We figured we’d need at least one actual activity because toddlers operate in a time warp. That’s where that saying, “the days are long but the years are short” comes from — toddlers mess with the time-space continuum. You can have 38 activities planned that take a half-hour each, and if you try to do them with a toddler it’ll all be done in 25 minutes. Even faster if you have a whole group of toddlers. Even our lame-cation needed an activity.
Tom and I were really excited about the aquarium. Both kids go wild for the fish tanks in the pediatrician’s waiting room, a nearby park has a small aquarium that my kids love, and Mary Virginia sleeps with a flying fish Beanie Baby. Tom and I talked up the aquarium a LOT to David, and his reaction was a little weird. He didn’t want to go to the aquarium because he didn’t want to swim with the crabs.
We told him that he wouldn’t be swimming with crabs; we were just LOOKING at the crabs and fish. But he was still wary. I’m not sure where the worry came from. Maybe since we’d just spent so much time in the pool? Maybe from the Magic School Bus book that takes the kids into the ocean where they do, in fact, swim with crabs? I even told him that one of the rules of the aquarium is that you cannot go in the water. But he kept mentioning it.
The aquarium was a 45-minute drive from our hotel, so we packed up and were on the road after breakfast to maximize time with the fish.
If you’re thinking of taking your kids to the Virginia Aquarium, or any sort of museum for that matter, here’s my one tidbit of advice: after you pay for your tickets, blindfold your kids and run them past the gift shop. Nothing in the aquarium, nothing in the big wide ocean could compete with the knick knacks and tchotchkes in the gift shop. And if you go during Christmas there will also be Christmas trees loaded with fake wrapped presents. Try to explain to a three-year old why in the world a person would wrap an empty box for the sake of decoration.
After we forced our kids out of the gift shop, they were sort of like, “Eh, whatever.”
They were interested, but they weren’t exploding with euphoria like I thought they would be. I mean, you should see them in the pediatrician’s office. They LOSE THEIR MINDS looking at the three goldfish swim around. For some reason David walked past each exhibit and looked at the fish like he was checking them off the list. Every now and then something would grab their attention, but he was only interested, not totally and completely fascinated.
Tom and I, though? We loved it. The exhibits were all really great and interesting.
Then we saw the crocodile.
That picture up there? David’s smile is a little misleading. David was petrified of the crocodile. And it was 30 percent because IT WAS A CROCODILE and crocodiles are really creepy. But the other 70 percent was my fault. We had been looking at tanks of fish and then turned the corner and BOOM! There was a crocodile. Right there, right by the glass, and it was swimming. I flipped my lid. I grabbed David and rushed to the glass.
CHECK THIS OUT! LOOK AT THIS CROCODILE! SEE HOW SHARP HIS TEETH ARE!?? ISN’T THAT INCREDIBLE!??!?!?
And then David started crying because he thought I was going to throw him in the water with the crocodile.
I had to take him away, hug him, apologize, and promise that Mommy would never, never make him look at, touch, and especially not swim with any crocodile ever.
Tom and I wanted to look at the croc for a long time, IT WAS SO COOL! But we had to take shifts because our kids think that, given the chance, we’d feed them to a crocodile.
Sticking with that theme, David didn’t want to look at the sharks, either. When we were at the shark tank he actually asked to go back to the plastic sharks in the exhibits because those wouldn’t bite him.
BUT. We had a really fun time. If I had to do it all over again, I would. The volunteers and staff were really helpful, and the facility was amazing. We saw Komodo dragons, snakes, otters, sea turtles, sharks, jelly fish, and touched sting rays and horseshoe crabs. (Actually. I was the only Krieger who had the nerve to touch any of the animals. Tom, I’m looking at you.) We had meltdowns because Tom and I didn’t realize how close we were to lunch, and we made messes in the exhibits, and I learned that sting rays give live birth! And pythons cuddle with other pythons when they’re cold!
The kids’ favorite part was, surprisingly, the aviary…which I wanted to skip because the aviary was outdoor and it was freezing and rainy. Oh, who can forget the gift shop? Huge fans of the gift shop. My kids left the aquarium chanting: Gift Shop for President!
It’s funny that the most expensive part of the lame-cation was the one part that wasn’t a total slam-dunk with the kids. Maybe we should have taken them to PetSmart to see the gerbils instead.
My advice to parents if you’re considering a trip: to smuggle in a few snacks, avoid the gift shop, and somehow convince your kids that you will not feed them to the crocodiles. And when you figure out how to do that, let me know. We could use some tips.