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Mom Irate After Husband Unenthusiastic About Surprise Reunion At Airport With Their Young Kids

young boy running in airport
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

Sometimes parents have to travel without their family which can be difficult for small children to understand. The parent they’re used to seeing every day says goodbye then is gone for what to a child can seem like forever.

When a stay-at-home mom encountered this situation with her husband, she decided the best thing to do was plan a surprise airport reunion. But when her husband failed to be as enthusiastic as she hoped, she turned to the internet for feedback.

Bethani_69 asked the “Am I The A**hole (AITA) subReddit:

“AITA—Suprised husband at airport with kids after being away for almost 4 days.”

The original poster (OP) explained:

“My husband is really close with his parents and brother and we live 1500 miles away, so besides the two family visits we do with the kids each year, I support him in going to visit 1-2x per year by himself.”

“A little difficult with 2 small kids but, I’m a full time mom so I can do it and I don’t mind because I know he has so much fun.”

“My husband left early (4am) on Thursday to go visit his family. I took care of our 1 year-old and 3 year-old by myself until he got back into town on Sunday afternoon.”

“My 3yo had been missing daddy and wanted to go see him ‘at his airport’.”

“So after nap time on Sunday, I packed the kids in the car, drove the 20 minutes to the airport and waited at the gate as a surprise for him! (He drove our other car and parked at the airport.)”

“He had also been texting me and video chat the whole time telling me how much fun he was having with his parents and brother, but that he missed me and the kids way more than he thought he would.”

“He was surprised alright. Got a really cute video of kids running at their dad.”

“But his reaction was also less than enthusiastic. I asked him if it was a good surprise. He said ‘it was a surprising surprise’.”

“Then we get into the car so I can drive him over to the economy lot where he is parked and 3yo wanted to ride home with dad. He says ‘I really didn’t want you to be here’.”

“Like WTF am I supposed to say to that? And he just says he’ll explain more later.”

“Well I’m fuming the whole car ride home without him and when we get back to the house I am quiet, fearing I’m going to say to say something I regret in anger if I speak.”

“He can tell.”

“He just says ‘I can’t come home to this, just talk to me’.” I tell him to explain what he meant by his earlier comment of not wanting us there and he said he was just tired and sweaty from being in a cramped airplane for three hours and was just ready for the travel experience to be done with.”

“I’m still angry.”

“I say ‘well was it a good surprise? Because you said it was just a surprising surprise.’ He pauses and says ‘it was good, I just didn’t expect it.’ I roll my eyes… that’s what a suprise is.”

“I ask him to take back what he said at the airport, and he did. But like it still hurt.”

“Maybe I could have handled it better. I guess I do know he doesn’t like surprises so maybe I’m an a**hole for trying to set up a good one with what I thought were pretty low stakes.”

“Maybe I’m the a-hole for not taking into consideration his mental state after just spending 3 hours on a plane (that the AC was broken on).”

“Maybe I’m not the a-hole and he always tells me to watch what I say because sometimes it can’t be taken back and this time it was him.”

“I don’t know. You guys tell me.”

“Okay so, AITA?”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors were fairly evenly divided.

Some stated the OP definitely was not the a**hole (NTA), others said they definitely were (YTA) and some said it was an unfortunate misunderstanding, but there were no a**holes here (NAH).

Those who voted NTA felt the husband was just being selfish.

“NTA OP! You did a very sweet, small thing.”

“Yes, he does not really like surprises but this was not an elaborate birthday party with 150 people and a big band. You took his children, that he missed (and that missed him) to see him when he got off a plane.”

“The man was slightly uncomfortable for three hours (boo f-king hoo) and therefore could not bring himself to be happy to see his wife and children?”

“Even if he did not like the surprise very much, it is really hurtful for him to say that he did not want you there. Of course you are upset, this feels like a huge rejection.” ~ Farm-Comfortable

“NTA at all. Oh, a little kid wanted to meet their dad the airport, the horror!”

“Your husband should just have been nice about that and ŵent home together. It’s not like he was asked to take a crying child to the dentist right after his flight.”

“Just a hug, a kiss and that’s all. It’s such a small and easy thing that I don’t get what’s his deal at all.” ~ National-Opening-506

People who voted YTA questioned the wife’s motives and consideration for her husband.

