Monday, January 08, 2007

Have Baby, Will Travel

Home again home again… after a fairly marathon 2 week journey involving three plane rides, three time zones, four bedrooms and at least two dozen new people, Charlie is home. He’s got a few new skills, a few new photographs, the starring role in a few new videos, a few new toys, a few new clothes – oh, and jet lag. Not just any jet lag mind you, but full blown, up until 4 am, bells and whistles jet lag. For a week and a half.

It’s getting better now, however it feels like we were away for months - we certainly did enough things, met enough people and took enough luggage to have been gone for months. By the time we got back, the Spider In The Bath had been stuck there so long he’d spun a hopeful, if somewhat desperate web all around the bottom of the tub – presumably on the theory that if he could get stuck there so could anyone. He was very slow to crawl back into his vent when I rescued him and I haven’t seen him since. We were gone so long in fact that Charlie lay under the mobile he’d gotten bored of by the time we left and just smiled and smiled and smiled. He didn’t sleep though.

Travelling with a baby has it’s moments, chief among them is the part where you get onto the plane ahead of everyone else with plenty of room for your bags in the overhead lockers and plenty of time to settle yourself in before the sweating hordes start pouring in. Charlie got his own bed on the plane, which is the only time he’ll have a lying-down seat on a long-haul flight until he starts making his own cash. Lower on the list would be the part where you stand in a lurching aeroplane loo with the changing table down holding onto your kicking off-spring with one hand while the other tries to undress him, clean him, put on a new nappy and fasten his pop-studs back up. He seemed not to mind the plane and slept most of the way there, waking only long enough to feed and then to charm the air stewards. At the other end he slept when he was supposed to sleep even though he woke a lot more, he ate on command and seemed blissfully happy to meet so many new people. He was charming the whole trip in fact.

I’d like to wax positive about it all and make you all lunge for your passports with baby in tow but the reality is that when you travel with a baby, while it’s not as bothersome as it may seem, it’s not all roses either. There is so much Stuff to drag along that we went from people who travel lightly to people who need a small moving van to get us to check-in. And, with all that being towed behind one, something is bound to get lost on the way and top of the list is one's patience. Lower down one finds (or rather, loses) various items of baby apparel and any part of the buggy which is not permanently attached. There are all sorts of new experiences to be had in airports – airport baby loos, for example – a nice, big, clean bonus. Waiting for 2 hours with baby without him screaming the place down out of boredom. Security, for another example. Did you know that baby buggies have to go through the xray machines? This means taking out the baby, dismantling the buggy, taking off all the decorations with which it is strewn such as changing bags and spare hats and spit-up rags and then folding it down and shoving it onto the conveyor belt only to be told that it’s too big and it has to go through the super-size-me xray machine at the other end of the airport. Such is the thing that lost baby coats are made of.

Charlie got his first (and second and third) flight in an airplane, his first voyage on a BC ferry, his first view of the sea, his first sight of his grandfather, his great grandmother, his uncle and aunt, his first view of snow, his first Christmas tree, his first Christmas lights, his first night in with a babysitter and a host of presents that meant we had to take an extra car to the airport on the way home.

It wasn't so bad - and in fact we are already booked to do it again soon on a somewhat shorter flight to France. We will be taking with us the lessons we learned in Canada. Take fewer clothes and just do laundry. Bring toys. Bring soothers. Bring bottles and boiled water. Clip the baby seat together before going on the plane. Pack extra nappies. Pack more nappies. Generate a thick skin to block out those disgruntled looks from fellow-passengers. Parents don't need to pack clothes.

The chief thing we have learned is that babies take about two weeks to adjust to a new time-zone schedule and two weeks at the other end to adjust back, so 2-week holidays may not be such a good thing. And, it's worse flying East no matter who tells you what. Oh, and sleeping 18 hours with your baby in the bed is a bad thing, particularly if that 18 hours ends at 6pm the night before you are due to do anything important. You may all have had a lovely cuddly sleep, but count it as your last for the forseeable future.