Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Air-travel Guidelines

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. 
For instance.
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.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Unfounded Fears

“Is she going to know that he likes all his food separately instead of mixed together? Is she going to have enough tissues to keep up with his snotty nose?  Is she going to be able to get him to sleep? Understand his words when he is trying to communicate? Is he going to cry inconsolably, thus causing permanent seperation anxiety damage to his psyche, rendering me a bad mother?”

These are the questions one asks themselves while in the shower on the morning their first child is going off to any sort of childcare facility.  In our case, Jack is going to an in-home care center, run by the most lovely woman I will call B.  This decision has come after months of internal debating with myself as to if Jack is or isn’t ready, is or isn’t suited, will or will not benefit from spending time away from me, away from our home.  After a period of Jack seeming to be “searching” for something more, I decided to enroll and start the familiarisation process at B’s house. And now, here we are, the Big Day, and I’m suffering with terrible anxiety and poor Jack wont know what hit him.

Well as it turned out, Jack wasn’t “poor Jack” at all.  After a 5 minute cry, he settled in just fine, played and played all day with the two other girls that go there, behaved “like an angel” to quote B, and was the most pleasant little boy all round.  And he wasn’t fussed when I came to fetch him at 3:00; he seemed to be more interested in finishing his snack so he could get back to playing on the slide.

All of my anxieties have been unfounded.  But what a strange day it was – that first WHOLE day without Jack, which in truth I have had before but he has been with a loved one and I didn’t have to deal with that aching in my heart, that physical tensing of the gut caused by worry and maybe my own bout of seperation anxiety. 

As mothers we spend our days going by the clock.  Time for a snack. Time for a nappy change.  Time for a sleep, or a playdate, or to get lunch in the oven, or for a time-out or a chill-out.  How foreign this feels to bestow all of this planning and responsibility onto another person for a whole 14 hours per week.  All of a sudden my motherhood productivity level just skyrocketed at an exponential rate, and I cant help thinking this is too good to be true.

Grocery shopping with no tantrums?  Dashing in and out of 5 different shops without bribing Jack back into his car seat each time with lollies or airplanes or promises of going to the playground?  A morning fitness class at the gym?  Yes – it is all possible after all! I feel like I can do anything now.  Clean the windows… write a book….. walk the dog…. We don’t have a dog.  Maybe I should get one. 
I can envision power sessions of wallpaper stripping and tile-laying in our renovation-hungry house.  Blog-writing by daylight, which has never happened before.  Baking frenzies at lightning speed which don’t include a 2 year old standing at the counter wanting to “help” pour everything in the bowl (or beside it, or on the floor…) 

I have heard people say before “a few hours of childcare a week help me to be a better mother”.  Well, I can now relate to that statement.  You need not suffer post-partum depression or any other sort of illness for this statement to be true.  There needn’t be an “excuse”;  just a feeling that it is the right thing, at this point in time, for a child or the family. 
However. I am left thinking that Nathan truly got the shitty end of the stick all of a sudden.  Poor bugger, away working all day, 5 days a week.  Here I am at home spending quality time with our son 3 days a week, galavanting around town at my leisure 2 days a week, then family time all weekend long.  My biggest dilemma, we discovered last night, was my lack of a coffee thermos, should I have to dash out in the morning before I am able to have my second cup.  Yes, being deprived of my second cup of coffee can be such a hardship.    Sigh.

My life has, in the past week, taken on a new rhythm to which the tempo is more upbeat.  Change is scary, but also necessary.  Jack and I will both grow and learn and, ultimately, win as our routine evolves.  I can now see how parents get to a stage of “we are ready to have another one now.  This just seems so eeeeeasy!”   wink wink!