Our daughter didn’t venture too far from home in the first year of her life. We made it out to the seaside at Filey for a few days last September, but that’s less than a couple of hours from our home in Leeds. And we’d been over to visit my sister and her family near Liverpool, but again it’s not so far away really. So we approached our journey to Brighton last week with a fair amount of trepidation. A bus, then 4 and a half hours on trains, then another bus with a 13 month old and a massive suitcase in tow seemed a recipe for disaster, or at least a very fraught day.
Plenty of friends had taken even younger and grumpier babies on longer trips, but it was all new to us, so we worried. In fact we spent so much time worrying about the journey that we mainly forgot to actually look forward to the trip. As it turned out there was nothing much to worry about, on the way down at least. Frida behaved pretty impeccably really. She enjoyed watching the countryside fly by through the windows and putting her new found ability to stand to the test by trying to do so on the seat of a fast moving, wobbly train. She did her best to make friends with her fellow passengers, and most responded in good spirits. Even the hungover seeming man trying to sleep opposite us on the way to Gatwick airport managed to raise his head long enough to give her a cheeky wink.
We made it to the home of the friends we were staying with at 4pm having left our home over 6 hours earlier, tired but in good spirits, thinking about all the other trips we might take now we knew that the long journeys with a toddler weren’t so bad. After a week of friends, food and sunshine in Brighton (which I’m sure I will write more about shortly) the journey home wasn’t quite so smooth.
By their nature, journeys home from a holiday are more stressful that the journey there. The journey out, no matter what goes wrong, holds the promise of good times at its’ conclusion. The journey home only holds the promise of unpacking, washing and returning to work. Quite how our daughter could have figured this out at her age I don’t know, but she was considerably more grumpy on the way home. She needed constant entertaining and distraction and wouldn’t sleep no matter how tired she got. The first hour of the London to Leeds leg of our journey was particular bad as she screeched, cried and generally hulked out.
Now, no matter how often I tell myself that my daughter had as much right to travel on the train as anyone else, and that other passenegers don’t really have a right to complain, I have an innate need not to annoy other people. So I tried taking her out in to the vestibule to calm her down and remove the noise from the carriage, but that only made her angrier as it was too hot. In the end I just had to take her back, and risk the (possible entirely imagined) wrath of the other passengers.
It’s weird how self-conscious you feel trying to soothe and calm a crying toddler on a crowded train, as if everyone’s attention is on you while you try to parent. My wife sang to our daughter to try and calm her as she often does, but she’s not used to quite such an audience (when she did the same thing on the bus the other day, my mother-in-law remarked “you were entertaining the whole bus there”, which didn’t help). In the end she did settle and cheer up, and we made it home relieved. I was kind of glad we had experienced the good and bad side of a toddler on a train, it helped me realise that even a quite bad journey isn’t so bad really.
With friends and family spread across the land, and further afield, there will no doubt be many more journeys to come (and hopefully even holidays), so we’re going to have get used to it in any case.