As I write this, I’m looking down at puffy clouds from an altitude of 12,192m. I’m sipping on a chardonnay, flicking through a magazine and revelling in the deep sense of relaxation this travel experience brings.
Oh, who am I kidding.
I have a four year old beside me.
This is how this flight has panned out so far:
As we boarded the aeroplane –
Baby G: I want to carry my Strawberry Shortcake colouring book!
Me: As soon as we sit down, you can have it.
Walking down the aisle:
Baby G: Can I do my Strawberry Shortcake colouring book now?
Me: You have to wait until we are sitting down, okay?
As we find our seats:
Baby G: Now can I do my Strawberry Shortcake colouring book?
Me: (Twitch developing in right eye) We need to put our bags away first, honey bunny (or the pushy guy behind us will use up the whole overhead locker and Mummy will lose the plot, my darling princess sweetie pie.)
As I attempt to load luggage in the overhead compartment, while balancing half on the seat and half in the aisle and trying to unpack activity books, crayons, ipods, snacks and blankies:
Baby G: Okay, I’m ready for my Strawberry Shortcake colouring book now! Can I have it? Can I have it? Can I have it? Mum? MUM?!
Me: Be patient, baby girl, I’m nearly ready, I just have to –
Baby G: I’m tired, Mum! (big, pleading brown eyes.)
Me: Okay. (Huff. Puff.) I’m ready. Let’s find your book.
As I rummage like a blood hound through the chair pocket, balancing an iPad and multiple activity options on my lap. WHERE the EFF is the bloody Strawberry Freaking Shortcake book? Ah, found it. Dammit, dropped 5 crayons. Hit head in my attempt to pick them up. Got them. Phew. All sorted.
Me: Here’s your book, Baby G! (Spoken in the perkiest, Mary-Poppinsest voice imaginable.)
Baby G: I think I don’t want to do my Strawberry Shortcake colouring book.
Me: (Twitch. Blink. Twitch.)
As I deep breathe, while observing Darren in the row ahead with Miss M and Little Man. They are relaxed, self-sufficient and happy. They independently browse through the movie catalogue and set up their headsets. I am brought out of my reverie by the chipmunk-like rapid-fire questioning by Baby G.
Baby G: Look, I can clip my seat belt! Look! I can unclip it!
Me: Awesome! That was very clever of you, to work that out.
Baby G: (Click. Click. Click.) Look, Mum! (Click. Click. Click.)
Me: No more seatbelt, Baby G.
Baby G: (Click.) Sorry, that was an accident. (Click click click.) Sorry. (Click.)
Me: (Eye twitching visibly now. Working really hard to keep my inner Mary Poppins alive.)
As we prepare for take-off and I start to believe I will never rest again. Ever.
Baby G: Can I colour now?
Me: Sure. (Put down magazine, rummage through pocket. Rearrange. Drop. Pick up. About to reach Strawberry Bitchface Shortcake…)
Baby G: Actually, I want to colour later.
Me: (Blink. Twitch. Double blink.)
Baby G: How much longer until we get there?
Me: (Mary Poppins singing loudly in my head… some annoying, perky crap about sugar fixing problems.) Angel, we haven’t even taken off yet.
Baby G: I’m tiiiiiired!
Me: Me too. Let’s sleep.
Baby G I’m NOT tired!
Me: (Getting hardass.)You can colour or sleep.
Baby G: Okay, I’ll colour.
Fast forward ten minutes and Baby G is colouring happily and – more importantly – self-sufficiently. I begin to relax. This is not bad at all! We are going to have a great flight! Flying with a four year old isn’t bad at all!!!!! (Five exclamation points convey, conservatively, the excitement I feel as I have this epiphany.)
I settle into my seat, browse through the movies and select Pitch Perfect. Excellent – light, mindless entertainment. I am grinning. This is the life! Movie begins, I relax a little more, I peer over at Baby G and smile. Flying with a four year old is a piece of cake. Now that the excitement has worn off, she’s going to be the perfect travelling companion.
First line of movie dialogue is not completely performed and –
Baby G: Mum, I don’t want to colour any more. I’m bored.
Me: No problem, baby girl, it’s movie time! Let’s see what’s on your special, very own tv! (My perkiness is totally natural. I’m kicking Mary Poppins’ perky ass at her own game.)
