Last year in December I wrote about being THAT parent on a plane . Well it finally happened, my wife and I became that parent on the pane. We were going to experience what it was like flying with our own kid.
We booked the dreaded early morning flight. We had to wake up in the middle of the night, looking like something that was stuck in the bathroom drain for 6 months. No matter how you groom yourself you will still look like the demogorgon from Stranger Things.
The organized couple that we are, everything was kept ready. The only thing in our way was the sleeping 14-month old. How do we take her without waking the inner and the outer monster? At first we thought of knocking the back of her head with a blunt object rendering her unconscious for a few hours. But then we thought “we are new age Indian parents, and we dont beat our kids and all that crap…” so we gave up on that highly efficacious idea, and of course, jail time too.
Baby Z was strapped to me in the body carrier and was sound asleep. At 3am anyone would want to be strapped to anything to get some shut eye.
On the way to the airport, she was sleeping like a…
baby … drunk. Mouth wide open, drooling on my chest, no way she was waking up, things were going great. But no… struggle was loading. As soon as we got off the airport she was as awake and active like a Monday morning Bank computer. There is no God.
She realised we were not at home and threw a fit, not because of the new environment but she wanted to get off my chest and run around. Now the line to check-in was huge, and all the passengers looked like they could kill someone, mainly the people behind the counter.
After 40 minutes, we finally reached the counter, it was like crossing the finish line after an exhausting marathon. We were crabby, tired and ready to drop but Baby Z was galavanting like a stoned hippie radiating energy! As our luck would have it, we endured more struggle. There is no God.
When you travel with a child less than two years old, you are exempt from buying a separate seat, but they need to be attached to your ticket. In our case the systems failed to recognize this and we had to wait a good 15-20 minutes till they could figure this out. It’s the middle of the night and neither of us had the strength to carry or chase her from bumping into other passengers. This was just the beginning, we still had the flight to contend with.
The check-in was behind us and no longer were we “carrying baggage”, off to the immigration, luckily for us a ‘baby in arms’ has a separate window, with NO queue, hallelujah! It was such a breeze, the perennially surly and dour immigration officers beamed a rare smile when they saw Baby Z and we went marching towards the boarding gate. There is A God. At that moment I promised myself, don’t care how old Baby Z gets, even when she hits 30, I’ll carry her in my arms just to avoid the serpentine immigration line.
We had an hour to kill before boarding, so my wife and I devised a plan. Since she was nowhere close to sleeping we decided to tire her out. Now T2, Mumbai Airport has a pretty decent play area, so we decided to let her spend some time there till she showed signs of sleep. She played a lot but no sleep came. Then we let her run amok in the airport. Still no sign of sleep.
Eventually we boarded the flight, discomfort started creeping up inside her. She knew something was wrong, where was all that space? She seemed to question in her own incoherent way. Because we had a toddler with us the airline was bound to give us the front seat so they could fix a bassinet for the child to sleep in.
We got the middle and the aisle seat but a very unassuming man was sitting in the window seat. He took one look at the baby and trepidation, mixed with fear, blanched his face, if it wasn’t for the air-conditioning, little sweat bubbles would be forming over his forehead. What he thought could have been a peaceful, sleep-induced flight for him just just got hijacked by Baby Z. He was trapped. We politely gave him a sorry-about-this-but-if-you-ever-plan-to-have-your-own-kids-DON’T smile.
We settled down, or were making a very feeble attempt of it. Baby Z was having none of it, she wanted to get off my lap and sit on the floor, I was wrestling with her to keep her on me, while my wife was trying to look for the box of pomegranate. She was flailing her limbs in all direction.
Out of nowhere, the man next to us patiently got up and very politely offered us the window seat. We were obviously a little surprised, but he said he was happy to take the aisle seat so that the baby would be comfortable, that was such a warm gesture.
The plane was about to take off. I had to hold Baby Z in my lap and strap her with an additional baby seatbelt, she was clearly not enjoying this experience one bit. Whining and crying and grabbing everyone’s attention for all the wrong reasons. In the next row there was another kid, fast asleep, not a sound from him and there were two more kids in the seats behind us, they too seemed perfectly fine, it just had to be your kid with the attitude.
The pomegranate helped keep her calm and we took off, and just like that within 10 minutes, she was out. The flight attendant helped us with the bassinet and we put Baby Z in it. She slept right through the flight and woke straight in Kuwait.
We should count ourselves lucky, to be honest, it could have been worse but we survived first flight experience with a toddler.