Why travelling with a toddler might be one of the sternest tests of parenthood
When I first travelled by air with my daughter, she was barely seven months old, and I was a nervous new mom. Packing for the trip was an elaborate affair, and her diaper bag was so full of bottles and baby food and clothes and diapers that it wouldn’t close; and so heavy that I despaired of being able to carry both baby and bag (tip of the day — it helps if the bag doesn’t weigh more than the baby). The trip wasn’t too bad — I had aching shoulder muscles for days afterwards, and I sobbed along with my daughter during take-off and landing — but we survived.
Recently, we went on another airplane trip, and I had butterflies in my stomach. Relax, I told myself. She’s a toddler now. She walks, she talks... It’s going to be easier. Right?
What I discovered is that travelling with a toddler is one of the sternest tests of parenthood, and that by the end of the journey, you’ll be missing those good ol’ days of babyhood and bursting diaper bags. Here are five reasons why:
1) Toddlers love to walk.
And run. Fast. Airports are designed to appeal to the budding athlete in your toddler. So many smooth, long, stretches of corridor to race down! So many hurdles to climb over (seats, suitcases, trolleys) and duck under (security barricades and more security barricades)! So many (human) obstacles to dart around and trip up! It’s more temptation than a red-blooded toddler can resist. All the parent can do is put in some extra time in the gym beforehand, building strength and endurance. Sprinting practice is a plus (try to work on maximising speed while handling multiple pieces of carry-on luggage).
2) Except when they really, really don’t want to.
After running herself and you absolutely ragged, your toddler will decide that she’s too tired to walk anymore. If you’re lucky, she’ll sit in her stroller. If you’re not (and so far, I haven’t been), your toddler will refuse to go anywhere near the darned stroller you’ve been lugging about all this time, and you’ll have the joy of now lugging stroller, luggage and carrying said tired toddler.
3) They love to talk.
A lot. If your toddler is the garrulous sort, be prepared for several hours of forced fraternising with strangers in the airport and on the flight. Were you the sort who loved to read during travel in your pre-parenting life, magnificently ignoring fellow passengers? Well, those days are gone. Now, you have to smile sheepishly and apologise as your child walks up to random people and introduces herself as only a toddler can:
“I’m a young girl!”
“My daddy lives in Chennai!”
“This is my shoe!”
When she isn’t chatting with strangers, my daughter chats to me about strangers. Loudly.
“Amma, what’s that uncle doing?”
“Where’s that aunty going?”
“Why is the baby crying?”
If she’s not doing either, she’s discussing the quality on-flight entertainment.
“What’s Elmo singing?”
“I want Dora!”
And when all else fails, there’s always:
“Are we there yet?”
“Where’s Chennai?? I can’t see it!”
4) They don’t like to nap.
During that first flight with my daughter, she slept blissfully in her airplane bassinet for over an hour. I thought back wistfully on that hour many a time during my recent trip, when she refused to close her eyes for the entirety of the flight. Any attempt to recline the seat and pretend it was her ‘bed’ only resulted in her pretending that it was a slide instead. Climb up, ‘slide down’, repeat.
5) Except when you really, really don’t want them to.
A long day of travelling and you’re all set to crash in bed once you get home. Unfortunately, your toddler will have other ideas. Because after refusing to nap all flight long, she will almost certainly fall asleep during landing or in the car on the way home, and then, of course, be wide awake and ready to boogie by bedtime.
So, new parents, enjoy travelling with your gurgling infant. Contrary to what you might think, it only gets harder from here on.