Over the Easter, we hit the point where my wife was about to be no longer allowed on an airplane. We decided to jet over to the Spanish town we were married in, and enjoy our last holiday alone together for many years to come, by the looks of things.
It couldn’t have worked out better, apart from the fact that it rained a lot of the time, and every night the town ground to a halt for an hour-long parade of what appeared to be three dozen Klansmen carrying five tonnes of wooden Jesus around the perimeter.
All we really wanted, though, was a little pause in life to appreciate each other before somebody else crashes the party, and that’s what we got.
I had been coming to the realisation that the imminent arrival was going to change things and that, regardless of how much of a blessing the child is, the relationship between my wife and I was going to be redefined. Parenthood is coming, and, as with tornadoes, volcanic ash, and civil unrest, I respect its power as a force of nature, to change – restructure, destroy even, if you’re unprepared – that with which it comes in contact.
The holiday had reassured me that we were ready for impact, though; that, whatever happened, we have a tight enough bond to survive metamorphosis, and I was quite chipper about everything in my life as we left the apartment on the last day and drove to Malaga.
There was already a significant queue at the Aer Lingus counter by the time we got there, pretty much everybody else that was going to be on the plane. We sidled in behind a couple – not much older than us, maybe five years or so – and their three kids, all probably born in that five year period. The kids were cute and carefree looking, two little blonde girls with their little pink wheelie-cases and then the youngest was a boy, not quite old enough to be worthy of his own luggage, but walking and talking.
“Why didn’t you check the bags in online?” the mother asked the father.
“They don’t do that here,” he replied.
“I’ve done it befo-”
He cut her off. “That’s Ryanair. Aer Lingus don’t do it from Malaga. It’s the only airport they don’t do it from. I’ve flown through here a million times.”
“You didn’t check it, did you?” At this point the kids were watching the argument like a tennis match, wondering just how much trouble Daddy was in.
I left the scene for a toilet break, and by the time I returned my wife had a look of abject horror on her face. The father was missing.
“Let’s give them some space,” my wife whispered, hanging back as the queue moved forward, “She kept chipping away at him, and then he said ‘Right!’ and stormed off… I think he’s gone up to ask at the counter if they have online check-in…”
He returned, silently fuming.
“Is it, Daddy?” asked the eldest girl. “Is there the checking?”
“No,” he said, with no eye contact.
When we got up to the counter, I said “Any chance of getting seats as far away from those guys as possible?” to the girl behind the counter, who clearly understood.
What scared me was the fact that he did not look like somebody who, at some point in the past, thought to himself “She’s a total bitch, but I’ll marry her”. His wife didn’t look like she’d ever thought “He’s obviously an idiot, and I hate him, but he has money”; yet, this total animosity was now their reality, and they were obviously comfortable enough to live it out in front of their children.
My money says that he was making her a shrew and she was making him an idiot.
Was it parenthood that had somehow taken two people that loved each other and turned them into this? If so, I hope to God we’re as ready for impact as I feel we are; but as with tornadoes, volcanic ash, and civil unrest you never really know how you’re going to respond until it hits…