Pleasant surprises with children tend to be fairly few and far between, but every so often they materialise like an oasis in a desert, and you think "Hey, you know what? I've got this parenting thing nailed! This is actually fun!"
Today, we took a three hour flight to Helsinki, with our 26 monther and two friends who don't have children (and don't want them). Not they most obvious scenario for fun, but it was. Because it actually went WELL. I know, I know, I was shocked too.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't 100% perfect. There was some "me run away!" action in the Duty Free, followed by the activation of an entire row of singing, dancing, instrument playing M&M figurines. And there was some short-lived insistence on pulling his Trunki himself, requiring a crowd of elderly Japanese ladies to play French skipping with the tow strap (thank God they were all on the ball and relatively spritely or it could have been broken hip central). But for the most part he was well behaved, very happy and very, very excited.
And this is the part that really made it fun - this was the first time we've been away somewhere with Duckling when he's been properly verbal, able to express how he's feeling and ask about what he's seeing. "Exciting Mummy! Me go on aeroplane with Mummy and Daddy and Nick and Ella! To Sinland*!" he kept saying, usually followed by "we go on aeroplane NOW?".
On the flight he sat primly in his own seat with his little hands tightly gripping the arm rests (which we were NOT allowed to share) and feet jiggling about, repeating "We go now! We go up in aeroplane! We go fast! Neoooow!" And as requested, he stayed in his own seat until the seat belt sign had been switched off and he could clamber onto my lap to look at the tiny roads and trees and houses below. Then, most amazingly of all, he actually went to sleep on my lap and stayed that way for over an hour while I read a book. An actual book. I had a dead arm for most of it. But still, a book!
Landing went as well as take off with much "ooh-ing" over the bumpy touch down (we were earnestly instructed to hold onto his legs just in case he bounced out of his seat) and car hire, the drive to the (amazing) apartment and dinner at a random Korean noodle place all went smoothly too. Even bedtime was straight forward. It was weird.
In some respects, it's kind of a bit depressing that "not a total disaster" has become the new bar for "quite enjoyable." But I suppose that's just the nature of life with kids. You have to recalibrate your expectations if you're going to survive it in tact, and find your fun where you can. Fingers crossed the journey home defies expectations too. Though I fear they have now been set impossibly high...
*Sinland is Finland for reference, though with the quantity of Finnish vodka we're planning to consume, Sinland may be quite apt.