Whenever I'm on the road with my daughter I've received nothing but patience and good wishes from other travellers. But then perhaps I've always mistaken kindness for sympathy?
Travelling with Kids: Tests of tolerance all along the road
Not long ago I spoilt a child's birthday party. I'd checked into the Fairmont Bab al Bahr right here in Abu Dhabi to try to reboot my stamina and sense of humour after a few weeks of solo parenting. I was desperate to find some reserves of energy before attempting a 5am dash to Dubai airport and a five-hour flight with my 14-month-old toddler. Alone.
Ahead stretched 24 hours of me-time and an extremely comfortable bed, not to mention the opportunity to soak in the bath, before I had to get back to my real life as a temporarily single mother. Reclining on my sun lounger, I just had time to reach for a cool glass of water, slowly exhale and look out across the swimming pool to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, before I realised what a miserable curmudgeon I have become.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a disco version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star began to blare out. Did I gaze benignly in the direction of the kid's pool, eyes teary at the prospect of tots running about enjoying themselves? Of course not. I tutted, peered over the top of my sunglasses and went over to the lifeguards and asked them to turn the music down.
"Do we all have to listen to it?" I asked, in an impression of Scrooge of which I did not know I was capable. Having to put up with your own kids by a swimming pool when every part of you is longing to lie back, relax and forget about childbirth is bad enough. Other people's children are evidently intolerable.
The next opportunity I would have to be ashamed of my behaviour was on a return flight, travelling business class on Emirates from Larnaca in Cyprus. This time it was my turn to be blissfully alone, and to eat with a knife and fork with the tray open across my lap like any other well-behaved passenger; rather than wolfing down whatever was within reach with a spoon as baby sleeps uncomfortably across my lap. But as I settled back into my roomy seat with the prospect of a magazines or a movie for entertainment, the whimpering cry of a baby drifted through the partition wall from economy class. I moved forward 10 rows so fast I practically spilt my welcome drink. I explained my twitchy behaviour to the steward, who nodded sympathetically but probably thought that I was a miserable old bat. And he would, of course, be right.
I choose to blame either bone-numbing fatigue or some genetic defect but there really is no excuse. Whenever I'm on the road with my daughter raising a very merry kind of hell, I've received nothing but patience and good wishes from other travellers. But then perhaps I've always mistaken kindness for sympathy?