Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Scooting over to Singapore

So I just wrote this hugely ranty post about hoax emails, and how passing on advice about alternative cancer treatment can sometimes hurt and offend more than help and empower.

And then I decided it was a little too angry, so thankfully there was a WordPress glitch and it didn’t post on Facebook.

Sometimes, glitches are good.

I’ll be in Singapore from late 28 February to 9 March, for those on the island who might have time for a nightcap. I am there primarily to spend some quality time with my mother, though. I anticipate quite a few, “You’re BACK!” followed closely by, “Where’s Arddun?’ and then an afterthought of, “And is Tony here, too?” I don’t blame you. The munchkin is way more entertaining than the adults who spawned her.

So I’ll state up front that I’ll be flying back solo, and it’ll be my maiden flight on Scoot. And yes, I know it’s going to be cramp and uncomfortable, and I know that they had that PR disaster when they cancelled the flight etc. But they were the only ones who could offer a dirt-cheap ticket at the last minute. And besides – I get complimentary travel insurance with my bank. Sweet.

This will also be the second time that I’ll be travelling overseas without checking in luggage. Others might scoff at the big deal I’m making out of this, but you have to understand that Singapore has trees, food, weird architecture, too many people, and shops. Even their hospitals have shopping arcades and kick-butt food courts. You go to Singapore to stuff your face, and then try and fit into a size 6 dress. That is the Singaporean way.

My MIL — bless her — will be arriving from Brisbane on Wednesday to feed ducks with Arddun and watch her dance to The Wiggles. I’m so glad she’s able and willing to do this for our family at a moment’s notice, because the peace of mind is astounding.

So for those of you who have my email address and number, do ping me between now and Wednesday before I fly over.




A flight to remember

So yes, we’ve been rather quiet online. Most of September has been spent in the following ways:

  • preparing for Surprise Grandma Singapore trip
  • in Singapore
  • recovering from Surprise Grandma Singapore trip.

And if I have time and energy enough tonight, I’ll cover some of the highlights of our journey. But I thought I’d dedicate this post to my solo-parent flight with Arddun.

Yes, that’s right. Me, my very wriggly toddler, and an almost-full Singapore Airlines A380. Sydney to Singapore, non-stop.

To understand the full extent of this enterprise, you have to understand that we live in Canberra. Which means our day had started with an indecently early wake-up call, followed by 3 hours on the road, and another nail-biting bit where we got stuck in Sydney traffic for half an hour. And that was just to get to the airport.

Couple that with a late and bumpy take-off, and you’ll begin to see how long my day was starting to get.

I think in my heart of hearts, I’d rather relished the prospect of doing the solo-with-Arddun travel thing. It was something our family anticipated having to do this year because we knew how stupid Tony’s workload was going to get by September, which was why he couldn’t join us. But I think it also evolved into something like a rite of passage for me. A personal challenge. Something I’d embraced with all the apprehension and naive optimism of a new mother contemplating labour and childbirth. Right, I’d told myself, I’m going to do this. I know I’ll be able to survive this, because loads of other women have. Eight hours on an airplane with an active toddler. Nothing to sneeze at, but I am creative, I am quick-thinking, and I have a sense of humour.

I’ll skip the bit about the check-in, except to say that I’ll never use Sydney Airport’s luggage trolleys again unless I can work out trolley reverse psychology. I’ll also glance over the take-off (so bumpy that the child on Arddun’s left cried, “Wheeee!!!” like he was in the amusement park). In truth, the first 6 hours of the flight were, on hindsight, uneventful. Sure, it got difficult trying to keep Arddun seated. But it was a huge blessing that SQ gave me a spare seat for Arddun even though I didn’t pay for one, so I wasn’t complaining. And sure, every air stewardess that got babysitting duty while I nipped to the bathroom commented on “how very active” my child was, upon my hasty return.

And yes, we lost at least one crayon within seconds of opening the box and the boy next to us ended up hogging the entire set anyway. The in-flight entertainment failed to capture her attention because the screen was fixed high up on the wall in front of us, and her headphones were too big for her tiny head. Also, all iPhone apps and videos downloaded for her pleasure were drowned out by engine and ambient noise, so In the Night Garden made even less sense than ever. Her nap was cut short by at least half, because the child beside us had given an almighty yell out of the blue. She devoured my lunch since she’d clearly outgrown Rafferty’s, refused all the goodies I’d procured from the Asian bakery the day before, and wanted, NEEDED to drink my tea. And of course, she HAD to use up two diapers by hour 6, which meant already two rounds of changing her in a very cramp lavatory.

