Shirani Alfreds is an expat mother of two living in Shanghai. She will be writing about her experiences in a regular "Dragon Mama" blog for Urban Family.
Being a somewhat seasoned traveller with two children aged one and seven, flying ‘only’ 5.5 hours to Singapore when most people are flying over 10 hours to Europe or the United States should be a walk in the park, right? Turns out being seasoned might also mean being delusional because I made the fatal mistake of assumptions based on previous travel. I also did not account for the fact that my 17-month-old is now at the PITA stage (‘PITA’ = Pain In The Ass), otherwise known as toddlerhood so she no longer just lies there willing to be cooed at by random strangers and flight attendants. She now has the super-human strength to execute the mind of her own and to scream blue murder if she cannot scale the airplane seat during take-off. Equally delusional by the way, was my intention to watch The Jungle Book whilst she napped. Yeah right, and no I wasn’t smoking anything when I (obviously didn’t) planned this trip. Of course sleep wasn’t on her agenda. My only consolation is that I probably got enough jungle action anyway ensuring she wasn’t the inflight entertainment for everyone else.
So, to make sure nobody else makes the assumptions I did, here goes:
- Do not think just because you have travelled with kids before, its ‘easy peasy’. Every child is different and if one hasn’t slept, her inner flying demon will materialize and come out to terrorise ordinary mortals.
- Stewardesses are only friendly, helpful and think your baby is cute until she spits biscuits on two pillows and tips her water bottle out. Thereafter they will fake smile and avoid your desperate looks for more water (for child) or a whiskey shot (for you) the rest of the trip.
- Your 7-year-old who you thought would be an extra pair of hands will go spontaneously deaf glued to the entertainment set in front of her face. In glee that she gets to fry her brains for five hours straight whilst being served food and ice cream, she will only speak when the set turns off at landing and say ‘are we there already?!’ in an incredulous fashion.
- Do not rely on strangers’ help after your toddler trying to spiderman your seat and land on their dining table. They will ignore you scrambling for nappies somewhere in your four overhead bags whilst balancing poo-ey toddler attempting to remove her own nappy on your hip.
- Do not pack four carry on bags if it is only a 5.5 hour flight.
- Do not underestimate the usefulness of the front pack or the dummy. I discovered using the former in addition to your seat belt and the infant seat belt means the toddler cannot houdini herself out of anywhere. Use the latter as a mute button as she will not be pleased with this situation.
- Upon landing, do not rush to exit as everyone else will be doing the same, presumably to get away from your toddler. Take your time and ambush the people sitting further back who will pass by. They will help, having not been subject to toddlertainment.
- If like me, the flight gave you brain damage and you still think you can duty-free shop upon landing, make sure your toddler is not in eating distance of anything. I needed new glasses so was trying a few but the shopkeeper couldn’t find the price tag of one I chose. I had to feign ignorance but I’m pretty sure where it went. Luckily it was the one I chose.
All in all, plan your trip, know your child, do not make assumptions and try to avoid being delusional. The brain damage part is entirely subjective (based on experience) and I really cannot help you with that.
For more Dragon Mama, click here.