So I’ve been traveling with my one and a half year old and my five year old. Twenty one hour plane ride kind of traveling, with a stop over in Heathrow in the middle. I went to Los Angeles to visit my grandfather and family. I came back half a week ago and am still recovering.
Would I advise traveling with a highly energetic toddler by oneself? No, absolutely not. Would I do it again? Absolutely. It was worth all the smiles this little Prince brought to my grandfather’s face. Here’s what I learnt on my travels with a toddler (and a five year old, who was an angel and easy as long as there was an IPad around.)
- Not Everyone Likes Children
I’m going to sound naive when I say that I truly had no idea how rude and mean people can be. Some people really don’t understand how difficult it is for mothers traveling alone with babies. I had a horrible incident on Virgin Airways on the Johannesburg – London leg of my journey. During turbulence we were all instructed to put seat belts on, which I did and was in the middle of doing with my wriggling, squirming, squealing toddler, when a stewardess came and insisted I put his seat belt on.
I said, ‘I’m trying.’ As I grabbed him once again and tried to get him to sit still.
She replied, ‘You need to put his seat belt on immediately.’
I said, ‘I’m doing my best.’
She replied something along the lines of, ‘That’s not good enough, I’m going to have to report you to the captain for not following the law.’
It was late at night, almost midnight. She was speaking to me like I was some stupid, irresponsible nitwit. The turbulence was mild. There was no national emergency. Completely overwhelmed I burst into tears, at which she promptly told me off. ‘Oh no, not drama.’ And the Nazi stewardess commanded me to stop. Which of course didn’t work.
I reported the incident. It was the beginning of the end of my naiveté about the human race. There are some seriously unhappy people out there who’s mission is to point out every mistake anyone else makes and to make sure they spread their misery as thickly as peanut butter, everywhere.
(Is this the time to mention my Pick n’ Pay incident where I realised I’d forgotten Prince No. 1 at school (again) whilst taking my other Princes for a haircut. I reversed and a car beeped at me. Okay it wasn’t the greatest reverse, but it wasn’t even illegal to reverse. So I thought nothing of it. When I entered the centre a woman came to me and began abusing me about my driving. Swearing and everything. So I (and I’m not proud to admit it) got very cross and swore back. So she said she’s going to hit me and she really was an ugly, butch kind of woman, who had her fists up in foul mouthed readiness. I was carrying my one and a half year old baby, with this woman telling me that I was ‘the scum of the earth’. So I turned to her and said, ‘You are what you call others’ and left. But I was severely shaken. She was the paradigm of an ‘unhappy’ person who spreads misery like Swine Flu.)
Do these incidents only happen to me? They’re really unpleasant.
I just wish people had that much more empathy for mothers with babies and children. It’s really hard, and it’s only worse when you’re made to feel like a pariah for having a child around. A mother doesn’t choose for her child to cry, or for the pram to block a supermarket aisle, or for her toddler to run around a shopping centre wildly. She’d much rather not be in those situations. It’s hard to be out and about with a toddler and when there’s no understanding it’s a nightmare. It’s no wonder that under population is becoming an issue in Western Society. There’s not enough support for mothers, and traveling with a toddler and a five year old proves it.
I should note that a lot of people were really, really lovely on my trip. The same flight with the horrible flight attendant had the most unusually kind and caring flight attendants. (I reported them as well for being amazingly kind.) There were LA trendy coffee shops which put up with my toddler’s screeching (from exuberance) and crying (from ear infection) with out so much as a frown. Everyone is different, but somehow those who are horrible are hard to forget.
Prince No. 4 splashing away at a fabulous LA park.
2. Forget Your Ideals Take Lollipops
By the end of my trip, I was stuffing Lollipops and anything that would keep Prince No. 3 and 4 happy. IPad, Lollipops and lots of songs and rhymes. Traveling is not a time to worry about fried brains or too much sugar. It’s survival.
Universal Studios – Beautiful Californian Sky (Not a great place for toddlers though – Rides too scary, even the Studio Tour. Brilliant for kids though.)
The Getty Centre – Brilliant for Everyone – Love the Kids Room
3. Keep a Good Attitude
Perhaps I’ve moaned and complained a bit in this blog post, but the key to a good trip is to maintain a good attitude. I didn’t manage it all the time, but I did prepare myself for a physically intensive kiddie trip. It wasn’t a holiday, it was a family trip. It was meant to be a lovely, connecting family time, and with no other expectation that’s exactly what it was. Of course it helped that I was with my extraordinarily, kind and amazing cousin, Sharon, who of course has the best attitude ever, and schlepped me everywhere. I had no choice but to be happy, for her there is no choice, and that spreads.