“Trips to see family are not vacations. They are social obligations.”

“If she was supposed to pick him up from the airport, this would have been cute. But instead she pulled a surprise on a guy who doesn’t like surprises and then pouted that she didn’t get her Instagram worthy moment.”

“He had a rough trip, needed some alone time and then he would have been thrilled to see his family at home. OP, YTA.” ~ ladygrndr

“But she got the cutest video of the kids running toward him to put on Facebook…” ~ meatbelch

“He. Put. His. Needs. Aside. He greeted the kids and only after she PUSHED him for an answer, did he tell HER he didn’t like the surprise.”

“He drove the kid home when he didn’t have to. Saying ‘it was a surprise’ is hardly demeaning and the kid was happy getting their ride. She never indicated anywhere that the child was upset.”

“OP was too busy being happy getting her video.”

“Do you think treating your partner this way is acceptable without communicating when she knows he doesn’t like surprises? Is it that hard to communicate beforehand with your partner and, ONCE AGAIN, not do something you know they don’t like?” ~ ryeong

“OP already knew that her husband doesn’t like surprises. That shifts things a bit, because that’s no longer trying to do something nice, it’s actively doing something she knows he doesn’t like.”

“I get that their kid wanted to meet daddy at the airport, but she could’ve easily at least messaged him to let him know they were there. Slightly YTA because I don’t think this was malicious, just thoughtless.” ~ SeePerspectives

“She says she knows he doesn’t like surprises. YTA.”

“She did something she knew he wouldn’t be a fan of and then was annoyed he wasn’t as enthusiastic as he could have been.”

“Him saying ‘it was a surprise surprise’ is basically him saying it doesn’t matter how good the surprise was, it’s still a surprise and not something he enjoys.” ~ Chesey_

“And she flat out says ‘I guess I knew he doesn’t like surprises but…’ and runs with that into ‘so I had to make it a super cool, fun, amazing one. That I could video’.”

“Just…no.” ~ KCatty

“YTA, but not for surprising your husband at the airport. YTA for insisting he has to like it, and punishing him until he tells you he did.”

“First off, you say you know your husband hates surprises, and you chose to ignore that. Not a great start. But like you say, it’s pretty low stakes. It could’ve been really sweet.”

“But it wasn’t. Your surprise-averse husband predictably didn’t like being surprised. Maybe he just wanted the 20-minute drive to decompress? Regardless, he has a right to like or not like your surprise, right? He didn’t like it.”

“So you instantly start with the silent treatment. Now, he not only didn’t get any ‘alone time’ between the plane and the house, but now he has to manage his wife’s temper tantrum.”

“And by ‘manage’ I mean he not only has to lie to you about how much he LOVED your surprise, he has to be convincing about it, too. Exhausting.”

“You did what you did. He felt what he felt about it. Accept it and move on. Don’t punish him because he didn’t like your surprise.” ~ MorrowPlotting

“It’s also insane behavior to get what she wanted (making him ‘take back what he said’ which is the most absurdly childish way to ask for an apology ever) and still hold a grudge and post on AITA looking for confirmation the grudge is okay. It’s CRAZY.” ~ DENATTY

However, Redditors who voted NAH felt neither party was being malicious.

“I’d say it’s more of a NAH situation. Not everybody likes surprises, and that’s OK.”

“I know that being autistic means that my personal perspective on this may be skewed because of how badly my brain processes sudden changes in expectations.”

“But the thing about autism is that, in a lot of cases, our brains just go a bit extreme on reactions that can equally be experienced by neurotypical (NT) brains, which means that there are also NT people out there who get anxious and stressed from surprises too.”

“If that’s the case for OP’s husband, then he’s not an a**hole simply for having emotions and expressing his dislike of surprises. Nor is OP an AH for wanting to do something nice for her husband, even if it missed the mark, or for feeling disappointed.” ~ SeePerspectives

“NAH-you tried to do something sweet, and he really didn’t want a lot of activity as he was tired and sweaty.”

“You knew he didn’t like surprises, but I’m sure this seemed different. I hope you can talk about it and let it go.” ~ Myobright2344

While her heart might have been in the right place, maybe surprising someone who doesn’t like surprises should be avoided as it rarely ends well.

Or maybe parents need to put up with their own discomfort as long as their children enjoy surprising them.

What do you think?

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.