We took Master J down to Melbourne this time last week – or at least, Llew took him down last Friday and I followed Saturday afternoon. Yes, the boys went on ahead and I got my one blessed day and night to myself. Unfortunately I got totally overexcited about being left home alone and drank FAR too much at the mothers’ group night out. It was a great night, one of those rare occasions when the anticipation matches the event, but I went completely overboard and paid for it for days. In fact, I was suffering the entire time we were in Melbourne, I guess because there was no opportunity to recover. Oh well – no sympathy for self-inflicted wounds.
Llew and Master J meanwhile coasted through Sydney Airport being lauded and applauded at every turn. I could practically see the cloud of estrogen following close behind them from here, billowing like DeLillo’s airborne toxic event as women throughout the domestic terminal fell over themselves to lend assistance and to stand in gushing admiration of a man travelling alone with… yes, hold the presses: his very own child. Look! A man with his own toddler! For a whole day! What a CHAMPION!!!!!!!
For God’s sake. The commentary apparently went something like this (and I knew this even before Llew confirmed it):
“Oh my goodness, just look at the two of you! Hey Liz, get over here! Get a load of these two cuties – have you ever seen anything so adorable?”
“Well, aren’t you just darling? Oh sweetie, I am so sorry I can’t get you an upgrade, but it’s a totally full flight.”
“And where is this poor child’s mother? Never mind, he’s such a lucky, lucky boy, having a father like you!”
“Let me hold him for you, you poor dear man, while you do that… Come here, you gorgeous little guy. Oh, I see he gets his looks from his daddy! Oh, he blew me a kiss! Oh, I’m going to have to steal this one – quite a ladies man, isn’t he?! Is there anything else I can do for you, anything at all?”
They were waved straight through to the Business Class check-in counter, though they were Economy flyers. They were assisted to the gate, onto the aircraft and off again, pretty much as though they were U2. Qantas and ground staff quite literally bent over backwards to help ease Llew’s burden, with Master J dispensing royal waves and well-aimed air kisses on demand. Women swooned.
It’s interesting to compare their experience with my own sole parent trip with Master J.
People see a woman and child queuing at the check-in desk and they do not think, “Oh my god, that is the sweetest picture I have ever seen – that mother is just sooo amaaaazing.”
They think, “Fuck no, don’t you dare seat those two anywhere near me.”
They think, “Get that stroller out of my way, would you? What is it with these mothers; they think they can take over the whole aisle? Tsk! TSK, I say!”
They think, “Children that age shouldn’t even be allowed to fly. It’s so inconsiderate. But then, that’s women today, am I right? It’s all me, me, me.”
They think, “What’s the bet that brat screams the whole way down to Melbourne and his mother does absolutely nothing about it?”
They think, “What the fuck is taking her so long? How many bags do you need, seriously? She looks like a gypsy. A bag lady. And there’s food in her hair. Gross.”
I can assure you, no one was sprinting across the airport to open doors and wave me through. In fact, it was much more like I was in an elimination round when it came time to check the collapsible umbrella stroller (which I’d erroneously been told I could take on board with me), so impatient were they to snatch it from my over-burdened grasp. Without it, my wrists quickly roared their protest. In addition to my nappy bag, I was forced to carry Master J off the flight, across the airport, through customs (I took him to Auckland to meet friends of mine the weekend of Llew’s 20-year school reunion, leaving him to party in peace) and down to baggage collection, and it was only after a lot of people pushed and shoved their way past me that a woman – another passenger, not airport staff – saw my mounting distress and took Master J long enough for me to liberate our bag from the carousel. The stroller then had to be retrieved from another part of the airport entirely, and my wrists not only flared up again, they’ve never been the same since. I don’t know that they will ever fully recover. I certainly didn’t get the Mexican Wave of public approbation Llew flew in on, and no one handed me the keys to the city on arrival. But yes, Llew spent a whole day with his very own child, and you know, I’m glad they were so warmly received, but I can’t help it, I also suspect there’s a little part of Llew thinking, “Would it kill her to be just a little bit grateful?!”