As we settled into our plane seats in Frankfurt last Monday afternoon, about to take off on the first leg of our 22 hour journey, the kid said 'I'm not going to watch any television on this trip.' I felt my stomach drop. 'What?' I said. 'Why not?' Mads shrugged. 'Don't want to.' 'What about the ipod?' I said. 'There's lots of stuff on there for you to watch or play.'
She shook her head. 'Nope.'
I then found myself entering into one of the surreal reverso topsy-turvy conversations I often seem to have with my daughter. I began pleading with her to at least try watching some television, just a little bit maybe. Perhaps she'd enjoy it. There wasn't much else to do on a long haul flight after all. I even explained to her, in quite a bit of technical detail, how the whole 'eyes going square' thing simply doesn't happen on a plane. I may have even said; 'If you don't watch television you can't....' But what could I threaten exactly? On a plane? None of it made no difference anyway. She was firm. No TV.
'You realise,' I said to Matt, 'that we are the only parents in the history of parents who have tried to force their child to watch tv.' It reminded me of the time that I'd heard myself saying to her; 'OK that's enough broccoli for today.' She'd eaten almost an entire head of it. Raw.
'So what are you going to do to pass the time?' I asked. 'Because mummy's going to be watching a lot of television.'
'And so is daddy,' said Matt. Mads pulled out the flight safety card.
'I'm going to look at this,' she said. Then she smiled. 'I really hope we get to use those inflatable slides this time.'
She stuck to her word about the no tv. The only time she watched anything was when they played the obligatory 'Welcome' videos as we approached KL and then Melbourne. I'm not exactly sure how the rest of the time was spent. We drew. We read. We made a book to give to Sally Rippin called 'The Magical Fat Man and his Hat.' We made a rattle for the niecephew out of a juice bottle, some paper and a hair elastic. We played a game with the two toys I'd shoved in her bag at the last minute - a manky My Little Pony (handed on to us pre-manked by another child) and a plastic brontosaurus called Hungry. Do you know how hard it is to make up a game involving a glittery pony and a brontosaurus? I was really wishing I'd grabbed at least one carnivore. I used my old favourite plotline and had one be mean to the other one and then the two of them made up and put on a concert.
Just as we were doing the big finale number the steward came over with a small orange bag. 'For the baby,' she said, smiling at me sympathetically. Mads and I looked around in alarm. Had a baby somehow managed to sneak into the seat beside us? But no, the steward meant Mads. And the present was a rattle with a blue elephant's head. When she left Mads whispered; 'She must know about auntie Hil's baby.' 'Yes,' I agreed, so, so thankful that Mads hadn't hit the roof about being referred to as a baby. She's kind of touchy about such things.
There are positives though, of course. Luckily the kid slept for the KL to Melbourne leg. Luckily we didn't get to use the inflatable slides. Luckily we're here - here where the birds look like jewels and sound like they're screaming obscenities, and where old ladies smile at your kid rather than looking at her like she's some kind of pustulant growth. Luckily I made it here before the niecephew arrived. And luckily it's several weeks before I have to get back on a plane and go through it all again. Hooray-ness.