on Unicorns, Planes and Warheads

Youngest’s voice over the phone is warped and garbled with emotion. We do the usual dance of “I love you too” and “Kiki and Izzy miss you too” and “yes they told me they miss you” and “yes honey they’re here” and “no honey I can’t put them on the phone”. Kiki and Izzy are our cats, if you didn’t know.

Eldest on the other hand seems to be having a ball. Our daily conversation also follows a standard of sorts, being that she rattles off the happenings of the day in rapid-fire sentences devoid of full-stops, commas or breathing.

The Wife and kids have been at the Grandparents for just over a week now, and my four-year-old doesn’t seem to be handling the separation very well. A business trip to our old city during school holidays seemed to be a perfect opportunity for the kids to visit my In-Laws.

I had to stay home to work. (Party at my place – bring beer.)

In truth the Wife and I were nervous of Youngest’s first flight. I can’t remember my first time flying, and I find this strange because it’s become such a non-event to me that you’d think I’d remember getting used to it somewhere along the line. Eldest wasn’t what you’d call calm when she first flew, and the ordeal isn’t a memory I particularly enjoy revisiting. Then I compare my daughters: if Eldest is an emotional firecracker, then Youngest is a thermonuclear weapon with satellite guidance and a trigger-switch in the hands of an emotional despot with Parkinson’s, whose beloved cat Socks had just died. Now you understand our disquietude. Although I was full of sympathy for my S.O. having to brave it alone this time, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mentally sigh a sigh of relief at not having to witness it first-hand. In the days leading up to departure, the smallest human in the house seemed to be harbouring apprehension towards the trip. Not a favourable omen.

I tried telling her that it’d be fun, that it’s just like riding in Daddy’s car. Up until now she seemed a budding aviation enthusiast and would bark loudly for us to look at any plane that happened to fly over. I say “bark” because the exclamation leaves her in such a clap of excitement that your eardrums feel as if they’ve been slapped. Very cute but it’s a little grating on the nerves when she does this while I’m driving. It seemed that, at the thought of actually being on one of those aircraft, she pulled inward, as if her galloping personality had slowed to a canter.

So the big day finally dawned. Eldest, barely able to remember the last time she flew, put on a brave face for her sister. I’m proud of her, considering her skittish personality type that I’ve mentioned in an earlier post. True to her form her bag had been packed and ready two days prior, and luckily Mom checked her hand luggage. My eight-year-old, in preempting what she “might need” in-flight, had packed the following: glue, pencils, a sharpener, band-aids, lip gloss, a pair of scissors, a magnifying glass, tissues, water, deodorant, waterless handwash, a japanese decorative fan and toothpaste. That would’ve been a fun baggage check.

Youngest only had Uni with her (a white stuffed toy unicorn), clasped tightly to her little chest at the terminal.

I had inadvertently caused us to arrive over two hours early. I may be a tiny bit obsessive in my timekeeping, but that’s another post. So we had breakfast and checked in, with the looming flight of dread casting a sombre shadow over my little ones. During this the Wife seemed increasingly in need of industrial strength sedatives (although she tried to hide it), Eldest spoke almost continuously, I failed at keeping smiles on everyone’s faces, Youngest remained bug-eyed but subdued, and Uni, had he been alive, would’ve asphyxiated in my little one’s iron grip.

In a blur the goodbyes were said before their security checkpoint, and the smallest face wept some big tears. Remembering that little figure of misery and despair as they passed through security, Cecil Day Lewis’ words perfectly illustrated her to my mind:  “With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free” (Walking Away – very much worth a Google search).

By now I’m sure onlookers thought we were saying farewell forever. We might’ve been a little dramatic. They were after all going on a holiday of sorts, and not to Auschwitz in the 1940’s.

The following I can only relate to you as it was to me by the Wife. Eldest remained her brave little self all the way onto the plane. Youngest sobbed quietly until the boarding tunnel, where she began wailing for daddy. Finally they were on the plane, in their seats, and then nothing.


Yes. Nothing. I’m gobsmacked to report that the Wife said that it had been one of the most pleasant flights of her life. The children were happy (although she suspects Eldest kept her nerves under control with immense effort), they occupied themselves, were polite and in general perfect. Youngest apparently sat down and promptly asked the stewardess if they’d landed yet, and then requested that she tell the pilot he had better “fly nice”. Eldest remained glued to the window. They were the last to disembark, met the pilots, and even posed with the flight crew for some selfies.

In hindsight we were wrong to worry, because worrying doesn’t help. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, etc etc. I’m beginning to believe that parents’ stress affects the children, even if we hide it and it’s only on a subconscious, or perhaps even primal, level.

Just have a little faith in your kids sometimes. Lesson learned.

No. There’s no party.