‘I will be in my best behaviour. But, in case, I get scared, my parents have packed a goody bag with ear plugs ...” read the note in the picture. It was sent by my sister. She had found it on a domestic flight in India. I have read newspaper reports about parents travelling with babies handing out treats to fellow-passengers ranging from noise cancelling head phones and cookies to cute gift bags. In fact, a New York Times article even called, “bribing people around when travelling in confined spaces”, a great way to travel with a toddler. But, the trend had reached the subcontinent of India? Who knew!
I remember the time, when I took baby Sid on his maiden flight. Wrapped in a soft blue blanket, I was anxious if the cabin pressure would hurt baby Sid’s pudgy ears. I never for a minute paid any attention to my fellow mate in my next seat or the ones in front or back. My eyes were glued to the little wonder and when my hour-and-a-half flight ended without a hitch, I grinned like I had scaled the Everest.
But, the bliss was short-lived. There were raised eyebrows, frowns and also, “I don’t want to sound like a jerk but ...”, from a fellow passenger who was nice enough to point out that he was not a jerk. Case in point — Toddler Sid’s journey. When little Sid sat on his own, in the flight, his feet almost reached the backrest of the seat in front. And, whenever Sid moved, his feet rocked the fellow passenger, who turned around, looked us from the gap between seats and gave us the “the look” and spoke to us. I wished I could magically extend little Sid’s feet and put them on the floor or make the fellow passenger disappear. Neither happened.
Of course, there were other moments of desperation when I wanted to pull my hair apart or magically swish a wand to silence Sid’s screaming and kicking. All common sense, reasoning and the most-eloquent ‘how to fly with a toddler’ book were simply useless.
When I look back on my journey, I can think of so many scenarios when these goody bags would have come in handy. I could simply carry them in my big yellow backpack along with diapers, baby-food, wipes and other knick-knacks and hand them out to the ones not just in flights, but also to those in elevators, in shopping malls, in buses, trains, almost everywhere. Little Sid insists on wearing the wrong shoes in the shoe store? Hand the fellow shopper a cookie and smile. Little Sid decides to scream his lungs out in a bus or kick the seat in front? Aha! Ear plugs, cold wipes and a chocolate. My life would have been so different. Every one would have called me a super mum and the world would have heaped praises on the kicking and screaming.
As I continue to stare at the picture, I am struck with nothing but wonder. All my life as a mother, it has been exhausting to tell those around that, motherhood is hard and that, a baby cries simply because, it has a mind of its own. But, placating those very people with sweets and ear plugs is a master stroke of a genius. And, finally, after all these years, I realise that the magic wand that I have been looking for, is not really a wand. It comes in the form of cotton wool or packaged in a neat fancy sheet with sugar, cocoa and cream. No spell, no charms — just simple sugar-coated stuff — quite literally. And, when, you use this on people, they turn around, smile and announce, “that’s cute”. Well, cookies anyone?
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman.