I Sleep, You Sit: A Toddler’s Perspective On International Travel
“Tonight we are going to sleep on the plane,” I reminded Miss M this morning.
“No,” she said forcefully. “I sleep. You sit. And then we see Nanna.”
And that’s probably the way it will go. When Miss M finally powers down tonight, she will sprawl and kick and wriggle and squirm. But she will sleep. And I will try to accommodate her kicks and squirms, absorbing as much as I can so she doesn’t disturb any other passengers. And I will be sitting, a position I’ve never been able to sleep in. I will be sitting and enduring and yearning to see my baby sister, who may not realise she will be my babysitter tomorrow.
And then we will see Nanna. (Miss M’s Nanna, not my lovely Nanna who died last year.)
I expect our three days in Sydney will be a complete blur as I try to wrangle Miss M and catch up on all that missed sleep. So to me it will probably seem like I sit and then I see Nanna.
But back to the story.
“We will both sleep on the plane tonight,” I tell Miss M, trying to explain international toddler travel to her. “And then we will see Auntie Kat and Uncle Andy. And then we will see some kids and some other people in Sydney. And then we’ll hop on ANOTHER plane and we’ll go and see Nanna.”
“A little plane?” she asked hopefully.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Maybe it will be a small plane, maybe it will be a big plane.”
“I want a small plane,” she said, and stuck out her bottom lip.
I ignore her.
“And when we see Nanna we will give her lots of cuddles and kisses and then Mummy will drive the car home. And Miss M will sit in a special small seat in the back.”
I am trying to explain how things are different in Australia. Last time we went, more than a year ago, she was too small to understand car seats and plane rides and who we were visiting. And it was a horror of a rushed trip, there was no time to explain anything. Dad was dead and we were bolting home from Thailand.
“You know how you have a special small seat when we ride the motorbike?” I explain. “Well, in Australia, when we go in a car, you have to sit in a special small seat. With a seat belt.”
Miss M frowns at me. “YOU will drive a car?” she said, her voice going squeaky with surprise.
“Yes, I will drive a car. I will drive you and Nanna.”
“AH-HAHAHAHAHAHA!” she guffaws. “You will drive A CAR?”
This child has been with me night and day for more than three years and she knows so little about me. Sigh.
“Yes, I will drive a car. I will sit in the front and drive and you will sit in the back.”
“Naw,” she said. “We will sit in the front.”
“No, you will sit in the back,” I said again, trying to be firm.
“And then we will go to Nanna’s house and do some cooking. We can cook in the oven. We can cook cakes and biscuits and coloured chips.”
We have no oven in our house in Ho Chi Minh City, so baking is another exotic activity during our two weeks in Australia.
Miss M gasps in delight. “Special small cakes?” She asked, her face glowing with excitement. “For me?”
I assure her that yes, we can cook special small cakes for her.
She is sleeping now, which may not in fact be a good thing. Because I really need her to sleep tonight. I need to to fall into a deep MOTIONLESS sleep so I can endure the night as best I can.
And when she wakes up, she has so much to learn about Australia, the country she knows very little about even though she was born there and has an Australian passport.
It’s going to be a sad homecoming in many ways. Two key members of the family are missing – Dad and his mum (my Nanna). My Mum isn’t very well, either. There’s so much catching up to plan, with sisters, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends in two states.
I’ve also got a bit of work to do. But unlike when I was solo parenting in France, I am confident I can organise child care while I’m in Australia. I can speak the language, after all, and I know people, I can use the telephone and the internet and I know I’ll be able to find some options. And this is a planned solo parenting trip, unlike the last disaster, when Darling Man was refused a visa for Europe.
And because I know I’ll be able to organise child care and get my work done, I’m planning to treat myself to another surf lesson while I’m home on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The first surfing lesson I took with Darling Man, many years ago, was a bit of a bust because I could hardly lift my arms after our cable skiing adventure a few days beforehand. (I did manage to stand up, though. But only once.)
We have prepared for our long flight with crackers, colouring books and stickers for the plane. And long sleeve t-shirts and jeans for the “cold” weather we’ll experience in Australia … with night time temperatures forecast as low as 20 degrees (68F). Much colder than the “cold” night’s we’ve been having in Ho Chi Minh City when the mercury plunges to 26 degrees (79F) overnight.
So, see you on the other side, folks, when it will be g’day from Australia, mate.
6 years ago