Excitedly, we scroll through the menu of movies and choose Horton Hears a Who. She grins. I grin. We are a living commercial for Singapore Airlines and Colgate rolled into one. My mother-in-law, sitting next to me tells me I am an amazing mother. I beam, smugly. We all but sing kumbayah. I begin to visualise the glass of wine and uninterrupted movie. I can taste it. It tastes good.
Earphones on, movies unpaused, we begin to watch. 30 seconds. IT LASTS THIRTY SECONDS.
Baby G: I can’t hear.
I pause my movie. I adjust her volume. No problem. I restart my movie.
Baby G: It’s too loud, mama!
Pause. Fix. Resume. Still happy – minor glitch. Oh, look, there are people singing!
Baby G: Are we there yet?
Pause. Explain that we still have five hours to go. Suggest we enjoy our movies. She agrees. Pat myself on the back for my saint-like patience. Resume movie. Looking forward to seeing Rebel Wilson.
Baby G: I don’t want to watch a movie.
Pause. Calm discussion about sitting still and keeping occupied and the concept of what five hours means. Still perky. We decide on The Wiggles. She grins. I grin. Unpause. Waiting for Rebel.
Baby G: I don’t want to watch TV. Can we play Go Fish?
Switch off TV. Abort mission. Observe Darren sleeping peacefully as Miss M and Little Man watch movies. Observe Mother-in-law reading book, uninterrupted. Feel perkiness waning. Accept fate. Play Go Fish. Lose. Play again. Lose.
Baby G: Can I play on your iPad?
Me: Brilliant idea! (Why didn’t I think of that?)
Hand over iPad. Resume movie.
NOTE: I have, so far, watched a grand total of three minutes of Pitch Perfect. We have been flying for an hour.
Tentatively, I begin to relax. Stupid move, but a girl can hope.
Mother-in-law: I have to read you this part of my book!
Pause. Listen. That was interesting, actually. Resume movie.
Mother-in-law: Oh my gaaaaawd, listen to this part!
Pause. Listen. Again, interesting. Resume movie.
Mother-in-law: This is insane! This book is UH MAY ZING.
(SIDE NOTE: I adore my Mother-in-law and consider her to be one of my best friends. So much so, that both Darren and I are thrilled that she has decided to come with us on this holiday.)
Mother-in-law and I have a deep conversation. I’m really happy to be talking to an adult. Until she unceremoniously shoves a dinner roll into my mouth. To shut me up. Apparently I won’t stop talking. Seems I was a tad over-excited to be talking about something that wasn’t Wiggles, Horton or Strawberry-the-asshat-Shortcake.
I realise that Baby G is now happily watching something. I have no idea what, but she’s happy, so I don’t care. Mother-in-law is reading her book. Darren is sleeping. Big kids are entertaining themselves.
This is the perfect time to write.
Out comes the iPad again. I begin to write. As I begin to type, the stewardess approaches with the lunch trolley and tells us to clear our trays. Of course.
I pack away the iPad after writing six words.
We all eat, except Mother-in-law-sent-to-me-directly-from-Heaven, who takes Baby G to the toilet three times in fifteen minutes. She then switches places with me so she can play with Baby G and I can rest.
Ahhh, peace at last.
Until a little hand reaches through from the seat in front of me. Miss M needs a spoon, wants to show me her Minecraft construction, and something else I couldn’t understand because her voice disappears in the white noise. She continues to ask me the same question at the same unintelligible volume. I say yes. Still don’t know for what.
I laugh. I give up on civilised travel. I try to ignore the fact that I only had two hours sleep the previous night. I’m a pro at handling sleep-deprivation. After all, I have ten years’ experience. My perky facade is still intact. I look over at Mother-in-law, who is ‘baking” with Baby G. They are so happy. Their trays are covered with plasticine carrots and cupcakes and sausages and apples.
Sure, I’d love an uninterrupted movie. Of course I’d enjoy reading my book. But I have many years ahead when that will be possible. Right now, I have a four-year-old next to me, proudly showing off the plasticine birthday cake she’s made with Granny. We ‘light’ the candles, she blows them out and Mother-in-law and I sing happy birthday to Baby G, who is four and is having a pretend birthday party in the sky.
Baby G: Mum, we have been in the sky for sixty and a million thirty two twenty minutes!
Yes, we have, Baby G. Only a squillion minutes to go.