Travelling with toddlers, that’s a whole twitter feed of its own isn’t it? I’ll try and condense the story as much as possible!
We travelled home from our holiday yesterday. Three and a half hours on a plane with 3 year old and 7 year old. It's the bit of any holiday I dread, the embarrassment potential is off the scale, as are the chances of meltdowns, tantrums and toilet emergencies.
And that's just from J!
Yesterday was no exception.
Arriving at our Spanish airport check in at 5.30am, we join one of three queues, all leading to Ryanair desks serving their three early morning flights. The flights are headed to three quite different destinations. Bergamo in northern Italy, Norköpping in Sweden and Bournemouth, one of our local airports on the south coast of England.
The progress of two of the three queues suddenly comes to a halt as two of the three check in operators disappear from their posts to, apparently, start lugging over-sized bags full of skis to goodness knows where.
As confusing reigns each of the groups of travellers begins to conform to stereotype. Stoic, glowing, healthy looking Swedes, with immaculately, yet funkily dressed blonde children abounding. Exciteable Italians beginning to jostle as they realise their flight is the first due to leave and purse lipped Britons, initially standing aside but then stepping in to organise other Europeans into vaguely fair queuing system. Proves to me that we really are so much better at it than everyone else.
Sadly same cannot be said for my ability to prepare for this kind of delay.
Behind us in the queue are a glowing Swedish family. They start sharing healthy fruit snacks and yoghurt to their blonde, stunning children. 3yo sidles up to slightly taller Swedish child and stands, starring, creepy stalker like at her, watching the pieces of fruit being transferred from sparkling tupperware to her mouth full of bright white teeth.
Embarrassed I call children back and hand out the only food I can find, some of the free boiled sweets I collected from our hotel reception out of boredom during our extra long check out procedure. Sadly conforming to another European stereotype.
Finally we get on plane. I’m in my usual panicked state, trying to dump bags overhead while accommodating demands, from children: “Can I have my iPod/comic/teddy!"
Unusually, our Ryanair flight has allocated seating. Helpful with and, I suspect, largely because of the large number of, children. Finally everyone is in their seats. With the exception of one poor chap. He wanders forlornly up and down the aisle. Confused cabin crew run around trying to check where there might be a spare seat. There are none.
The remaining unseated passenger looks around, with the sad, lost, lonely face of the person left out at the end of a round of musical chairs.
Lonely unseated traveller is finally seated thanks to kindly mother agreeing to have child on her lap. We take off and I look lovingly at my silent and seemingly well behaved children, seated at either side.
3 year old has fallen fast asleep, 7 year old is engrossed in a book. How lovely this moment is, perfectly behaved, quiet children on a flight. I look across at J in his seat across the aisle. His head is already tilted back, eyes closed, mouth open, drool seeping slowly from the corner and then being sucked back in as he snores gently.
Following my gaze, 7 year old notes J and then catches eye of immaculately dressed woman sitting next to J, who is looking at him with some disdain. I watch 7 year old eye up his options. He turns and nudges me, "Eew, who's the bloke dribbling?" he asks loudly.
Far down the aisle, 7 year old spies the snack trolley approaching. Before I can stop him, he has nudged his sister awake.
"Snack time!" he cries. What do you want?" And hands the magazine that doubles as a menu to her.
7yo has perused the menu and has his list ready: "Bacon sandwich, twix, mini cheddars, mars, chocolate biscuits."
"Please." He remembered that just in time.
3 year old follows her brother's lead: “Pringles, Chocolate, Mini Cheddars, Shortbread, Chocolate, Pepperami, Chocolate and, um, Chocolate.”
Blimey on Ryanair that lot’s going to cost about £50!
I get 3 year old Mini Cheddars and a drink. She's clearly unimpressed: "Where's the rest?"
3 year old is rejuvenated by her snack, however small, and begins to banter with anyone around us who will listen. Finally J wakes hp and she decides to talk to him. It proves to be a lovely experience for everyone but me:
"Dad! Dad! DAD! Can I have my dummy? Dropped it in loo yesterday. Got it out with my hand! Bit wet!" Agh!
The posh lady next to J is visibly blanching.
J decides to step in to help and swaps places with 7 year old. Sitting in front of his new seat is lady who agreed to have baby on her lap to accommodate seatless passenger prior to take off.
I'm very proud of 7 year old as he begins lovely conversation with lady and then begins to entertain her baby. Immaculate and smart next door neighbour looks even more aghast at new occupant of J's former seat. Her look across to J even conveys silent longing for his snoring/drooling.
7 year old is entertaining baby in front of him beautifully. So much so that she escapes her mother's lap and crawls under seat to climb up onto 7 year old, who is now waving a teddy in baby's face. 7 year old starts bouncing giggling, gurgling baby on his lap, who is ecstatic with attention.
Meanwhile, 7 year old's smart lady neighbour less impressed with his baby bouncing. Her look says "I'm going to be covered in vomit any second," which to be honest is my thought too.
As we finally begin our approach to Bournemouth 3yo falls happily asleep. 7 year old hands baby back. Posh lady has look of someone about to be released from enforced detention and me? I sigh once more, thankful for a relatively uneventful flight.
Much more importantly I'm hugely proud of our children, kind and entertaining in equal measure.