Getting on a plane with a toddler and a baby didn’t seem a big deal when I clicked ‘confirm’ to pay for flights. I didn’t even think of bumping up from Easyjet to BA; it was only a short flight after all. How difficult could it be?
And then there I was getting out of the taxi at Gatwick. The taxi driver waiting by the kerb, eyeing me with concern as I left the baby on the pavement and unfolded the chunky double buggy. Not until I’d loaded babe and toddler, balanced the car seat on the handlebars, donned two backpacks and managed to stoop down for the main piece of luggage, did the driver pull away. Note to solo travellers with buggies: don’t think about taking more than one large piece of hold luggage unless you plan to hail an airport courier. Airport trollies are a great invention, just useless if you already have a buggy to push and only one pair of hands.
Luggage precariously balanced, I hadn’t even made it into Departures when a fellow mother – this one with three children and a granny in tow – commended me on my brave endeavour of taking the two to the skies on my own. I gave a nervous laugh in reply, confirming to the nice lady that I was in fact not brave at all, just a little insane.
Once the car seat and luggage were checked-in I thought the rest would be a cinch. Then came the ordeal of getting through security. Baby strapped to me – still two backpacks to carry and now a toddler on the loose – I dismantled and folded the buggy for the X-Ray machine, quite impressed with my speed and efficiency. ‘Can you take the wheels off too, love?’ asked the official, as the toddler pegged off into the departure lounge before I could get a hold of his backpack (complete with a handy leash designed for such moments). ‘Err, no, don’t think so,’ I replied, toddler retrieved and swinging from my hand, his feet spinning on the floor as he tried to pick up pace in the opposite direction. ‘This one comes off – can you do the rest?’ official man said smugly, having found the quick release on the front wheel. ‘Alright, I huffed,’ performing the task one-handed, the toddler strained against my other hand with all his might and the squirming baby impeding the process.
Red-faced, jackets and shoes removed, backpacks, bottles, baby food and drinks all separated into plastic bags, we finally shuffled through. But before I was able to strap the small wild things back into the buggy I was asked to taste every drop of liquid and morsel of baby food, so enjoyed lentil stew, mashed butternut, banana puree and baby milk to the soundtrack of a screeching toddler and whimpering baby. The organised, nuclear families in the queue now flashing glances of sympathy my way, and glances of relief towards the doting partners by their sides.
‘You’re brave’, said the female official who handed the buggy back. That word again. What she actually meant was: ‘Have you gone mad? Have you taken a wrong turning from the asylum/children’s centre?’
I finally wandered into the Departure Lounge in search of an appropriate zoo in which to feed and change my two monkeys. After all no one wants to deal with two hungry, bawling babes, even on a short flight. A lady with a clipboard made a beeline in front of the buggy. Uh-oh, she really thinks I’m going to answer a survey now? I swerved out of her path. ‘Excuse me,’ she persisted. I turned away impatiently. ‘Did you know there’s a children’s area just over there?’ She waved the clipboard to the back of the hall. She was a saviour. Restored, I floated towards the haven of tired, frenzied parents watching their children mash sandwiches and crisps into brightly colour play mats laid out in front of a giant CBeebies screen.
It was like being wrenched from a safe haven when our flight was called. Before I knew it we were at the gate and the buggy was whipped away from me, the baby wailing and crushed against my chest, the two year-old, escaped again, this time behind the counter banging on the glass towards the planes.
Cattle class crowds crushed towards the door long before boarding, in that delightful British art of queuing. Thankfully passengers with small children board after the VIPs. And thankfully, as it turned out, even on an almost full flight no one opted to sit next to the mad lady with two small children in her charge. However this last blessing became a curse when I was bursting for the loo. What to do with two year-old and babe while I nip for a wee? Well the stern trio in front having their seats kicked by the toddler weren’t going to help. The row behind had had enough of playing peep-oh and had passed various crayons, cars and the headrest covers back too many times already. So there I was, asking the two year-old to look after his little brother while I went to the toilet. Concluding that if I wasn’t insane before I took the two to the skies, I certainly was as a result of the experience.
Would I do it again? Definitely. Would I bump up to BA next time? Definitely.