Almost any parent/caregiver will vouch for the fact that taking a flight with a child is not something they look forward to at all. Being in a confined space with a wilful baby, toddler or pre-schooler can be the most trying hours in your life. There is something about an aircraft that can more often than not, bring out the worst in children. If you are lucky your creation will restrict to pulling just your hair and pressing the call button for the crew half a dozen times. On other occasions, like the one the husband and I encountered while flying to Mumbai recently, will involve your child sleeping for just 45 minutes, and spending the remaining four and a half hours examining her vocal range, waking people who unfortunately chose an aisle seat, and forcing us to wonder why we ever reproduced. On the journey back however she slept like an angel, and it gave me time to think about the whole travelling with kids situation. It’s a little bit like being at a movie awards night, often as one of the A list stars.
You get seated on the front row Yup, parents with kids are often seated right at the beginning of the plane, unless of course you are flying Indigo who believe in making parents as uncomfortable as possible. Since we now live in Singapore and all flights are international flights, we often end up sitting right at the front of the plane or cabin. Perhaps the intention was to keep the child in a location where the noise will dissipate, or give parents the immense joy of turning around and looking at people who are far less uncomfortable than them.
You get all the eyeballs but remain unapproachable Like the A list stars at an award show, watching parents with kids enter can make those sitting anywhere close skip several heartbeats. On a flight, you are the Bachchans with the babies. Yet given your star status, and the formidable personality travelling with you, most people admire you at a distance, never trying to act too friendly or familiar, lest you actually handover the child and make an emergency exit.
You see several examples of the sympathetic head nod At an award show there are always winners and losers. You see a lot of sympathetic cheering, clapping and head nodding from sporting losers who then probably go and cry in their fancy sports cars. Travelling with a child is quite similar. I see a lot of people smile, wave, nod, and even smile politely when your child wakes them up. Though they may hate your guts for ruining their journey, they will stop and say a nice word or two, telling you that the kid looks cute, or how you are shockingly still alive, and then move on when it’s impossible to be fake anymore. Also almost anything your child says or does is a talking point and will be criticized or gossiped about with fervor.
You know it’s going to be a noisy energetic affair A child may not know its eyes from its nose but if it is one thing they are champs at, its making noise. A howling child can quite easily disrupt the peace and quiet for almost two hundred other people, making them a captive audience every time you stand up to perform Wheels on the bus, Baa Baa black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or any other song that might reduce the watt power of your little performer. It’s also an energizing experience. Like a star who walks into the audience, you get to walk around the gathering, making sure that everyone gets to enjoy the music, because lets be fair, they all paid to be here.
It’s great in small doses Ever noticed how award shows have a very limited entertainment value? A couple of hours and then you really want to switch the channel. Well flights are like that. I have often marveled at how people fly all the way to America with the child, or even Europe for that matter. It almost seems like a superhuman feat. A couple of hours of high voltage entertainment, is all a normal human being can take and flying on a plane with a kid is best when kept short.
Saraswati Datar studied film making, worked in mainstream television, and now freelances as a writer, putting in double shifts at Mom Inc. She is passionate about cinema, gender, travel, literature and food. Though she lives in Singapore her heart has been left behind in the madness of Mumbai.