So the holiday season is almost upon us and I think most parents probably have a story or two about a nightmare holiday. More often than not, unless there happens to be large quantities of alcohol consumed, then it usually tends to involve a child in some way, shape or form!
My story is no different and when I look back now, I can laugh, but at the time I think in terms of stress levels, this probably pips divorce! We now go back in time and at the date of travel (July 2014) my youngest, Joseph, was only 21 months and my eldest Connie was 3 years old.
This was my first holiday as a single co-parent and planned only a little trip to France for a week, which I thought would be manageable. At the time, I was a relative ‘newbie’ to life as life as a single co-parent. I decided to fly rather than drive, the flight time was only little over an hour and I planned on meeting my parents out there; so I would have a bit of extra help and support when there. The food is good, I can speak the language well enough(ish) and the wine is nice and cheap – what could possibly go wrong?
Before we even came close to setting foot on a plane – the omens were pretty bad. I had to apply for my sons first passport and paid extra to do the Post Office’s check and send service – their usual guidelines are that a first passport can take up to 6 weeks and a renewal only 3 weeks. Anyhow, in the interests of trying to be organised with 8 weeks to go till the holiday, I paid my money and put my destiny in the hands of the passport office.
After waiting 6 weeks, I hadn’t heard anything and those who know me, will tell you I can be a bit of a worrier at times. It was at this point, I decided to start calling the passport office. Each time, I was never given a definitive answer as to the whereabouts of my son’s passport. Every time, I spoke to someone, I had to re-explain my situation and was told that my query (which in turn resulted in a complaint) had been escalated 3 times. After numerous attempts and calls to the passport office and still no further in identifying if I will get it with one week to go, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
My first port of call was to contact my local MP – I sent an email to him explaining my situation as a single parent and that I was very much looking forward to going away on our first holiday etc – you get the drift…no reply.
With only 3 days left till we are due to depart, I started to get very panicky about if we would be able to fly or not, so I took the drastic step of writing to Theresa May, our now Prime Minister who at the time was the Home Secretary (the passport office ultimately sat under her control). I also wrote an email to the CEO of the passport office, offering him the right to respond too.
To be fair, the very next day I got a reply from the Executive Assistant of the CEO at the passport office and was advised that they had made enquiries about the whereabouts of Joseph’s passport and that it was being printed that day! Result! The email then went on to say that it would be couriered the next day to me, meaning I would literally get the passport the day before we were due to go. Shortly after this, I received a phone call from the passport office confirming this. At this point, I decided to drive to Liverpool and pick up the passport in person – I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, knowing my luck, the courier would have crashed en route to my house! I actually had the passport in my hand with one day to go – panic over!
The day of the holiday arrived and we made our way to the airport. I was loaded with two car seats, a double buggy, our luggage, toys, an iPad and every snack you could possibly think of! With the children delicately positioned on top of all of this on the luggage trolley and with me pushing, we made our way in to the airport and checked in. (Little tip for fellow parents (parent hack) who are travelling with a buggy – if you buy a buggy bag, then find you are short of space or worried about going over your luggage allowance, then I used to put a few extra things in there too, as you leave the buggy and bag by the plane steps when boarding!)
Both children were in high spirits, Connie (my eldest) was excited and Joseph (who couldn’t really talk), seemed happy enough. Everything was going well until we were in the lounge awaiting the invite to board the plane, then all of a sudden Joseph decided to kick off! When they are that age, it can be hard to know what they want or need, was it a nappy change? Were they hungry or thirsty? It really can be a guessing game as many of you will know.
I decided he was hungry, so I gave him a sandwich – he started devouring it and it seemed to quieten him down. As I was travelling with young children, Easyjet permitted us to board early and we quickly found our seats and settled down. All strapped in and ready to go…the passport fiasco was now a distant memory.
The masses soon found their way on the plane and found their seats and I gave Joseph another sandwich to keep him going. It was at this point, it all started to go wrong for us again – Joseph started retching and then projectile vomited all over himself and me.
