Poor kiddo – Mind. Blown.
I don’t think he knew what to expect when I announced an extra-special adventure to the aquarium, but from the moment we got out of the car (two blocks away), he was humming with excitement. The old water front trolly tracks are still in place, despite the fact that the trolly no longer runs, nor is the track complete. But for Evan, it’s a chance to see some real train tracks up close. We walked along the tracks, stood on them, jumped off them, touched them, etc. I kept trying to encourage him to move along, but the tracks themselves were worthy of an adventure.
It was pretty cute to see his Thomas the train boots on the tracks, and he kept talking about choo-choos and tracks and more choo-choos and choo-choo boots, etc. Having a short section of tracks would be an amazing addition to parks. Kids like Evan would love to climb on them, or bring some toy trains to play with.
From there we crossed the street, and he attached himself to the fence to look out over the water, looking for fish. I kept telling him that we were going to go seefish, but he was very concerned about trying to find them in the (super nasty) water right off the pier. We watched a ferry come inand some seagulls fly above and eventually I convinced him that there was more to the adventure beside the trolly tracks and the water down below. It was sad to see the garbage floating just off the pier. It was a good chance to talk about how we throw trash in the garbage and not on the ground. #teachablemoment.
Finally convinced that there was more to see we headed to the aquarium. He was happy to stand in line with me until he caught sight of the massive wall tank that you first encounter after the ticket counter. He was ready to run overand I had to remind him a few times as he edged away, that he needed to wait for me. Once we were in, he ran to the tank and sat down with the rest of the kids. Aquarium staff was giving a presentation about the tank, though he wasn’t paying attention. When they were done, he slowly walked up and down along the tank, looking at all the fish and watching the diver feed them (“Foosh eat! Eat all!”) He was focused on a fish toward the bottom of the tank when the diver swam down to wave at him. He turned back with wide eyes and then returned focus to the diver, jumping up and down and waving until he turned suddenly shy and ran back to sit with me and wave from afar. Moving on, Evan ran to each and every tank with the same sense of excitement, yet with a determination. Looking at these fish was his job for the dayand he took it very seriously.
A couple tanks had simulated wavesand that seemed to bother him. We went to the touch tank where he seemed more interested in just putting his fingers in the water rather than actually touching the sea creatures.
My last visit to the aquarium I learned that they catch and release each Octopus that is on display, keeping them only a few months before returning them to the ocean and finding a new one. While being captured and brought to a small tank must be terrifying, it’s nice to know that they can return to a normal life. Today’s guest was on his first day in the display and was rather active as he explored his new (temporary home). Evan was unsure about this large creature and preferred to watch from afar. I did let him pick a postcard in the gift shopand he chose the octopus and requested to bring it to his crib for naptime later in the afternoon – so clearly it wasn’t that scary.
Surprisingly enough, the harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters were of little interest. While they’ve recently updated the harbor seal enclosure, the rest of them are seriously lacking.
By the end of the trip, it was clear that his poor brain was working over-time. Lunch was quiet and then we played for awhile, but when it came time fornap, he was rather emotional about cleaning up. It took a little gentle convincing (and being allowed to take his postcard to nap)but he was soon tucked in his crib, his eyes closed before I left the room.
It’s so fun to experience these places again from a child’s perspective. A place like the zoo or aquarium, while they never grow old, your perspective changes and that bright-eyed innocence fades (but never quite goes away – I did spend 6 hours in the Chicago Aquarium during my 2010 visit and was probably just as mentally exhausted afterward).