Ally wants her Ariel doll. I’ve never met Ally, but she’s standing next to me in line at the Orlando International Airport, where, just like at Disney World, there are signs telling people how long they can expect to wait. It will be 15 minutes before we reach the security checkpoint.
I read that as 15 more minutes of Ally’s whining, and realize I have something in common with the little girl: impatience. Now two of us want her to have the damn doll.
My friends with kids would sympathize with Ally’s parents. They would remark on how difficult it is to travel with one child, let alone three. See, Ally has her twin brother, whose name I didn’t catch because he behaves so no one is sternly repeating it, and baby brother Robby with her.
My friends with kids might also give one of those pity smiles parents so often do in restaurants and doctors’ waiting rooms. They’re usually followed by something like, “I remember those years!” to let the frustrated parent know they, too, have been there and it’s perfectly all right that their child is acting the way Charles Manson looks.
That’s sweet. I, on the other hand, have gone from just wanting little Ally to shut the hell up to being ubercurious. Our central character looks about 6 years old, well past the prime tantrum years, but not too old for a ferocious fit.
Knowing full well this family has just returned from a weekend, or longer, in Disney World or Epcot Center or Universal Studios or some other place that children consider their very own rapture — and are now leaving it — could make for a protest of legendary proportions. She could go straight Linda Blair in a matter of minutes, hopefully less than 15.
There’s something very exciting about it all: Just how far will Ally go for Ariel?
Yeah, about Ariel. The famous redheaded mermaid is now being held in backpack captivity. That’s right, first the no-legs predicament, now this. She’s just one zip away from Ally’s tender arms.
Knowing this, Ally pulls the ol’ slow sob trick.
Some parents will count to three to warn their kids a big punishment is on its way. Well, Ally does something kind of like that with her parents. It’s the slow-motion fake cry. And it’s there to let Mom and Dad know if they don’t give her what she wants a big ol’ sobfest is headed their way.
First, the face loses all expression, it’s perfectly stoic. Then, slowly, the cheeks press downward and the bottom lip begins to curl. The eyes squint and the mouth opens to let out a loud wail. But, similar to the magic of Disney, there are no tears.
Ally’s parents know this one. They shake their heads and try to distract her before she channels her inner Meryl Streep and gives the fake-cry performance of a lifetime.
As much as their refusal to free Ariel is annoying other people in line and now enraging Ally, you have to hand it to her parents for sticking to their guns.
How many times do you hear the parental “count to three” end at two? Too many. How many times do you hear toddlers demand their iPad on a flight to Orlando, Fla., and the parents scramble to appease them? On our flight, exactly two too many.
But Ally’s parents are teaching her something so many parents today are too lazy to show their children: You don’t always get what you want. No matter how hard you fake cry, no matter how loudly you stomp your foot, no matter how many times you say “please.”
It’s called life, and smart parents introduce their children to it so that cruel strangers don’t do it for them.
But back to the Ariel hostage situation.
Now trying a guilt tactic to get her daughter to forget a mermaid is suffocating in their backpack, Ally’s mom poses a question to her. “You might not have Ariel, but I’m here,” she says, brushing Ally’s ashy brown curls away from her big blue eyes. “Am I not good enough?”
“Well,” her daughter says, seriously considering the question, “No … but,” Ally looks down at her baby brother, cooing in his stroller, “neither is Robby if it makes you feel better.”
Just like you don’t always get what you want in life, you don’t always hear what you want. The grand finale, ladies and gentlemen, was worth every minute — all 15 — of the fit that preceded it.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.