PREPARATIONS ARE BASICALLY JUST ABOUT CONTROLLING YOUR ANXIETY
Firstly, have a toddler. This part is easy if you have a child between the ages of 1 and 3. If you do not have a toddler, simply plan your show and get on with it. You will be able to enjoy sipping coffee and eating your bagel leisurely, you’ll man your stand for the day and then go out and enjoy the unbeatable nightlife that this city has to offer. This guide is not for you. Carry on, move along. Read something about fashion or your hobbies, or something that you want to learn more about. You have that opportunity, you have time. You do not think that you have time, but trust me, you do.
Choose the trade show that you will attend, in this case it is NY NOW. Have a good look at the dates of the show and start mentally calculating the amount of children’s clothing and accessories that you will have to bring along based on what the weather will be like, while remembering that the seasons are opposite from South Africa in the Northern Hemisphere. Think to yourself, “Please, please, please let none of us get sick due to the flying and the rather violent seasonal change!” Get it together, no use in stressing out about things that haven’t happened.
Decide how much time you will have/need to set up and break down your stand, and also consider how long you’ll want to stay in New York either before or after the show so that you can get out and see the city. You now have your dates that you will be in New York.
ACCOMMODATION AND ECZEMA
Start looking into accommodation for you and your family. Since you have a toddler, it is ideal to have accommodation with at least a small kitchenette so that you can prepare at least some meals for your cute little bundle of manic energy who calls you “Mama”. You’ll then realise that this is New York, and that anything bigger than a shoebox with running water and possibly a toilet will be so inconceivably expensive that you are now left with two choices. Choice one is to actually book a place that suits your needs somewhat, and stay for a shorter amount of time. Choice two is to wing it, and stay in said shoebox and just know that you will be serving your child food from some sort of restaurant or food vendor for the duration of your stay. Remember that your child suffers from eczema, and what you feed her plays a part in how her eczema bothers her. Also realise that while you and your partner (this is the case for me) will be manning the stand at the show, someone will need to be looking after your toddler.
Call mother (who lives in the States), explain your situation. Wait for her to exclaim “I’d love to watch her for you!” Hear mother say “I’d love to watch her for you!” Whew! You then book the bigger place that suits your needs and stay for a shorter amount of time. Congratulations! You now have your new dates that you will be in New York! Time to book your flights.
BOOKING YOUR TICKETS, A POOP STORY
Recall the days when you simply looked at the travel dates, and likely the cost of your flight and continued to book your flight. Cry. Those days are over. You now are looking for direct flights (hoping and praying that there will be some, or at least one) from Johannesburg to New York. Now, if your toddler is under 2 years of age, most airlines will let your child sit on your lap for international flights. Spend all of 0.5 seconds considering this, and then remember that time that you flew to and from Paris for Maison Et Objet with her in your lap the whole flight. Laugh to yourself at your previous naïve notions on what you thought a good idea was. The decision is now made to book a separate seat for your toddler. If you are lucky, you might find more than one option on direct flights. You can choose which airline and which time is the most suitable for you, considering the fact that while you will be a stressed out ball of anxiety on the day of the flight. Your child will still have the normal need to run around for a bit, eat dinner, and get changed into pyjamas before the flight because this will be a near impossibility once you’ve boarded. Getting all of this done before you fly will ensure that your kid will have a poop brewing just for you, and will need to have her diaper changed in the middle of take-off. As this will be an impossibility for safety reasons, your kid will now be sitting in a dirty diaper and you’re praying that a) it isn’t a runny one b) doesn’t creep c) doesn’t start to give her a diaper rash before you get an opportunity to change her.
After you’ve ascended, start gathering your child and the diaper bag. Go ahead and start apologising to everyone. Get used to this, you’ll feel the need to do it a lot. (Don’t worry, after you’ve been flying for 16 hours you stop apologising, since you’ll have no more feelings)
When the right moment arrives, take her to the toilet and try to change the poopy diaper while she is standing because there is no table available for her to lay on. This requires a Ringling Brothers Circus-style contortion act, performed by yours truly, as the lavatories on the airplane are typically extremely small. Try not to get poop everywhere.
But I digress, sometimes there is only one flight available so the decision is made for you and at this point, you’re almost glad.
FEAR OF FLYING
The day of traveling arrives, and you head to the airport. For me this entails a 1.5 hour drive, hopping on a 2 hour flight to Johannesburg and only then heading to the Big Apple. Contrary to popular belief, though this is something that I still stress about every single time that I fly with her, a lot of kids are actually really great on the airplane. They love all of the people, it is all very exciting and believe it or not, they do actually sleep.
You do not sleep. You will make sure they are not too hot or too cold, safe and sound and comfy and cosy. If there is any turbulence you will not fear for your family’s safety, but you will be filled with dreaded fear that your child will awaken and decide not to go back to sleep for the duration of the flight. I’m also afraid of her waking up after I’ve nodded off and then simply deciding to explore the aircraft. Again, let’s not stress about things that haven’t happened. Let it sink in, let it become your mantra.
You’ll land and go through immigration, hopefully this doesn’t take too long as your child doesn’t understand the concept of waiting or queues.
TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
Jump in a taxi and head to your accommodation. Yes, you can take the subway. You will indeed take the subway at some stage. This should not be one of those times. You will now feel as though you are winning! And you are! Arrive at your accommodation and do a quick scan of any immediate dangers to your child. This will include but will not be limited to:
Windows that can be opened
Shelving that is unstable (it is a 100% guaranteed that your child will try to climb it)
Any small items that can fit into your child’s mouth
Kitchen utensils (knives, scissors-you get the idea)
PARTY TIME! ACTUALLY, IT’S JUST LUNCH
Now it is time to go out and do some sight-seeing! Bring a stroller/pram with you. Your kid isn’t going to want to use this, but they are very handy for carting around all of your crap and if you are out when it is nap time, then your child will need to have something to sleep in. While your child is sleeping, enjoy some food since you haven’t really eaten anything since the day before.
At some stage Mother arrives. You go out and about exploring some more. Having an extra pair of hands is a godsend.
Eventually the day arrives for you to go to the Javits Center to build your stand for NY NOW. You are sad to leave your mother and child to have all of the fun while you go off to work. You take turns with your partner coming in late and leaving early during the show days so that you can each spend as much time as possible with the little tiny Cute One.
During the show you think of all of the fun things that you can do with your family when you are finished for the day. Finish work for the day, and do only 1/3 of those things, because you still grossly underestimate how long it takes to do anything. Once the entire show is over, you pack up your stand and send everything off. Now it is time to relax a bit and enjoy your last day or two in New York. Appreciate this time. Think to yourself, how much fun it all has been and feel good about the fact that you are traveling with your child and showing them the big world out there. These moments don’t last forever and they go so quickly, and you’ll feel emotional about the fact that one day your baby won’t be such a baby anymore. It all feels worth it.
After the long journey home, (and hopefully there weren’t any delayed flights) you are exhausted but you have survived! You are sore and tired and jet-lagged, but you’ve made it.
Now just be prepared for everyone to ask you how your holiday was.
Words by Kristyn Holding