TRAVELLING WITH A TODDLER
By Shivani Tibrewala
Remember the days when you could swing your meagre belongings into your backpack and trudge off into the great unknown without a care in the world, listening to the latest chartbuster on your earphones as you foot-tapped along and checked out attractive members of the opposite sex while you lounged at an airport terminal, sipping a beer?
And yet here 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 onto your only offspring – a one year old that has recently discovered how to run – mostly in directions that lead away from you – and no matter how great the temptation, you can’t allow him to. (Can you? I mean, it’s not like anyone would know you lost him on purpose…) And in the midst of all this, you wonder why you never learnt how to balance a beer mug on your foot. Where are your essential survival skills when you need them? Did all those years of backpacking teach you nothing?!
Meanwhile your first born (Read: Only born. Do this again? Are you out of your mind?!) has discovered the duty-free and mistaken the perfume section for a play area. Temporarily redeemed from a life lined with foam and plastic, your one year old has – to your eternal dismay – just encountered glass. As you race towards him with your trolley, stroller, broken helicopter, cerelac, baby blanket, stuffed Mickey Mouse toy and sippy cup, he gives you a cherubic smile and drops a Givenchy classic on the impeccable airport floor. Well, you sigh, as you rummage for your passport at the cashier’s while Amarige wafts through the ‘silent’ airport, strategically advertising itself, 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 practically missed your flight because your baby had to go potty just a minute before the final boarding call. Wait till you board a hostile aircraft full of annoyed passengers kept waiting for you. You wonder if you’re going to be dragged off. Wait till you have to confine a one year old into a space that is actually tinier than his pint-sized cot at home – for a ten hour flight. A one year old who has recently discovered the sheer delight 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 ninety-seventh 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 upon 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 as they grit their teeth and bear the banshee, secretly swearing never to have children, while the ones who are parents shake their heads disapprovingly because their kids are having a slightly less psychotic day. Watch yourself 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 let’s face it, 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 thoughts – till you look around and realize everybody else is wondering the same thing. And then you steal another guilty glance at your DNA and discover that it has vomited all over itself while you were contemplating unseemly criminal acts.
And then just before landing, your progeny falls asleep in your arms, and he is one of those colicky babies that can’t sleep in a stroller, and you prepare for a grueling 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 in all probability landed in the wrong country the last time your little one screamed.
And then your toddler 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 in your backpack for a diaper bag any day of the week. Except maybe this time, the sippy cup will carry your kind of beverage.