To say I was devastated was an understatement, I quickly armed myself with every parents essential item – the baby wipes and started wiping us down. Clearly traumatised by the whole experience, Joseph was inconsolable and wouldn’t stop crying and screaming (he shouted the whole plane down). I tried giving him water and resorted to giving him his dummy to try to pacify him – but no, he kept spitting it out.
It was at this point, the air hostesses were alerted to us and started fussing around us. At one point, we literally had four standing over us. Joseph wasn’t letting up and I guess rightly concerned by his relentless screaming and crying they started speculating as to what was wrong with him. I think as a parent, you know your own children and if they are ill or not and I was convinced he wasn’t ill and that the sandwich was largely responsible here! That said, I tried to look in his mouth thinking he had something stuck in his throat and no matter how much water I gave him there was no let up – all he did was cry, scream and be sick!
Already the focal point with the passengers sitting around us, one air hostess loudly said, “Well I think he could have scarlet fever, there is loads of that going around” – as if I wasn’t stressed or sweating enough already – this tipped me over the edge – clearly she is an expert at diagnosing illnesses (not)! At this point I snapped and told the air hostesses to back off as they were making the situation worse. With that remark from the air hostess, passengers were literally covering their faces and looking at us like we had some form of leprosy!
To be fair, they backed off and one very friendly air hostess helped us to move seats (due to the copious amounts of vomit) and provided me with some tissues (not sure why? – probably to wipe all that sweat away!!) As if I wasn’t stressed enough, it was at this point the Captain announced to everyone that the flight was delayed and we had missed our take-off slot due to a poorly child. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up, I could hear the sighs and tuts from the other holidaymakers and I honestly was close to tears.
I should say, that due to the kerfuffle and attention I was unsuccessfully trying to give my son, I gave Connie my iPad to help shift her attentions elsewhere and it worked – Peppa Pig came to the rescue there. The nice air hostess came over to me and then said, “Your son seems very distressed and the Captain has asked us to get you to the doctor inside the terminal and that you will have to get the next flight out”. Holding Joseph’s dummy in place, I said “I am sure once we are up in the air, he will be fine”. Call me a bad parent, but the next flight was in 3 days time and there was no way I was getting off that plane, I had earned this holiday and I knew, that as I said earlier it was something to do with this bloody sandwich!
Next thing I know, an excited Connie shouts “Daddy, look there’s an ambulance!” and points out the window. Two paramedics quickly ran out and climbed aboard the plane – they were for us! I left Connie in her seat with the iPad and took Joseph to the back of the plane at the request of the paramedics. They couldn’t see anything obstructing his airways, which was their main concern, but he didn’t really keep his mouth open long enough to spend any real time examining it. I then said to the paramedic, “I will hold his mouth open and you have a good look around” and that is what we did. On sweeping his mouth, the paramedic flicked out a compact piece of bread lodged to the roof of his mouth – it was about the size of a thumbnail. It was literally as hard as a stone, probably down to the fact, it was mixed with sicky saliva, water and all compacted by the dummy I was constantly trying to give him!
Immediately, as soon as that happened, he stopped crying – downed half a litre of water and started giving the paramedics high 5’s! I later found out that, because he was under 2 years old (still considered a baby), he wasn’t allowed to disembark the plane and see the Doctor in the terminal and that is why the ambulance crew came on board and for that I was truly grateful. We took our seats, I changed his sicky clothes but I remained covered in whatever he had for breakfast that morning and the remnants of a ham sandwich.
And so we managed to fly and touched down in France. My parents met us at the airport and the first thing my Mum said to me was “Oh, I see your flight was delayed, what was the problem?” Stressed and stinking of sick, I just said “Get me to the house, get me out of these clothes, let me shower and I will tell you all about it!”
On getting back to the UK, I decided to write a letter to Easyjet, commending the nice air hostess for her assistance. The following year, we decided to holiday there again – I boarded the flight, got the kids settled and then I heard a voice from the air hostess next to me saying…” I remember you!” 🤦♂️
Tell me about your holiday nightmares, what happened to you and what did you do about it? Go to www.facebook.com/singledaddydaycare and share with me what happened.