Mel Doyle writes: The parenting moment that changed everything.

Melissa Doyle writes about that longed-for moment when you hit the parenting sweet spot.

There is a great book by Paul Reiser, the actor from the nineties TV show Mad About You, called Babyhood. It starts with Paul and his wife on a plane watching a couple with their two small children. The little ones are screaming, vomiting and generally running amok, and Paul and his wife look on in horror, vowing to never go down that path.

Spoiler alert if you plan on reading it: the book ends with a similar scene on a plane, but this time Paul and his wife are the parents and another childless couple is looking on.

I laughed and could relate so much when I read it.

Nick has inherited the carsick gene from me. And with the pride of a boy who still laughs at fart jokes, he can name every location he’s called for an emergency stop to chuck, or, worse still, the places where he hasn’t managed to call out in time.

He’s chucked on planes, just as we were coming in to land, leaving me on my hands and knees mopping up noodles. I wonder if we are the only family who pinches the sick bags from planes and stashes them in a handbag. Forget the mags and biscuits.

He’s chucked on long car trips. He’s chucked on rides. He’s chucked into his dad’s baseball cap when that was the only container available.

Travelling with kids can be a challenge. There’s the sheer amount of stuff you need, especially when they’re babies. There are the

boredom levels that kick in no matter how many fun car games you can make up. And there are the things you can’t control, like weather delays.

Sitting in an airport late on a Sunday night, ears cocked for updates on whether our plane will even arrive, let alone fly us home to Sydney, is frustrating enough when you’re an adult. For kids it’s an eternity. As is watching the fog roll in and registering that each minute we are delayed is going to produce two very tired children and a fallout that I’ll have to deal with 24 hours later.

Some airlines have now introduced child-free zones on board—a direct response to consumer demand.

Before having children we all vow there will be minimal impact on our lives. We will continue to frequent restaurants and simply slip the baby capsule under the table. We’ll still go to friends’ houses because our child will be the cutest and most socially gracious toddler around. We will simply bring them up that way, to mix in an adult world and behave.


Fast-forward to when you actually have the children and see how different it is. Anyone with a baby quickly realises it’s near impossible to just pop the capsule under the table. It’s rare that they sleep soundly and on cue to let you enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner undisturbed and undistracted. You go from being the ones looking on in horror as someone else’s child throws a tantrum in the supermarket, to being the parents of your very own out-of-control little one as everyone else’s eyes burn into you.

You quickly realise it’s just easier to stay at home and order take-away.

An extract from Melissa's book 'Alphabet Soup'

Slowly but surely your baby’s routine dictates your own. Life is just more harmonious that way and your little one is much more settled. And a settled baby makes for a settled family.

How wonderful it is when suddenly one day you realise you have started to turn the corner and your child’s world is almost aligned with your own. They are a little more travel-friendly, open to trying new foods, can handle the occasional late night and approach new things wide-eyed rather than with trepidation.

They don’t cry on planes, throw up their dinner or require you to carry a massive nappy bag stuffed with clothes, teddies, blankets and snacks.

You can last the night without changing their clothes or yours. They can go to the toilet and wipe their own bottoms. They can eat with proper cutlery off porcelain plates and you know they won’t hurl them across the table.

They may even smile at the waiter and order their own meal.

It’s like one chapter ends and a whole new one begins. Suddenly they become companions, mates to explore the world with, take to the footy or the shops.

It was about the time our kids started kindergarten that John and I felt the subtle shift. They wanted to help me prepare the meal and even set the table. They could hop in and out of the car by themselves and buckle up without being reminded. They chose their own outfits—and sometimes they were even coordinated.

The nappy bag has been thrown out, the cot passed on, and our local Thai restaurant has come back on the agenda. Only now we book for four instead of two.

- This is an edited extract from Alphabet Soup: My Life On And Off Screen, published by Allen & Unwin, and available now for $29.99.

Do you relate to that moment when you suddenly feel you get your life 'back' from the baby stage?