But nothing too dramatic. She wasn’t noisy, she wasn’t unmanageable, we were fine.

Enter hour 7, and I smell something seriously suss.

I had been sure to secure our seats the moment I bought our tickets online, so I was able to get the bassinet seat in the upper deck. Which meant the front half of the upper deck was First Class, and then it was Economy, with us on the front row. I’d figured that the fewer the passengers surrounding us, the fewer people I’d be likely to irritate, should my child turn feral.

It also meant, however, that I’d have to walk the entire length of Economy class to get to the lavatories. And this was turning out to be an almighty stink.

True enough, we get in there and I realise that everything has gone everywhere. It’s a miracle my clothes are not soiled, because the poor girl needs a bath. I use up all my nappy wipes, save one. I’m so thankful I packed her a change of clothes, and I am praying the plane doesn’t get major turbulence while I’m frantically giving her a mini-bath from the slow, stately trickle of airplane tap water.

Not fun.

Amazingly, Arddun didn’t try any Chinese acrobatics, and we eventually make it out. I apologise to the queue, and scuttle back to the front.

An apple had been dropped off on Arddun’s seat, as previously requested. Stolen from First Class. How kind.

“Would you like an apple?” I ask my daughter.

“Apper!” she agrees happily, signs “please” very politely, and takes two bites.

And then she erupts like Mount Vesuvius. Top end, this time.

Yes folks, it’s everywhere. On the seats, on the blankets, on the ground, on me. Amazingly, thanks to the wide angle of her projectile spew, she managed to keep herself nice and dry. Lord knows I don’t have any change of clothes left for her. But then, I didn’t pack anything for me either, did I.

I had yelped involuntarily, so I think lots of passengers heard. There’s this horrid pause while I’m standing there, wearing spew and a rather wild look. Meanwhile, the curtains part from the back of the plane and the stewardesses wheel our in-flight dinner down both corridors. My access to the lavatories – blocked. No stewardesses on hand to help. Wriggly one-year-old, impervious to the disaster she’d just created and surprisingly chirpy for one suddenly so sick. Clothes starting to stick to my skin in a sickening fashion.

Napkins, nappy wipes, tissues start coming forward from everywhere. My first instinct is to get the yuck off the seats, just in case SQ decide to hand me a bill for chair shampoo.

“Right!” I say, and firmly toss Arddun on to her seat before strapping her in. “Don’t go anywhere, little girl!” She unbuckles herself in 2 seconds. I frantically tear open a paperbag for garbage, and start swiping with my left while holding on to my inquisitive child with my right. Nota bene: the little paperbags they supply on airplanes just in case you feel queasy? Absolutely impossible to tear open in a tremendous hurry.

Someone from the next aisle tells me that I have spew on my clothes. Yes thank you, I’m aware of that, I’m just trying to do one thing at a time please, thankyouverymuch.

A stewardess comes over. How can I help, she asks. She arrives with a humongous paperbag that has two tiny packets of nappy wipes in them. I direct her to the happy child, and ask that she just watches Arddun so I can get on with it. And then I clean everything. And spend lots of time yet again in the lavatory at the back. And apologise to everyone on my way there and back, for spoiling their dinners.

And then I sit in my stinky clothes, now scrubbed transparent because I was stupidly wearing white, for the final hour of our flight. And I thank GOD that we’re flying to Singapore, and not London.

And so yes, that was our flight to Singapore. Thankfully, the flight back to Sydney felt quicker and much easier, even though Arddun didn’t get a spare seat this time. Turns out that Arddun had contracted gastroenteritis before or during the flight, which meant the poor thing was still spewing and pooing all through our first week in Singapore. And then she’d passed it on to me. And we eventually passed it on to our host, Audrey, before scuttling off to my mother’s.

It’s funny – I had been so diligent about Arddun’s food and entertainment that I had brought enough to even feed and entertain the child sitting beside us. But it had just never crossed my mind that she’d be this sick on an airplane. Still, like childbirth, the awful moment eventually passes… and then everything becomes just a Really Good Cringey Story.

Come fly with me

This evening, SBS News carried a short report on how Malaysian Airlines has declared a war on babies and their inconsiderate parents by banning infants from flying first-class on their 747s and, when they finally arrive, their A380s.

Which doesn’t break my heart anyway because I don’t fly with MA, and I cannot afford $15k seats. $30k, if you count the husband.

But it makes me uncomfortable nonetheless because all it takes is for one airline to start discriminating refining its market segment and before you know it, the only way to get from Sydney to Singapore is by cruise ship. Or so says my hysterical mommy self.

