I love children! I love anything to do with them. I love their smile, their clothes, their toys, their books and even the smell of their skin. In the past, when I have travelled alone, I have missed my two little ones so badly that I have managed to ruin my travel sulking about not having them around. In such situations, when I spot any willing kids on flights or busy market streets, I go down on my knees to talk to them; share a joke or just smile with them. It is my way of healing myself; giving my soul what it needs.
Today, as I boarded my long flight to Paris, I was playing a guessing game with myself, thinking what kind of person would be sitting next to me during the flight. I like this game, guessing the nature of the person and the conversations we can have together. Meeting new people is one of the reasons I have started loving to travel. No matter what I guess, my track record states that I will always be wrong. Nonetheless, I still play this game just to be pleasantly surprised with the choices of people, God sends my way.
As I settled in my seat and opened my blanket to drape it over my cold shoulders, a little baby crawled over to me and said, “Boo!”. Instinctively, I smiled and reached over to pick her up. People were still walking in the aisle and it was not a safe or a clean place for the baby to crawl. Catching the baby in one hand, I looked curiously around the line of chairs to spot her parents. I caught the eye of her disheveled mother, deep into conversation with the air hostess. She nodded her head at me as if thanking me for catching her baby for a while. She lugged her bags and slowly came towards us. I was assuming she would be searching for her seats, but to my surprise she settled her bags on the seat next to me. The realization that this mother and daughter duo were my companions for the next 9 hours made me giddy.
My heart sank. I did not want to have the company of this baby for the next nine hours. I did not want loud squeals in my ears or smelling diapers in my nose. I was just not mentally prepared for this. Oh God! Not today.
To my relief, the Air hostess came around in a few minutes and offered the mother another set of seats which would give her more room to handle the baby. The mother politely refused the offer as she had already settled in her chair. I was disappointed but quick thinking came to my rescue. I offered to change my seat on the pretext that an empty seat would give more room to the mother and her baby.
I slowly relaxed my crossed fingers as the Air Hostess smiled in acceptance and the mother thanked me profusely for being so considerate. Little did she know that I was making this change for me and not for her.
So what changed today? How did I transform from someone who loves children to someone who could not bear the thought of an adorable baby being next to me for nine hours? I guess the answer lies in the fact at my frame of my mind I chose to carry with me today. When I am travelling with children, I am prepared to be on my toes. I carry toys, snacks and movies to be keep them engaged. I have switched on my Mother Mode. In this mode, if you hand me two more kids, I will happily accept. The more the merrier. Simply because, the more there are, the more they will be engaged within themselves without my intervention.
But today, when I kissed my sweethearts’ good bye, I switched off my Mother Mode and turned on the “Single Happy Woman Traveler” mode. In this mode, I focus on soaking in the world around me and listening to my deepest inner voices. God knows, I couldn’t have done that with a baby blabbering in my face.
How can someone love children and yet behave like this at the same? Does it make me a person with Split Personality Disorder? Maybe you can say so. I would proudly accept the diagnosis. I am proud to say that I split my personalities many times in a day between that of a Mother, Manager, Writer, Friend, and Daughter (not to mention cook, cleaner, etc.) If you think about it, each personality needs different behaviors and I literally switch off one mode to move into another mode. Amongst all these modes, one of the rarest mode that I get to experience is the “Single Happy Woman Traveler” mode. Given the opportunity to live in this mode for nine hours, I was pretty sure I did not want anything to come in its way.
If you want to judge me for that, feel free. In my defense, I will only say that I did check on the mother daughter duo, from time to time, to see if they were doing fine on their own. The check just proved that my decision to stay away was right. There was utter chaos on my ex seat and I was happy not being a part of it!
P.S. When Indigo Airlines reserved some rows as “No Children” rows, I could totally relate to where they were coming from. It is not discrimination on the basis of age. It is simply respect for time and peace of some travelers, who really value and need it.