As a younger man, I vowed never to take any future children on a plane. My wife and I lived in Amsterdam for a few years before coming back to start a family and we flew often for weekend getaways or to see family in the UK and I would pray that no children were on the plane before boarding.
Now, I hate travelling on planes at the best of times. I’m 6″4 and consider the amount of space given (especially on budget airlines) better suited to hobbits and dwarves from Middle Earth than to real life adult humans. If anything like me (well, the younger me) you may sympathise with this scene:
While carefully balancing the latest Terry Pratchett novel on my knees, which are wedged halfway up the chair in front pushing against another travellers back, I finally find some sense of peace amongst my aching legs only to be sharply disturbed by a screaming child 3 rows back. I end up spending the flight reading the same page over and over again because I’ve been unable to concentrate. I guess this was actually good practise for a baby who obsessively loves a single book.
Back to the present me and I’d like to tell my younger self and any others like him to get a grip! Flights in Europe are really not long and you’ll soon be off in your rental car without a care in the world, searching for the delicacies whatever city you’ve travelled to happen to have on offer. However, I’d also like to apologise to that person for the following story.
We have flown twice now since Millie was born during her 4th and 5th months. Both were unavoidable as one was a christening in Cyprus to which I was a godfather and the other a wedding in France. Both my wife and I were pretty organised in our planning so I won’t delve into the issues with all that extra luggage right now aside to say that the baby gets the lot. No really, I had a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans and 3 t-shirts within two whole suitcases, a pram bag and 3 carry ons.
Our 4.5 hour flight to Cyprus and back turned out to be ok. I was terrified we’d be causing real damage to the passengers mental health and suspected the odd ear to bleed but aside from the takeoff and landing she mostly slept throughout both flights. The man seated next to us at the window even allowed us to shift around so my wife could feel more comfortable breastfeeding. Lured into a false sense of security, I felt smug – the 1.5 hour journey to France would be a walk in the park compared to this.
How wrong I was. Cramped and having spent 45 mins waiting on the tarmac while the plane constantly increased in temperature, we went into full fires-of-Mordor meltdown. Other babies around us joined in the chorus and there was no stopping them all egging each other on to see who would make the final of Baby Banshee 2016. Each parent would take it in turns pacing up and down the aisle with their little ones once they realised we couldn’t all do it simultaneously and then there were 100 other younger mes staring disapprovingly at how selfish and inconsiderate us parents could be.
We cocooned ourselves in our row, pretending that as long as we couldn’t see anyone else, they couldn’t see or hear us either. That’s another ‘game’ that’s come in handy which seems so much funnier when no one is getting angry about it.
The hour and a half felt like a lifetime as though we’d entered the Wardrobe and spent 100 years in the White Witch’s deep winter. The seatbelt sign illuminated, it was time to land, we’d made it through the other side and we were almost on holiday.
Just as we had to strap in and the toilet was locked we had the biggest code brown since birth. Not only did this sludge escape from the nappy as easy as wellies getting stuck at Glasonbury this year, but it ruined a vest, a top and even my wifes jeans in the process. All we could do was sit there letting it ooze further until the plane came to a stop and we asked for the toilet to be opened again. Needless to say we were last off the plane as those tiny toilets really aren’t up to the situation in hand.
Anyway, I’ve come to realise that although difficult and stressful, it’s not selfish taking babies on planes and I’d recommend it to anyone. While away we saw our baby girl both see and learn lots of new things including her first experience in the sea. Yes, it can be annoying to hear a baby cry but lets face it, that’s what they do when in a tight space that they cannot do anything in. I’ve wanted to do the same many times while cramped up on a flight and I’m in my 30’s.