Its funny how time in an airport passes. Correction. Its funny how the passing of time in an airport can vary so much based on what phase of life you are in. And by funny I mean bewildering.
I remember when I could enjoy airport bars, meander through duty-free smelling all the different fragrances, browse souvenirs and stand reading books and magazines in the shops while waiting for my plane to start boarding. Footloose and fancy free is what they would call a young me, childless and unaccountable to everyone. But we never know how precious this time is until we are given hindsight. Oh if I could have told my 22 year old self how lucky she was to experience every airport leisure to its full potential! Alas, I am now in a life-phase where airports require tact and strategy.
My child is a frequent flier. His heavily stamped passport indicates he has been overseas 6 times before the age of 2, as well as numerous domestic flights. We have strategy down-pat……… theoretically.
Sleep times and warm bottles are timed around taxi and take-off; nothing like the combination of a full belly and the thundering jet engine rumble to lull a child to sleep.
Old toys will not be enough of a distraction to stop a child getting grumpy and impossible in a very long customs line. Only new, never-before-seen by the child, wrapped up toys will allow such success in prolonged distraction of the toddler. This was an idea I got from a friend – and what she said was, “if the child is well-behaved, give him a new toy to unwrap and play with, this will encourage more good behaviour.” But I’m sure she meant to say “when the child is not co-operating, use the new toy as bribery and coercion”.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt duty free shopping with a toddler. They will reach for expensive perfume bottles, vintage whiskeys, and jars of La Prairie moisturiser at lightning speed, causing acute heart failure triggered by the thought of the cost of replacing these broken items. Along with that is the war you will have to wage on the child when denying them all the temptingly packaged candy that sits gleaming on the shelves and counters.
If the child is anywhere over 18 months, do not attempt to travel without an ipad. Parenting, especially in public domain, without tablets or touch phones, is archaic and just plain hard. Just don’t do it.
It is OK to suck the orange Dorito residue off your child’s fingers before he has a chance to touch your clothing while waiting to check-in for a flight and the wipes are out of reach. Speaking of wipes, it is also OK to shove a hardly-dirty wipe back into the pack for re-use, so long as it has not been used in nappy-changing circumstances.
When a child is crying, or better yet – screeching inconsolably for most of the long-haul flight across the pacific, rejoice and be happy that it belongs to someone else. There was a time when this was your child, and you wanted to open the door and jump.
If your row is full, let your child annoy and clamber over the other passengers. Chances are they will kick up a stink, especially if they are elderly East Indian folks, and a sympathetic flight attendant will bump them to a spare seat in business class, thus allowing a free seat for said child and breathing room for the verging-on-insanity mother. This is a far cheaper option than just buying a seat for the toddler.
Although it may be tempting to take all offers of coffee and wine offered, use caution. Remember, you do not have the luxury of a nappy like the child does, and once he’s asleep you mustn’t dare move and risk wake him from his slumber just to go to the toilet. Dehydration is a preferable option.
Most importantly, observe the family with two teenagers armed with handheld entertainment devices. Note how peacefully they are travelling. Also have a look at the elderly couple, tidily dressed, hair in place, not breaking a sweat. Yes, the ones turning their noses up at you and your snotty-nosed child. Remember that this life-phase will not last forever, and peaceful travel will someday again be a reality.