Today my sister and I took our nephew (6) and our niece (4) on the plane from Melbourne to Canberra for a holiday with their grandparents.
Melbourne – Canberra is the kind of flight where you’ve just opened your book and are contemplating buying something off the trolley, when the captain announces that you will be commencing descent in a minute.
Not much room for anything much at all to happen. Two things happened.
1. My niece wanted me to go through the entire Emergency Procedures booklet with her. She asked me, “What happens if there’s an emergency?”
Oh dear. “There won’t be an emergency, sweetheart.”
Then she gave me this look. Somewhere between patience, disappointment and withering scorn. “What would happen?”
“The crew would tell us, and I would be right here to help you do everything you had to do.”
“Ok,” she said, looking like a kid again.
It’s a bizarre thing about adulthood that we look back at children with such anxious objectivity. When moments like this arise – the “where do babies come from?” and “is Lassie in heaven now?” moments – it practically feels like a moral dilemma. Do I tell her the truth and ruin her innocence forever or lie and keep her perfect?
Hey, the girl just wanted to know what would happen. She wasn’t the tiniest bit interested in my phony cheer.
2. I have never experienced turbulence like it. Lots of potential for emergency. I don’t personally enjoy flying, at all, and if it had just been me and special k on that plane, I would probably have been halfway to paralysing his fingers for life. My face would have been scrunched as tight as it could go, and buried in some warm, alive part of his body.
Sitting between two kids who rely on you does amazing things for the threshold of what you can do. Because they were there, there was no room in me for the fear that we might die. We weren’t going to, because they were there.
“Just relax like a jellyfish,” I told them, and attempted somehow to do the same.