I took my 23month old and my 2month old to Sydney overnight to have breakfast with my sister at 7am at the airport before she left for Europe. Need I say more?
A Mazda 323 with two car seats in it is no place for a travel cot, a bassinet, bedding, bags of clothes needed and spare sets in case of disaster, nappies, food, pram and sufficient toys to distract the toddler from the 2.5 hour drive. Loading it all was like playing tetris in 3D. By the time we hit the road the kids were cocooned in their seats and I prayed we would not need to stop on the way for fear of having to unpack and repack in a crowded Maccas car park with irate travellers beeping their horns at the vacant parking space filled with my piles of baby crap.
We did make it to Sydney, to my Uncle’s house filled with relatives eager to see the new baby and fuss over how the toddler had grown. He posed for cameras and splashed in the bath with his baby cousin and tried oh so very hard not to play with the tantalising glass and ceramic figurines that seemed to fill every possible surface. He was a good boy, but it was such an effort. He even went to bed without fuss, leaving me free to deal with my hysterical baby who squirmed and wouldn’t feed and cried and writhed and spewed and screamed some more… until 10pm.
Dinner was scoffed and strategies for the morning were refined: Get up at 0500. Dress and feed baby in silence by 0530. Pack car with all but travel cot by 0550. Get toddler up in silence, strap him in car and give him a bottle of warm milk at 0600. Pack travel cot and associated bedding by 0608. Scan rooms and collect the vomit rag, the books, the pair of socks and sunglasses that have been hitherto forgotten by 0612. Strap baby into car 0613. Unpack clothes bag and select replacement top because baby has chucked all over me at 0614. Get changed and don’t swear by 0616. Say farewell and get in car and leave for the airport at 0619, only 4 minutes late. Breakfast at the airport, toddler runs around, baby feeds, tired and satisfied we all pile back into car and head to granny’s house for a visit, more running and lunch and, exhausted, we pile back into car and toddler sleeps all the way home. Military. Fool-proof. Easy.
Except that the toddler woke at 0230 crying out, “Preeeze Mummy! Preeeeze Mummy! Bot Mummy! Preeeze…. Daddy? Daddy? Bot Daddy?”
So he had his warm milky bottle at 0237.
And he screamed when I tried to put him back in his cot. Twice.
So at 0323 I took him into my room, to bed with me. Which he found far too exciting: “Ah! Mummy night night! Mummy hair… eye… beep beep nose… Mummy clip-clop?” as he climbed on my back.
“No. Sleep time now. Quiet…”
“Quie….” He whispered. And I thought I had won. He lay his head on my pillow and was quiet and still…
Until the baby did an adult-sized fart.
“Haha! Bubby brrrrrt! Poo-ey!”
And then she started to cry. 0346 and I decided to feed her in bed in the dark to maximise the chances of maintaining some semblance of calm.
But she wouldn’t latch on, I leaked all over my pyjama top, the toddler tried to ride her like a horse and I had to turn to light on to reveal yet another exciting room full of new things to explore and discuss on top note: “Ah! Cat – meeow! Book? Book? Muuuummmmmyyyy! Preeeze! Ah! Mooooooo! Clip-clop?”
At 0416, after the baby chucked all down my left arm and the toddler tried to pull the desk lamp down for the fourth time, I relented and turned on the TV with the sound down low – some b-grade New Zealand drama about a cheating husband and an idiot doctor, American morning shows covering the World Hot Dog Eating Championships or the weather on SBS. The toddler climbed into the baby’s bassinet and started playing peek-a-boo until he announced, “Poo Poo!” and the room filled with a gas that threatened to asphyxiate us all in a matter of moments.
By 0500, I attempted to re-claim my plan, but the sight of bags being packed was enough to engage the toddlers deepest fears and he proceeded to bellow his terror at the prospect of being left behind and would not be satisfied with anything less than being carried around by Mummy and Mummy alone.
At 0535 I relented. I strapped them both in the car and left for the airport in the hope that the over-tired brood would sleep. They did… for 40 minutes. And I didn’t swear too much.
From 0630 – 0800 the Sydney International Airport was a playground. Strangers’ bags were stolen, escalators ridden, travellers bumped into and hallways raced down. What a wonderland! But no sign of the travellers we had come to see off. Breakfast was scoffed alone. Of course, the toddler wouldn’t eat and the baby did a wee reminiscent of Niagara Falls all over the baby change room.
We had a quick 10-minute “see ya” with my sister and I wondered whether the trauma was worth it. Why did I feel so compelled to see her off at the gate? Why would a phone call not suffice? The military plan, so painstakingly thought out had been annihilated, the kids took three days to recover, granny never got her visit, I ate more sugar on the 2.5 hour drive home than I had eaten in the previous year combined and walked around like a haggard old grouch for days. And why?
Because she is my sister.
And that’s enough.