Well, I’m still able to type, so our first flying experience with 22-month-old Elsa must have gone okay. I didn’t find myself uncontrollably weeping from having to deal with a toddler tantrum or even from repeated listening to the suspiciously-catchy Sing and Sign DVD, as I feared might be the case before we set off.
In fact, it was quite a lot of fun. There was a lot of sticker book action, we allowed her to have her dummy, which is generally restricted to bed time, to stop her ears from popping and she did guilt-trip a fellow passenger into parting with a chunk of Kit Kat with a flash of those doleful blue eyes minutes after boarding the plane but, other than that, the actual flying bit went ludicrously smoothly.
That was all the more surprising considering we set off stupidly early in the morning (even for a family containing a young child), we had to run through a monsoon at Stansted to make it to the terminal and Elsa had a full-on meltdown as it took an age to sort out the little excess baggage issue we ran in to (for “little”, read “seven kilograms”). As she wailed like a banshee – a not unusual noise to emanate from a Ryanair passenger – our fellow travellers must have been wracking their brains to recall which ladder it was exactly that they walked under earlier that week. However, they say if you lower your expectations you will usually be pleasantly surprised and, I am certain, her impeccable on-board behaviour was a surprise of the most pleasant kind for anyone who had checked in their luggage at the same time as us.
We had put some legwork into the preparation, hoping to get Elsa used to the idea that she was going to allow herself to be barricaded into a tin can and propelled through the air at 500 mph, 25,000 feet above the ground. We live under the flight path for Leeds Bradford airport and one of her favourite hobbies is pointing at the jets descending in the direction the runway and shouting “PLANE!” very loudly, so I thought it would be a good idea to take her up to Yeadon to see them at closer quarters.
It was there that we happened across the two types of people who habitually spend their Saturdays hanging around the end of a runway – families looking for free entertainment and hardcore plane nerds who feed the radio chatter from the tower through their car stereos and seem to treat the former group with the sort of suspicion usually displayed toward noisy children by fishermen. It’s unlikely any of the planes would be scared off from landing by a raucous rendition of Ring a Ring o’ Roses though.
If the way there was aided by the novelty of flying, the journey back was greeted by genuine excitement and joy to be back on board and going, as her pithy review stated, “FAST!”. It seems my daughter is a wannabe jet-setter, which I’m hoping means she will grow up to be a pilot, providing her old man with all the free flights he likes. I know it’s playing the long game, but I’m glad we’ve sewn the seeds and the lady we sat next to on the way there can be reassured that, once Elsa gets her wings, she will finally be able to afford to buy her own Kit Kats.