Besides. Why stop at babies? How about snorers. They’re a loud and aggravating bunch, too. They’ll tell you they can’t help it – especially those with sleep apnea – but after 12 hours with an on-off snorer, you too will be convinced they’re just putting it on so that your life will be a misery.

Our return trip from Sydney to Singapore ended up being over 8 hours long due to a delay in takeoff. But it felt like an 18 hour flight, because

  • we didn’t get the bassinet seats
  • we were stuck in the middle section in the middle of the plane in a full flight
  • the gentleman beside me was very heavy and very jetlagged, so he took up half my seat while lolling about in slumber, which meant that
  • Arddun, Tony and I each had an average of half an Economy Class airplane seat to ourselves. Fun.

See, after flying with Arddun, I’ve become absolutely convinced that ALL parents and their infants should be flown first-class. And have an au pair thrown in for the duration of the flight. While giving both parents a foot and head massage as they sip on free mai tais.

Because contrary to popular belief, parents of young children do not choose to fly with their babies because they delight in exposing their noisy child to a few hundred people in an enclosed space for hours on end with no sane exit in sight.  Parents choose this torturous mode of transportation solely because it’s only slightly preferable to, say, rowing across a couple of oceans.

There is no rest for the parent with the baby on board, particularly one with a baby who loves to flirt with strangers only to find her entire cabin disappointingly comatose from jetlag at 12pm. You can say all you want to say about teaching manners and self-control, but 8 hours is a big ask even for the most saintly and passive of babies.  And at 9.5 months, they really don’t understand, “Ssshhh! Big people are sleeping. You have to be very quiet for another 7 hours, ok?”

Arddun actually turned out to be a pretty good traveller, on balance. Mostly amiable, except during the descent by which time, everyone in the plane was awake and preparing to leave anyway. But I felt like my every hair was at attention the whole flight. Every giggle seemed amplified to my ears, every lunge for Big Hairy Sleeping Dude sending me to silent hysterics to restrain her. The biggest paradox: correcting bad behaviour yet not creating a scene. I used to glare at parents for seemingly letting their babies carry on. Now I wonder if they had chosen the lesser of two evils in those instances.

And yet I know how aggravating it is to listen to someone else’s baby kick up a filthy stink through the flight. How draining it is to grit your teeth and keep from swatting the little snot behind you who keeps kicking your chair just when you’ve fallen asleep. Even after having Arddun, I still have very little patience for screaming children. It’s like the theory of poop – you’ll put up with your child’s stink, but you’ll never want to deal with another kid’s backside.

But if airlines are starting to segregate its passengers… if airlines are going to think seriously about punishing parents who fly, then here’s a few suggestions to airlines on how we could all learn to get along. Because this is an issue that will only grow, people. We’re getting more global with each generation. And family holidays and reunions and emergencies… they happen every second of every day.

So, dear airlines…

Don’t separate us

  • Bizarrely, I lost my bassinet seat on my SQ flight because I could not book the seat next to the bassinet seat for Tony online. Arddun’s ticket was attached to mine because I’m the mother, and both of us were entitled to the bassinet seat – but not Tony. In fact, because we wanted to sit together as a family, we were told we couldn’t do it online. That we had to rock up to the check-in counter on the day of our flight and hope that they could arrange for both Tony and I to sit together. Which of course meant we got nothing, and instead got stuck in the middle aisle in the middle of the plane, next to arguably the fattest man on the flight.
  • FACT: Parents want to fly together, because they need to help each other with the baby. Two parents working together makes baby less likely to scream the plane down. Therefore, it is in your interest to ensure we get the bassinet seat AS A FAMILY.

Do separate us

  • As parents, we don’t actually enjoy sitting with the masses because it completely cramps our style. We can’t discipline our babies like we normally do, we can’t play with our babies how they normally like it, we don’t feel comfortable letting them have their 30-second wail before their nap. Also, our babies are social creatures and they like being around other kids, too.
  • Just like there used to be smoking and non-smoking sections, why not reserve the back section of the plane for parents with babies? It’s furthest from first class, and we take ages getting ready to leave the plane anyway, what with all our baby gear. Besides, you could time it such that you have our strollers waiting at the gate by the time we disembark. Hint hint.
  • Better yet… if it’s an A380? Give us the upper deck. More noise insulation. More leg room for baby paraphernalia. And some crawling space.

In my dreams, yeah? But just think about it. If you would take the trouble to Hello Kitty an entire plane for the 0.000001% of the world’s population to get their kicks…  I’m sure addressing the Baby issue would be child’s play.

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