - she didn't know how I did it because it was such a "stressful situation." I blushed and let her know that I was quite accustomed to chaos and things going wrong on a daily basis, especially when I travel, so I have become fairly unaffected by those things out of my control. "Don't worry about it. It was no big deal. We were all in the same boat." (I'd like to thank the Academy for giving me this opportunity, I'd like to thank Sofia Coppola for believing in me...)
We parted ways with the girls not wanting to leave, lots of hugs for Anna and a "such a pleasure meeting you" to me from Sofia (no playdate invitations, but we know where they live and they know where we live, generally). I shook her hand and smiled at Miss Sam, who had just spent the last hour keeping the kids occupied.
"Well, that was kind of awesome," I said. Miss Sam agreed. And Anna kind of made it happen by being the outgoing, joyful kid she is.
My kid, like most strong willed girls is a mixed bag. Stubborn, emotional, difficult, but also bright, joyful, kind, and sweet. Two completely different mom moments, all part of the journey toward creating a strong, kind and compassionate woman some day.