The pre-holiday build up was chaotic. I had written lists, new lists, and lists within the lists. I had sourced info from mates who travel to Bali frequently with young children and I was feeling confident that we had everything covered. Every type of mosquito repellent on the market had been sourced, transfer to hotel arranged, travel insurance bought, toys to keep the children amused on the plane purchased, local Bali Nanny confirmed, and of course money and passports in order.
Gone are the days of partying until the break of dawn, my husband and were united – we wanted a relaxed family holiday, intending to max out on the Nanny. The day before travelling, I sent my husband off with the kids so I could begin the mammoth task of packing. It started well as I fastidiously ticked items off my list. However it wasn’t long before the list was abandoned in favour of a more ‘chuck it in just in case’ approach took precedence.
The next morning we woke early (standard with 2 under 3 year olds) and set off in the maxi-cab to the airport. The idea was to arrive at the airport with plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast, followed by the obligatory gander around duty free, maybe even a beer and then all aboard the plane, flying off to paradise for our first proper family holiday.
As we queued up at the check-in desk our 2 girls were busy entertaining the other passengers, informing them that we were going to Bali. We were all on a high and grinning like Cheshire cats, we stood at the desk and proudly handed over our 4 passports.
“I’m sorry Sir, you won’t be able to fly today” the lady at the check-in announced casually. Like she was telling us the time, like it was just so normal and like not gonna bother us in the slightest.
My husband and I stared at the lady in disbelief. Was she winding us up? Ha ha, very funny – now give us our tickets lady. ‘Silly Billy’ as my 2 year old would say.
“You passport only has 5 months left on it. You need 6 to travel to Bali” Her lips remained stoic like in their pose, I was desperately willing her mouth to turn up at the ends, a cheeky smile followed by laughter and ‘only joking, Silly Billy’. It didn’t.
I stared across at my husband. He looked at me. 30 seconds of everlasting silence. I felt sick. I looked at the girls, still giggling and rolling around on the floor repeating “Bali, Bali, Bali” over and over again.
My husband’s initial reaction, anger. As was mine. Only his, with the lady on the check-in desk and mine, with him. I asked him a few weeks before if all the dates on the passports were ok, obviously I reminded him of this fact. I immediately regretted saying it. I know nobody had died BUT…this was our family holiday, the one we procrastinated about for months, the one we have looked forward to for weeks, the one we have used to bribe our children with in order to get a modicum of good behaviour, the one we chose specifically because you can book a nanny to help you and babysit and it doesn’t cost the earth and they are amazing with kids and we might actually get a couple of nights out together. It was the one family holiday that we were all so excited about, at that precise moment it meant everything to us. We’ve both watched the airport shows and seen people turned away at check-in for one reason or another, but that was them…we wouldn’t be such Silly Billy’s.
We asked if there was anything they could do. She said no. My husband pleaded. She asked her supervisor. She said no.
Apparently even if they allowed him to fly he would get deported on arrival in Bali and the airline would be fined.
He ran his hand through his hair and looked gutted. I was in shock.
“That’s that then” he said, “we can’t go”
Sick to my stomach, still reeling from the disappointment and trying to get my head around what was happening, I looked at the girls and realised – we had to go without him. I couldn’t tell them we weren’t going on an aeroplane after all, that we weren’t going to swim in the pool every day, that Bali wasn’t going to happen and the Bali bribe we’d been using for the last few weeks was just a big fat lie.
“I might not make it out at all, you do realise that?” my husband informed me.
You see the problem was that although we recently became Australian citizens, we never got around to getting our passports. So our passports, were UK ones. A UK renewal fast tracked from Australia is a little trickier than an Aussie one fast tracked. But what about a brand new Aussie passport application. We had no idea how long that would take.
We moved to the side to sort out splitting the bags. Since we’ve been together he always deals with the money and passports. I hadn’t brought anything with me. He passed me a bag with everything I’d needed inside it, credit cards, paperwork, Aussie dollars and our 3 passports. I couldn’t stop crying. The girls, who clearly had no clue what was going on were fighting over the iPad. I screamed at them to shut up. Not one of my finest parenting moments. It worked, they were quiet for a few minutes until the lady from the check-in desk returned to hurry us up as we were now all in danger of being silly billy’s and missing the flight.
Feeling heartbroken I hugged my husband goodbye.
It sounds dramatic writing it now. But it felt so utterly disappointing. I pulled my self together and tried to navigate my way to the gate with 2 children, 3 bags and a pram wondering whether I had made the right decision. Riddled with guilt -guilt that we were leaving him behind, heading off to paradise without him. But I knew he knew, I was going to have a challenging few hours/days ahead. I wasn’t going to get the relaxing Bali holiday we had planned.
We sat in our seats, the girls squealing in delight as they stared out of the window. The seat across from me was empty. Thinking of him having to return home alone, such a high to such a low I felt sad again.
As the plane gathered speed and began its ascent the girls squealed again, I knew I’d made the right decision. I ordered a glass of wine, opened the magazine in front of me and tried to relax.
“Where’s Daddy Mummy? Is he going to be in the swimming pool?” my 3 year old asked.
“No darling, not yet. But he will be soon hopefully”
She looked confused.
I grabbed their bags and pulled out their toys. Whilst I did manage to drink my wine, the magazine pages were never turned. I spent most of the 6 hour flight picking toys up from the floor, feeding them, breaking up fights, taking trips to the toilet (all 3 of us at a time of course), apologising to the people in front and behind as the girls peered over their seats playing peek-a-boo and sneezing in their faces and of course re-telling our sorry story. I was surprised to hear how many people had a similar story to tell and everyone was so kind and helpful.
As the plane began its descent I relaxed a little, the flight had gone better than I’d expected. In fact several people came over to tell me how well behaved my girls were. The only real tears came when my 2 year old demanded the plane to carry on going really fast but alas, we had landed.
There is a whole lot more I could write about what happened next but I guess all that matters is to tell you that 2 days later, despite all odds (this is a whole other blog post)…my husband joined us in Bali with a brand spanking new Australian passport.