My MacGuyver parenting moment

About a year ago I wrote a post about international plane travel – mostly from the point of view of the traveler who has kids but was not traveling with them at the time.

The trauma from a recent trip to Australia from South Africa that included my precious little ones (gee it’s a REALLY long way you know) prevents me from updating that post immediately to include 453 456 new items – however I have one tip to share and I think it’s a must for those that travel with small and demanding children. It’s also my only MacGuyver parenting moment of note that I can recall in the nearly 8 years I have had children so I am sharing it.

BUT, it is a wee (urine) story so opt out now if you are rolling your eyes and thinking – Why must parents always talk about their children’s bathroom habits in such detail?

Right – anyone left here goes.

It was a dark and stormy afternoon December afternoon in Sydney – really stormy and the flight from Joburg that was bringing my husband to assist on this month long living out of a suitcase ‘holiday’ and in particular to meet the flight we were about to board to Adelaide was diverted to Melbourne. Did I care that he was on a 15-hour trip that had just had a diversion and would now make it a 20+ hours? Did I care he was going through terrible turbulence and diverting to Melbourne put him tantalizingly close to Adelaide but he would just have to wait in the plane on the tarmac until he flew onto Sydney and then back to Adelaide? NO NO NO!

All I cared about was the fact that I was at the airport waiting for a delayed, full flight to Adelaide (they seem to give his seat away quick smart) and I was going to have to once again do it with my two children by myself.

Don’t get me wrong my kids are great travelers the good little TCK’s they are. TCK’s – Third Culture Kids a cool new term they can be referred to as because after all don’t we all want another label? Wikipedia says a TCK is – someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture. So lets say so far their third culture highlights are they know what Chinese New Year is all about (receiving red packets) and they can sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, (which lets be honest not even every South African knows all the words to) AND can discuss both of these while eating a vegemite sandwich, that’s cultural integration for you. They both have spent more than their fair share of time on planes, both belong to frequent flyer programs and are any moment about to share their points with their mother for a return trip to an exotic overseas destination – just for her – to pay me back for all the trips from hell I have taken them on over the years.

So for a hardened traveling mother such as myself what is a little flight from Sydney to Adelaide – less than two hours long – with Master 7 and Miss 4? A walk in the park, right? Things to know about Miss 4 – she has the world’s smallest bladder and a burning desire to see the inside of every public bathroom facility in the known Universe.

Delayed flight, full flight, harassed flight attendants, storm, ‘where is daddy?’ Am I setting the scene?

‘Lets board the families with small children first’ comes the announcement – always a tough choice – do you want the kids to have space to move around in for as long as possible which is found in the departure lounge more readily than in the economy class section of an airplane or do you want to get them in their seats – and get your 25kg of ‘hand luggage’ stowed away before everyone else gets on the plane and takes all the space so you spend the whole flight with your knees under your chin due to baggage placement issues (yes I am the traveler everyone can’t believe got through with that much hand luggage)? It was here that my years of experience and in fact all reason seemed to abandon me, I was so sick of fielding the ‘when are we getting on the plane?’ questions that I opted to join the early boarders.

‘I’m going to vomit’ screamed Miss 4 as we stepped from the walkway onto the plane – cue flight attendant shoving us both into the business class toilet at the front of the plane while Master 7 went on ahead to choose a seat that suited him 2B – um no.

Five minutes and many vomit bags being passed to us later – the crisis was apparently averted as Miss 4 announced she was satisfied with the bathroom facilities should she need to use them later and we could now proceed to our seats – leaving us in the middle of the boarding process with everyone else now blocking the way of my impatient children and Master 7 having a serious discussion with the boarding pass holder of seat 2B about whose seat it really was.

Ensconced in our seats with at least half of our ‘hand luggage’ stored away and children settling into some electronic entertainment – boarding was completed – seatbelts fastened – taxi to runway, correction, taxi to queue of eight planes near runway – announcement from Captain –

‘Thanks for your patience we are number eight in the queue, at least 30 mins until take off please remain in your seats with your seatbelt fastened.’

