Remember when Ellison and I were “dressed from the future?”

Well, on our return from that trip, standing in the security line, Ellison melted down. It was understandable. He hadn’t napped.

I withered in front of the French travelers tsk-tsk’ing me with masterful condescension. No sympathy for this dad traveling alone with a kid.

I’d held off giving him his pacifier until absolutely necessary.

It was now absolutely necessary.

Frantically I searched the diaper bag, but I found only one pacifier. I’d lost four over the trip. This one happened to be a newborn pacifier: for Ellison’s newborn brother. Uh-oh.

I handed it to him. He looked at it and chucked it across three lanes of security traffic. I ducked under dividers, between people and started to sweat profusely.

I offered the paci, again. He took it, looked at it, screamed and tried to throw it, but I swiped it back. He swung his hand toward mine and successfully knocked it away. Again I crawled between French people to retrieve the paci.

Mercifully, we soon arrived at the chaos of the metal detectors and that placated him. Temporarily.

Then I had to strap him, hollering, back in the stroller.

To my disgust, duty-free shopping greeted us on the other side of security.

To my self-disgust, I was the dumbass who fell for their trap. Of course I needed to by a “cheap” bottle of Ricard.

I efficiently grabbed a bottle and bee-lined for the closest check-out counter. An impeccably-dressed French man wagged his finger in my face, tsk-tsk’d me and said, “Fermé. Closed.”

He was checking facebook on his phone. I saw the recognizable blue layout.

Ellison screamed and swung at $1,000 pyramids of Ketel One.

The woman at the next kiosk saw me barreling toward her. She also finger-wagged and tsk-tsk’d.

She was also on her phone.

What is this place where employees take breaks but remain in full view and care not about my screaming child? The US Post Office?

I see two more kiosks within another 20 feet. Unoccupied.

I hate this country.

I spot a manager-looking woman. I roll Ellison (in full tantrum) right up to her and ask with a furiously sarcastic smile, “Is anyone working, today?”

She smiled condescendingly and gestured right behind me. I swear she made that clerk materialize so I’d look like a dumb American.

I prayed they’d check me out at New York speed to get Ellison’s screaming face out of there. No such luck. Even French duty-free is disorganized for maximum inefficiency. I fill out forms, they pack the bottle in three different bags with stickers and staples, acting like SNL’s “Anal Retentive Chef”.

As I finish scribbling my passport number, I notice that Ellison has shut up.

Oh, God. What happened?

I see the manager woman flirting with Ellison and handing him something. She looks up at me and delightedly says, “See? Candy always works.”

She had opened a bag of red chewy candy. Ellison shoved them into his mouth four at a time.

I’d attempted to impress French travelers by dressing Ellison in a blue linen shirt. There was now red dye all over said shirt, as well has his hands and face.

I looked at the woman incredulously and said, “Thank you?” I held myself from screaming “No merde, lady! Of course candy works.”

I pushed Ellison out of duty free and into the terminal.

The screaming had to stop, but over-priced Duty-Free candy wasn’t the answer. Don’t derail my fathering, Frenchy.

So fifteen feet later, I took candy from my baby.

He let out a red-dye-curdling scream and hurled fistfuls of candy across the airport tile. As he screamed louder, I realized I had to change tactics.

I knelt next to my 18-month-old and calmly said, “Ellison.”

He looked at me.

“Daddy screwed up. We had five pacis, but now we only have this one. I know it’s not your favorite. But it’s all we have. Now. We have to travel a bit more in an airplane. In just a few hours we will be home and you can get a good paci. But right now, we have to make-do with this one. But I need your help. You’ve been so good this whole trip. Will you please use this paci?”

I held it out to him.

He looked at it for a moment. I swear he shrugged. Then he popped the paci into his mouth and shut up.

I performed a miracle in the airport. Did no one see this? A miracle!

No one acknowledged my miracle.

Typical jaded French.

* Disclaimers: I love France, I don’t think all of them are lazy, nor do I think all Postal employees are lazy, apparently I used up all “reasoning” capital in that moment. Thank goodness it worked or it would have been a very long flight. And PS: the flight home was fine.


  1. I’ve heard it said that up until the age of 2, or even 3, a child responds more to facial expressions and our tone of voice vs. any content of what we actually say to them – so when you spoke calmly to Ellison, with a sorrowful(?) expression on your face, he responded accordingly. Of course, there’s always the proverbial “exception that proves the rule” when a child REFUSES to respond positively to ANYTHING – regardless of your tone of voice or facial expression … at which point you might wanta’ consider throwing a nipple on that bottle you bought at the Duty Free Shop and shoving it in the kid’s mouth (not really!).


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