“Here are your boarding passes, sir. I have three seats together in Row 12 and just one seat by itself in Row 13. I hope that’s OK with you and your family.”
My wife and I looked at each other.
We both knew what this meant.
It meant one of us was going to have the luxury of travelling on a four-hour flight in total peace and comfort in Row 13, while the other was going to endure the torture of trying to entertain two sons aged 5 and 7 in Row 12.
Being the gentleman that I am, yours truly of course offered to take the short straw. Little did I know, I was the unwitting victim of a master plan – one that was activated when my wife complained on the cab ride to the airport that she felt nauseous. How could I let her suffer the the ordeal of pacifying our two boys on an airplane after hearing that?
I should have realised, of course, that I was taken hook, line and sinker when, after the check-in, my wife effortlessly downed a bacon & egg roll and a hash brown – not the kind of meal that’s easily consumed by a person feeling nauseous!
In fact, it was more than 30 minutes after take-off, when I had to take my younger 5 year-old son, C, to the toilet for the second time, that it dawned on me that my wife had played me like a bongo. There she was, stretched out with a Kindle in one hand, a cup of orange juice in another and a packet of lollies on the tray in front. She saw me, stood up and peered over at the row in front. After witnessing the chaotic mess of iPad, iPhone, colouring in books, crayons and tangled earphones strewn seamlessly across the entire three seats. My wife sat back down, sheepishly shrugged her shoulders and went back to her trashy romance ebook.
And that’s how our family holiday to Fiji began last week.
Putting aside the flight out, it was a blissful six-day escape to paradise – one populated by genuinely welcoming people, picturesque surroundings and family-friendly facilities.
Don’t get me wrong. There were mountainous loads of hard work we had to suffer on the island resort every day.
We had to force ourselves up before 8 every sunny morning , so that we can hit the buffet breakfast before the hoards of other vacationing families leave their trails of destructions at the food bar.
We had to rush to the poolside by 10 after that, in order to enjoy a swim before the throngs of other little kids invade the pristine pool and miraculously ‘heat’ the water.
We had to make sure we were back at the poolside by 5 every afternoon, because my wife and I did not wish to miss a single minute of the cocktail happy hour, while admiring the sun setting majestically on the sea horizon.
Then we had to saunter our way to a restaurant by 6.30 every evening, as all the stringent schedule-keeping throughout the day warranted a well-deserved early dinner.
However, despite this strenuous daily toil, I cherished every minute of it.
It was not because of the pampered experience of the stay, nor was it because of the charm of getting away from the hectic life back home. Sure they both played a role, but what really elevated the entire holiday was seeing the joy on the faces of our two sons.
We have taken them on holidays many times before. Unfortunately, on each of these prior sojourns, there were always moments which made me wonder whether it was worth the trouble. The hassles of travelling with babies, the pain of dealing with infant tantrums and the impracticalities of adhering to toddler nap schedules. These were just some of the many challenges of holidaying overseas with young kids that diluted the whole point of ‘getting away’.
On this occasion, however, I found the whole trip immensely rewarding, simply because our two boys aged 5 and 7 were genuinely enjoying themselves and appreciating the whole experience. Granted, there were still instances of fighting, sulking and misbehaving. But they paled in comparison to the unadulterated fun L and C had on this trip. And that, in turn, made it equally enjoyable and utterly relaxing for my wife and I.
Hell, I even had the pleasure of sneaking away to the gym three times during the stay – something that would have been inconceivable previously, given the constant care and attention that our two sons demanded.
When the time finally came to leave the paradise, all of us were a little reluctant. And it was the very first time, since we have been travelling with kids, that I did NOT ever so slightly look forward to going home to ‘recover’ from the family holiday.
As for the flight home, no amount of scheming from my wife worked. I managed to palm off one son to sit next to her on the plane, while I minded the more compliant one across the aisle. But I won’t say which one is which, lest my wife happens to read this post and accuse me of showing favouritism again.
Keep on pounding.