Remember going on holiday before having children? I have a vague memory of endless days sunning on beaches and evenings spent drinking cocktails; all the time and freedom in the world. I also remember hating the getting there and back, and how the necessary rigmarole of airports totally spoils the experience, and I remember noisy children making matters worse. For example, the endless questions on planes. “Why is the sky blue, daddy?” is cute when you hear it the first time, but after the 53rd, you want to smash your own face in. And the constant banging into your chair from behind with their feet, that’s REALLY irritating.
Well, five long years after our last holiday abroad – a Babymoon – when Mummy Cool was pregnant with our first daughter (I hate the term Babymoon, by the way, my wife insisted on it during proofreading this), we were finally taking the plunge and taking Blondie (4) and Red (1) on their first flight – a helpfully short one – to spend a week with family in Jersey. And believe me, the thought of our children being the annoying ones this time around was not lost on me, in fact, it had been niggling at me for weeks leading up to the big day. As Blondie is very sensitive I had a feeling she would find it quite scary, particularly the take-off, which could involve heavy-duty screaming, and if she did enjoy it, she could drive everyone mad with her non-stop commentary. As for Red, well she refuses to stay still, so how were we supposed to keep her happy?
The build-up to the flight could have gone better. All parents and grandparents concerned were frazzled due to Red’s boarding pass going missing. The kids were happy enough, mind, until we got to the security checks. While struggling to explain to Blondie that, because a machine had beeped at her, she needed to stand in a booth on two outlines of feet that must have looked terrifying to her (I didn’t like the look of it myself), Red had broken free and barged past security, happily making a run for it while the entire room sprang into action to stop the small ginger would-be terrorist.
Happily, by the time we were buckled in and it came time to finally fly, everything went smoothly. Mummy Cool was so relieved at Blondie’s excited screaming during the take-off, she forgot about her own fear of flying (Mummy Cool does not live up to her name when she’s at high altitudes). To Blondie, it was just like a big rollercoaster, and there just might be a chance she could see Santa bobbing his way through the clouds on his reindeer. Red seemed to have got her need to move around and create chaos out of the way at the airport and spent most of the journey holding and staring at the safety card in which the likely death of all passengers and crew is reduced to fun cartoons. This might well have been the only time anyone has really stared at that card with such intensity. So much so, I decided if the plane did certainly look likely to crash, I’d have asked Red what to do rather than the cabin crew.
The holiday turned out to be fantastic, with all concerned very well-behaved and loving every minute on the beach, at the zoo, and on my aching bloody shoulders. The only really stressful moments came when trying to get both kids in the water. Blondie had developed a bit of a fear of the trails in the sand left by tiny creatures, and was convinced they were worms, and no amount of persuading her otherwise would work. Sadly, they were all over the beaches of Jersey, so it wasn’t easy getting her in (I can’t’ imagine how this looked to passers-by, they may have thought she was being tormented by ghosts or inner demons as she seemingly screamed at absolutely nothing). The exact opposite was true of Red, who insisted she was perfectly capable of swimming and when we tried to persuade her otherwise, turned into a ball of fury, spitting sand at us and trying to faceplant the sea. One afternoon, we bought extortionate rubber rings and swimming paraphernalia, and after an hour blowing the damn things up we tried to get both kids to swim, which resulted in so much screaming from them both, most of the other people in the water cleared off. I heard one woman with an older child say “Oh dear” with an impressive degree of snotty disdain. This wound me up so much I wanted to get out of the water and rage at her for having an apparently perfect life. Instead I said “Oh I’ve had enough” in a rather camp manner, grabbed Red and marched off to the towels. I then remembered how scared I was of water as a child and thought it was a bit harsh of me to expect my own kids to be master swimmers.
The journey home brought us back down to earth with a bump, but then, doesn’t it always? Both kids were well-behaved but Blondie created a stir in security when they took our suncream off us. Before we had chance to explain to her that, er, because of 9/11, we had to be careful of terrorists squirting the eyes of pilots with suncream, or something, we had to prevent her from climbing into the bin to retrieve it while she loudly proclaimed her horror at the situation. It’ll be a long time before she can forgive the man responsible, that’s for sure. But all in all, the holiday was a massive success, so beware, airports of the world, because we’ll definitely be back one day.