By Sholain Govender-Bateman, Pretoria based journalism lecturer who worked for The Star, Pretoria News & other publications. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry. Visit her on twitter @sholain.
I recently flew down to Durban with my girls, Isobel (4) and Aishwari (19 months), and then back to Jozi the next evening… and I’m still waiting for the award I clearly deserve for surviving the trip without accidentally-on-purpose leaving one of them behind.
It was an emotionally difficult trip made at the spur of the moment for a memorial service for my dad who had passed away in December last year. To make things harder, hubby Barry was working so he couldn’t tag along to help with damage control.
I’ve flown with my girls alone before so I wasn’t overly concerned about the actual trip; it’s all the other airport hurdles that get to me so I had to make sure I was doubly-prepared.
Checking-in is the first hurdle – the first time I flew with my older daughter Isobel, she was 6 months old and I had to prove she was my child before we were issued with tickets. I had forgotten her birth certificate and had to empty out her oversized nappy bag (into which I had also stuffed my handbag) at the check-in counter as I rummaged through it for her vaccination card! Eventually the check-in attendant hesitantly gave me the tickets. No longer a novice, this time around I made certain I had copies of both girls birth certificates and knew exactly where they were located in my hand bag.
Afraid that she would be kidnapped or run away, my mum had suggested that I get a child leash for Isobel to use at the airport. A few years back I was that person who looks horrified at parents who have their kids on child leashes but when my mum suggested it I seriously considered getting one but just didn’t have time to go out and buy one before the trip. Why take unnecessary risks when you know your attention will definitely be divided between the kids, security checks and keeping an eye on baggage?!
The stroller is a great safety device, when you have one kid and minimal carry-on baggage. This trip I planned to have baby in the stroller along with the nappy bag and handbag, giving me one free hand to hold onto Isobel whilst the other hand is used to push the stroller. Plan worked well until disembarking in Durban and someone from the flight crew had cleverly decided to send the stroller down to the baggage claim area, which is a very long way off for someone who has two children and two bags to lug around.
At the mention of a solo flight with the kids a few people I know suggested in a loud whisper: “Give them panado.” I am not averse to giving some child-safe Rescue Remedy if either of my children is niggly but short of prescription sedatives, I don’t know of any over the counter meds that will manage to stop Isobel from jumping up and down excitedly once the plane is in the air. [And no, I did not give them sedatives/panado/Rescue Remedy – although I could have done with some Rescue Remedy myself!]
The nappy bag was carefully packed with treats, toys and other baby supplies. The treats were obviously non-sticky/low-mess snacks which are easy to distribute with one hand (the other being used to hold the squirmy 19 month old on my lap). I tried to keep the toys low volume but who was I kidding?! I could have brought a stuffed teddy bear with and my two girls would have found a way of making a racket with that.
Of course, everyone found out who we were and where we were going, thanks to little Princess Isobel. She’s very sociable – at one point she stood on her seat and asked loudly, “Who can I speak to now?” I applaud the man sitting behind her dressed in a spiffy business suit with important looking documents on his meal tray who had the courage/momentary lapse in judgement to make eye-contact with her and hence subject himself to 10 minutes of cross-examination from a 4 year old.
At the end of the second flight – all the treats were gone, having landed up under our seats. As I disembarked, stroller waiting right outside this time, the flight attendant gave me a smile of commiseration. The young lady who had managed to distract Aishwari with peek-a-boo games during the flight gave us a wave goodbye and I am proud to say that a very serious-looking elderly businessman who had managed to keep his head stuck in a newspaper the whole trip, suddenly made eye contact for a fraction of a second and gave me a polite little nod as though to say: “Well done, you did it!”