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Monday 24 July 2017

High fliers & toddlers

Despite the best-laid plans, Liadan Hynes finds herself undone again because she's flown with a small child. Soaked in urine... well, how bad can it be, really?

Stock photo
Stock photo

Things are bad when you find yourself thinking: "Thank God I'm wearing all black and no one can see the urine stains".

Never break your own self-imposed rules. One I like to live by is: why fly anywhere with small children, when you can have a perfectly nice holiday in Ireland in a location that only takes a nap-time car journey to get to? But it had been over a year since we'd been away, and the possibility of winter sun went to our heads. Less than half an hour into the flight, one of our party was urine-soaked and sobbing, and it was not the child.

I am not a good flier. I blame my uptightness on an ex-boyfriend who hated to fly. He would get so tense before every trip, that we'd end up having a huge row. It has left me with a hatred of air travel. Throw in a husband who objects to my suggestion that we leave for the airport four hours before our flight departs, just in case, and by the time we arrive at the bag drop, I am in a state of silent, seething rage.

It was as we attempted to check in that our undoing occurred. I was busy subtly prodding the little one into being cute on cue, in the hope that the Ryanair staff would fail to notice that our check-in luggage was wildly overweight. To her credit, she was playing a blinder, working up a flirtatious little "Hi" exchange back and forth with the check-in staff, going so far as to bat her eyelids and throw in a shy giggle. It worked so well, in fact, that out of the blue, the lady asked, "Care to check in an extra bag for free?"

It was clearly the word 'free' coming from a Ryanair representative which caused me to become unhinged at this point and throw all my careful planning to the wind. I had packed for the flight with military precision. The first time I'd flown with a toddler, I'd watched in dismay as, all around me, more seasoned parents grimly unpacked all that is necessary to get a small child through a flight: mountains of food, books, toys and pre-downloaded in-flight entertainment. Unaware that to fly with small children is to enact a non-stop, second-by-second entertainment show, I had nothing. I was reduced to desperately using the empty sandwich box as a means of distraction.

This time I had gone so far as to pack in layers according to what order I predicted things would be required. So I can only blame Ryanair - with which I travel in a state of high alert, expecting at any minute to be accused of being overweight, high in fluids, or secreting banned substances - for what happened next.

At the word 'free', I lost my mind, and checked in the bag which contained the bottles, the spare clothes, and the in-flight entertainment.

And so here we were: me, urine-soaked, with himself frantically scrambling through our remaining luggage for something to dress our child in. Having adjourned to the bathroom to divest herself of the wet clothes, the walk through the aeroplane with a child who was quite obviously wearing an outfit fashioned from the T-shirt of an adult man in the absence of an actual change of clothes, ranks as one of my all-time parenting lows so far.

As with everything with young children, when you're in the trenches, it is hard to see beyond that current moment, and to realise that this is a phase, and not life forever. Then it passes, and you forget, and find yourself blithely booking flights, thinking, "How bad can it be?"

If you'd asked me back then, I would have told you that we would not be venturing beyond Cork until she was at least five. Now, I write this in the middle of a holiday that required a two-and-a-half hour flight to get here. Yes, travelling abroad with a small child again. Frantically investigating methods of downloading as many episodes of Ben and Holly and Peppa Pig as my laptop will take for the return leg of our journey, mind you, but still. Travelling abroad with a small child, nonetheless.

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