‘I need to do a wee’ screamed Miss 4.

‘Can you wait?’ Desperate mother asks.

‘No – I need to do it Now Now’ (more TCK evidence, use of South African conversational terminology not evident 18 months ago when we moved here)

‘Please just wait til we take off and the seatbelt sign goes off’

Escalating voice ‘No, I need to do a wee NOW NOW’

Same conversation happens for next few minutes.

At this point all the other passengers are staring – as they do – if you are a mother you are used to it and generally immune – one gentlemen says ‘If I were you I’d just take her – see how you go’.

I thought it’s got to be better than this. ‘Get up, lets go’.

‘Stop, sit down’ scream the strapped in flight attendants – goodness knows how they can see us from so far away up the front. I am now the person that everyone looks at when they do the follow up announcement

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I know it is a long wait but please DO NOT remove your seatbelts or get out of your seats’

The Captain has just told us we are going to be here for at least 20 more minutes lady – are you serious!?!?! If only we were on a domestic flight in China where everyone just gets up and walks around when they want to, my bathroom problem would be solved.

Miss 4 – screaming escalating – Master 7 pleading with me to do something to get her to be quiet. Amid all the drama I have my MacGuyver moment.
I look at the many sick bags I have stored in the seat back in front of me and pull two of them out and perform the ‘double bag’ manoeuvre and then direct Miss 4 to take her seatbelt off and stand up and drop her pants. Can you see where this is going? Master 7 – who was sitting in the seat between us could see and he was NOT happy.

‘Gross! You can’t make her wee in the bag, its going to go every where and it might get me’ Hands go over ears and eyes shut (few sensory issues going on there but this one isn’t about him 😉

Miss 4 was interested enough that I might have the solution to her problems that she calmed down long enough to stop squealing and actually follow my instructions – can I tell you – she really needed to go, that bag was pretty full by the time she was done and so I added an extra layer to ensure no leakage would be occurring. I scrounged around for some wet wipes in one of the bags we had to keep with us due to overhead locker overcrowding and Voila! Not a drop spilled anywhere – equal credit to Miss 4 and myself for that one. Not bad I say.

Happy 4yo, happy passengers and lets face it Qantas should also be happy with me because I surely saved them from a wet seat and complaining passengers. As soon as we took off and the seatbelt sign went off I made a beeline for the bathroom to dispose of my triple bagged package and two people in front of me said

‘Oh you go ahead doesn’t your little girl need to use the bathroom?’

‘All over’ I say holding up the bag, proud of my MacGuyver moment.

The moral of the story is – when traveling with small kids stockpile the sick bags, they have more than one use.

What is your MacGuyver moment? I know there’s got to be plenty that can top that one – but this one was mine and I remain proud.


17 responses to “My MacGuyver parenting moment

  1. Hahaha, I absolutely love it! Genius-Mom!

    Will definitely keep it in mind for fture travel use. At least I have boys, so aiming is easier (even though Miss 4 did a stellar job!) 🙂

    • Miss 4 did a remarkable job although I do have to say the sick bags do have very wide openings. 😉 You are right – boys are much easier although until my son was 4 I couldn’t convince him to use anything other than a real toilet in an enclosed bathroom.

  2. Big thumbs up to you for coming up with a solution and a big thumbs down to Qantas for their lack of customer focus!

    • Agreed in this situation the customer service focus was somewhat lacking – but they made up for it on the long haul flight back to Joburg, their staff was absolutely brilliant. You have just reminded me I need to send them an email about the long haul flight but I may mention both flights just to be balanced 😉

  3. I salute you! Fortunately my travels with small ones are over, but I can well identify with your situation. It’s been said that expats are more creative than the average citizen, and you sure proved it 😉

    • Thank you. I am sure you must have many similar stories as everyone who travels with any regularity with small people do. I don’t do too badly – I only have two and generally they are not bad travellers. I know people with three & four that do this on a regular basis. I take my hat off to them.

