I have left many precious things on planes; two beloved kids' stuff toys, a preposterously large hand luggage case, a packet of oxycodone, my entire gut micro-biome. And that was just on one flight.
Yet it was not until thirty minutes after disembarking that flight of grim misfortune that I realised that the knee-bruiser carry-on I'd grimly wrangled around Europe for six weeks was still on the plane. My partner made the panicked dash from one end of Changi airport to the other to try and retrieve my bag and its precious cargo of leggings and airplane toothbrushes. Not until he returned, empty handed, did I realise that my coat was also on that plane.
My children, who have more than once tried to run across the ten lane highway outside our apartment to save a dropped toy, did not even register the loss of their prized plushies until we'd been home for two days.
Because that's what air travel does; renders you so exhausted that you forget about the really important stuff life in life, like soft toys, unnecessarily strong painkillers, and pea coats.
So I have no questions about how, or why, a mother in a Saudi Arabian airport managed to forget to pack her baby while scrambling to board a flight to Malaysia. Only once airborne did the woman realise she'd left her baby at the boarding gate. To those who have never travelled 'avec enfants', this story might seems laughably absurd; how could a parent forget their CHILD?
But they must understand this: travelling with children is like smoking a joint, getting the bends, and suffering a concussion - all at the same time. It is very hard to keep your head screwed on when you've been in the midst of an airborne nightmare en route to your dream holiday.
Babies are smaller than hand luggage, and sometimes, when it's least convenient, they can be very quiet. Dangerously quiet. So quiet you may temporarily forget they exist, as you try to wrangle the pram and the hand luggage and the needling, whiny siblings (there is no way there weren't siblings muddying the waters in this scenario, by the way).
That baby was being quiet because it knew it needed to conserve its fresh, unblemished vocal cords for the flight. Why expend all that energy crying at the gate, where people are still able to freely move around a large, well-ventilated space? Ha, ha, ha!
This story had a happy ending, fortunately. The pilot turned the plane around, and the baby was delivered back into the arms of its mother. Less happily, the mother of this baby has presumably been stuck in a torturous hamster wheel of self-flagellation ever since-and to make it worse, the whole world knows all about it.
So, nameless mother in a Saudi Arabian airport, please know that not all the mothers, fathers and carers of the world are not questioning your fitness to be a parent, your sanity, or anything else.
The only thing we are questioning is our own future family travel plans (perhaps we should just do a road trip instead?). The eyes of the world may be on you, but we're not judging. We're simply nodding sagely and saying "there but for the grace of god…"