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Parent's reaction to authority can be positive example for children

June 29, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

As I read both sides of Monica Emmerson's "water dumped/spilled from the sippy cup" story, her experience reminded me of a time that I was detained at airport security.

Earlier this month, Emmerson said she was improperly detained because she brought water in her child's sippy cup. The way I see it, she was upset that a security officer was trying to make her obey the ban on most fluids and gels from carry-on luggage.

The ban might seem excessive, but what makes some people feel that they don't have to follow the rules designed to protect everyone's safety?

What are we teaching our children if as adults we don't obey?

If we don't agree with a rule, law or ban, we need to make appeals through the proper channels.

Children learn much about life when they see how we respond to an obstacle placed in our way, especially if it comes dressed in a Transportation Security Administration uniform.

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In February 2006, my family and I were traveling south for an extended Presidents Day weekend trip. We had pulled the children out of school an hour early so we could make it to the airport on time.

Because of a few traffic delays and misturns, we arrived at the airport with little time to spare. With each added delay, I reminded my husband and children to remain calm. If we miss our plane, there's probably a reason for it, and we'll just take a later flight.

Actually, I was just as frustrated as they were, but I tried hard not to show it.

The line at security seemed like a snake with a never-ending tail. Would we ever get to the checkpoint? I began to wonder if this quick trip would be worth the effort.

We took off our shoes and belts, placed our carry-ons on the conveyor belt and walked through the security screener, one-by-one.

Daughter, son, husband, wife. No problem.

Until my purse was stopped by the security camera, that is.

The security officer wanted to know whose bag it was.

I raised my hand, out of habit, from being in the classroom, I guess.

Probably because I was really nervous. What was in my purse that would breach security? I started a quick mental scan of compartment by compartment.

Tissues, pens, pencils, calendar, checkbook, mints, gum, lipstick, hand sanitizer, wallet, sunglasses, notepad, ibuprofen ... what else is in there? I couldn't remember. (This was before the liquid/gel ban had been put in place, so I couldn't imagine what was causing the problem.)

Then I noticed the very serious look on the security officer's face and I realized he was asking me a question.

In the corner of my eye, I saw my family grouped together off to the side.

I felt like I had just been sent to the principal's office, and I knew my children were watching. It was important for them to see me respond correctly to the authority who was in charge of the situation.

This was not the time to make an appeal. This was a time for obedience.

(How many times have I stressed that principle to my children?)

I politely answered each question the officer asked.

He wanted to know if he would be in danger by placing his hand in my purse.

I almost laughed but thought better of it. Instead, I assured him there was nothing dangerous in my bag. Then I offered to remove all the contents for him.

He watched me take out each item. Then he ran the purse and all the contents through the security camera again.

He frowned.

That was not a good sign.

He put the purse in front of me, and told me it was not empty. I was starting to feel very warm. What did he see?

He then checked one of the side zipper pockets and pulled out a miniature flip-top mirror that one of my students had given to me.

"This is what the camera is picking up. What is it?" he asked sternly.

I looked at the mirror and back at the guard, trying really hard not to smile.

"It's a makeup mirror. May I show you how it works, sir?" I asked.

He nodded.

I pushed the button, the top flipped up and the mirror was revealed.

Then I showed him the writing on the top: "Best teacher."

He breathed and motioned us on.

We boarded our plane with five minutes to spare.

Once we were settled, my children expressed frustration at being detained. I explained to them that the officer was just doing his job, and we all need to follow the rules that are in place to protect our safety.

My husband said, "Yeah, we do, but on the return flight, can you put that mirror in luggage that we're checking?"

That was a request I had no problem granting.

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