A cold splash of water from the sippy cup can douse the fuzzy feeling that comes with travel. From lugging strollers to suffering through scowls of fellow passengers, Shivani Tibrewala gives words to just another day in the life of a parent flying with a toddler.
Remember those days when you could swing your meagre belongings into a backpack and trudge off into the great unknown without a care in the world? Foot-tapping to latest chart busters, lounging at the airport terminal, checking out attractive members of the opposite sex?
Fast forward to today: You are pushing a suitcase-laden trolley with one hand, an empty baby stroller with the other, fixing a broken helicopter and mixing a bowl of Cerelac with your third, while your fourth is trying to hold on to your one-year old who has recently discovered how to run, mostly in directions away from you, and no matter how great the temptation, you can’t allow him to. (Can you? It’s not like anyone would know you lost him on purpose...) In the midst of all this, you wonder why you never learnt to balance a beer mug on your foot.
Meanwhile, your first born (read: only born) has discovered the duty-free and mistaken the perfume section for a play area. Temporarily redeemed from a life of foam and plastic, he has, to your eternal dismay, just encountered glass. As you race towards him bogged down with ten thousand things you are carrying, he gives you a cherubic smile and drops a Givenchy classic on the floor. Well, you sigh, rummaging for your passport at the cashier’s while Amarige wafts through the ‘silent’ airport, at least he has good taste.
Welcome to air travel with a toddler. You are about to discover that the airport is the least lethal part of this adventure. Yes, even though you almost missed your flight because your baby had dropped a turd in his diaper a minute before the final boarding call.
Wait till you board a hostile aircraft full of annoyed passengers kept waiting for you. Wait till you have to confine a child to a space smaller than his pint-sized cot at home for a 10-hour flight. A child who has recently discovered the joy of thing-dropping. Watch the expression on the lovely flight attendant’s face change from doting indulgence to barely-controlled frustration as she picks up the plastic spoon for the 97th time, politely requesting you to lower the armrest for landing, while your toddler screams his head off because his ears feel like the pressure of the entire galaxy is on them and because the iPad battery breathed its last in the middle of Wheels on the Bus.
Watch your yet-to-be parents brand of co-passengers turn into potential axe-murderers in their heads as they grind their teeth and bear the banshee, secretly swearing never to have children. Other parents on the plane shake their heads in disapproval because their kids are having a slightly less psychotic day. You turn into the worst parent of the year as you nonchalantly put on your headphones and go back to watching The Fast and The Furious and sipping your Baileys because you know that there is only so much you can do about a screaming toddler, cabin pressure, and iPad battery life. You secretly wonder if it would be legal to drug your child, and then are relieved that nobody can read your mind—till you look around and realise that everyone is thinking about it, too.
Stealing a guilty glance at your DNA, you discover that he has vomited all over himself while you were contemplating unseemly criminal acts. Just before landing, your progeny falls asleep in your arms, and he is one of those colicky babies who can’t sleep in a stroller, so you prepare for a gruelling walk through immigration carrying a sleeping bundle that will try to change its sleep position 35 times a second, along with your laptop, diaper bag, handbag, sippy cup, vomit-soaked baby blanket… and you know everyone is relieved to see you both go, including the pilot who almost landed in the wrong country the last time your little one screamed.
This is when he gives you that never-say-die mid-nap smile, snuggles against your chest, and lets out a small coo of contentment followed by a little baby burp, and the potential axe-murderers giggle and awww in spite of themselves. And you know that you would trade your backpack for a diaper bag any day of the week. Except maybe this time, the sippy cup will carry your kind of beverage.