Facebook lies. I got totally duped when we had our first born. People on Facebook ASSURING me that travelling with kids is easy. That babies love airplanes and always fall immediately asleep….for hours. Quite typically none of my children have done this. Much like the great car seat conspiracy.
Travelling with my kids IS HARD. And the younger they are, the harder it is. Firstly I have to pack a million things at a precision-level which I can liken only to that of a well trained Navy Seal officer. Bottles, wipes, nappies, food, spare clothes, dummies, muslins, snacks, favourite jangly toy…..and that’s just the nappy bag. I try and put everything in the perfect place so that when the baby screams I can find it quickly and be the perfect parent on the plane (God FORBID a baby cries on a flight. Babies don’t cry right? How absurd to think they need to cry at any point to communicate their feelings. They should sit silently, but cute, like those weird beanie toys that are currently all the rage).
With baby’s bag packed, I then pack my own hand bag, the buggy, the car seat, the travel cot, the toddler bag, and two bags for the luggage with a variety of life saving water aids, pajamas, clothes, socks, sun hats, all variety of creams. You arrive at the airport with all these bags like deranged parents screaming ‘we’re MEANT to be going on holiday!!’ And because you have a million things in your bags of course you flag up some security concern during the x-ray bit. You’re now shoeless and have a baby strapped to your front whilst trying to stop your errant toddler running into the rabbit hole of duty free ahead. Your bag doesn’t come through. People jostle past, the baby starts whinging for milk and you can smell a bad nappy (because obviously he’s chosen this day to teeth). People sigh at you because INEVITABLY you’re in the way with your now refugee status family. And all you feel like doing is shouting at them to explain that YOU DIDN’T USED TO BE LIKE THIS. You are a capable and professional adult but now you have children you are despised. Nobody has time for babies when rushing for their plane – we need them to grow up this minute and become reasonably able to use an iPad, go to the bathroom by themselves and communicate their needs quietly. All this cooing and moaning and being daft is cute on social media but it has no place in a public airport or God-forbid an aircraft.
…..But this time you swear it’s not your fault. You are held hostage because Sally from security has taken the baby’s sealed Aptamil milk. Apparently it could easily be confused with acid, or a gun or maybe a small but lethal bomb. But you can’t shout that otherwise you’d be detained for saying BOMB in an airport and your husband would never forgive you.
Finally you are handed back your bag as if your three year old has packed it. You shuffle off to what they optimistically call, Duty Free. Airports have recently decided to theme their entrance to the Departures hallway to resemble a Moroccan market. The only difference is you have no choice whether you enter this market. You are insulted from every angle to buy all sorts of pointless perfume or alcohol. That’s it really. Or giant Toberlerones or Teddy’s that say LONDON on them. It offends me every time. I have no idea how this has become legal.
Having negotiated the Capitalism walk of shame you breath a sigh of relief that you are out and you have retained whereabouts of your two offspring, bonus points if you and your husband haven’t drunk too many tasters of Rum that you’re still sober.
Endless waiting around and not being able to window shop Mulberry or the Sunglass Hut because your snotty children with get snot on everything. So you sit playing Dr Panda on the iPhone using valuable battery life.
Eventually it is time to board the plane. Everybody looks at you like you’re sponging off society for getting early boarding. Even though this is hell for everyone as you will need to spend the longest in your seat trying to entertain bored children. You queue to get your passport and boarding pass scanned, you queue to get your buggy folded and taken away. You walk another ten metres to queue again in some sort of cold tunnel with moaning children either pulling at your leg or asking to be carried. You queue at the entrance of the plane. You queue to walk down the aisle of the plane. You queue to put your bag up in the overhead lockers. Your queueing patience is about to hit it’s limit, adrenaline is now coursing through your blood.
With levels of frustration at their peak, and now being cramped into tiny seats with your tiny humans sat on top of you, and for which you’ve paid hundreds for the privilege; you are at this point reminded by the kindly/ already judgmental hostess that children must stay in their seats or on your lap. My husband and myself spend the next forty five minutes before the plane takes off juggling the children. Singing children’s songs we didn’t know we knew, bribing them with chocolate, milk, my boob, old dummies, insanely grinning parent-smiles, whispered shouts ‘IF you do that one more time …’. It’s genuine torture.
Highlight of the flight include trying to change a dirty nappy on a moving airplane on a piece of metal in a cage, I mean toilet, the size of our boiler cupboard. Other highlights are stopping your child kicking the seat in front or if they’re young enough doing the walk of shame up and down, and up and down that middle aisle, until baby becomes so irate it just screams and screams and everybody looks annoyed and no one offers to actually help. I suspect they think I’m just pinching his thighs or denying him of sustanence to make this more humiliating than it already is.
Finally you deal with the landing, usually the kids choose this exact moment silently nod off in their seats whilst everybody jumps from their seat and asks if they can get past. You madly try and locate favourite toys, magazine, your sanity, and carry the kids off the plane along with all those bags. The weight of a sleeping child is actually* four times the amount of an awake one. The extra weight almost cripples your tired soul. You search for your passport, remember that you’re actually looking for four different passports and a two birth certificates because you never got round to legally changing your surname to match the kids. You curse the patriarchal system. You curse those holiday adverts and that Facebook post that gave you the 5 top tips for travelling with young kids. Nothing can help this. Nothing but Gin.
So, no. Don’t believe any of the hype. Travelling with kids is a necessity that must be endured if you want to see past the Isle of Wight.
And when you walk through Duty Free, take those free tasters!
Find me on Instagram at @wiseamum
( * this is a Mother’s definition of ‘Actually’; factually incorrect but emotionally very accurate)