  4. whilst my story suffers from lack of Nikki’s ingenuity, i think it qualifies. you be the judge.

    MasterThen8 was playing in his first football (that’s soccer to the rest of you) gala day. His team had played well in the face of some atrocious refereeing, and were in the playoffs for third place. When our opponents, ironically (as you will see later) called the Saints, marched out with matching red track suits and embroidered shirts, we knew this was going to be a serious battle, and our lads were already tired and leg heavy.

    By half time we were one goal down and battling to get the ball down the right end. My boy opted for goalie and held his ground so grimly the opposition became frustrated. A chance arose, the Saints pushed through our defence and took a shot … SAVED! Then fumbled. Then back in the hands of Goalie Boy. But it seemed a 1-nil win was not enough for these so-called Saints, and the would-be scorer charged through the box, kicked the ball out of GB hands and connected boot to forehead. Remember that atrocious refereeing? The goal was awarded and my GB was on the ground clutching his head.

    Ignoring all protocol, i charged onto the pitch to my son’s side. The bootmark was clearly imprinted in his forehead. As i sat beside him, mute with fury, i heard a voice from the red tracksuit side: “Did your little boy fall over and hurt himself?” To this day i have no doubt it was the mother of the goal scorer and my fury found its tongue: “He was kicked … in the head … by YOUR son.”

    For the briefest moment, she looked like she would deny it, but i guess she had a good look and decided to bid a hasty retreat. Filled with the superhuman strength of the wounded mother, i picked up my already over 30kg son and carried him from the pitch …

    so there you are, Nikki, a moment in mothering where i felt i had climbed a mountain and achieved a moral victory. not quite as James Bond-esque as whipping up a portaloo from 4 airplane sick bags, but a personal triumph nonetheless.


  5. Hilarious! Both the post and the comments!

    Just a thought: I would have rung the bell and handed the bag to the airhostess, seeing as how you’re not allowed to get up..

  6. Hahaha I love it! And may I say, a much cleaner bag solution than those I’ve witnesses on the Beijing buses…. 😉

  7. You are singing my song! I love the explanation of the hostess demanding that you “SIT DOWN”. All very very familiar.


  8. LOL – excellent – well done mum!

  9. LOVE your story. Our days of flying with little kids are well past but I do remember well how it was. My worst flight was a week after 9-11 returning from Germany to the U.S. with tons of extra security and delays, while my husband had gone off a different direction for a last-minute business meeting so I was left on my own with three little kids ages 1, 3, and 5. I thought I did my very best keeping MissOne occupied (who of all my kids to this day is the most fidgety) when about half way through the flight the gentleman across the aisle complained that I shouldn’t be standing up because I had touched his elbow. I can’t remember exactly what I said to him, but I was fuming inside. Here I’d done a heroic job keeping three kids occupied (WITHOUT any bathroom incidents, I might add, of which I HAVE had my fair share as well), cutting up everyone’s food on their little trays without any spilling, and none of the kids screaming and disturbing the passengers, and here this guy is complaining about elbows touching. I felt like dropping the entire baby in his lap and telling him “you try it then” but of course I didn’t. So my MacGuiver moment passed without me seizing it.

    • Thanks Sine – that sounds a typical experience, you spend so much time and energy working on sorting out the little ones and then its something else entirely that threatens to blow it all off course. Respect to you for not only parenting four but also traveling with them and living to tell the tale.

  10. Hi Nikki! Didn’t realize you have a blog, too until I saw you comment on Kate’s blog.

    I am filing this away as I type. Luckily Elanor was still in diapers when we were trapped on the tarmac for hours in Hong Kong.

    Can’t tell you how happy I am that Ravi is the one flying solo with E to the US this month and NOT my pregnant self.

    • Good for you – its always a bonus to travel kid free – feels like a special privilege sometimes – almost, but not quite like being in business class 😉

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