A week in and we were getting bored. Sick of the four walls. It has been cold and gray, and I haven't had much enthusiasm for bundling up and heading outside. But when I woke up yesterday morning, I knew we had to go. The where part was uncertain and almost irrelevant. But it had to happen.
My vote was an art museum. I've been craving visual stimulation and inspiration. I was in the mood for wacky and whimsical, but I knew that despite the polite response from Gus, it wouldn't be hitting any home runs.
When I called to invite my mom, she completely poo-pood the idea, but wasn't able to produce any viable alternatives. So I suggested that if she would foot the bill, I would be willing to take the kids to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The truth is, I don't actually like aquariums that much. In fact, I'm not terribly interested in anything "sciencey" except when it involves nature in a natural setting. Then I can get on board. Gus, however, loves aquariums. When I told him about the change in plans, he very literally jumped for joy.
In the hour between telling the kids we were going and actually leaving, I started to have all sorts of second doubts. Actually, it was just one doubt: is visiting an aquarium ethical? I warned my children that when we got home I was going to do the research so this could very well be their last visit. My "ethics" are a pretty insufferable thing to bear. I have concerns about so many things but then don't take very strong stands, which makes me a kill-joy who is still participating in the questionable activity.
I haven't gone on to figure out if all aquariums, and probably zoos for that matter too, should be avoided. After watching the joy and curiosity that overcame my children, I'm not sure if I want to. I'm desperately hoping that when done right, both institutions provide valuable research and support conservation measures in such a way to justify their existence.
Arlo had to be pulled from each and every exhibit. He spent five minutes with his eyes locked with a puffin, his new best friend named Stinky. Later he cried when we left his even newer best friend, Sharky. Gus bounced from one exhibit to the next, identifying fish I have never heard of. Alamae stared wide-eyed and amazed in the dramatic light, entranced by the recorded whale songs.
I'm so grateful that my mom vetoed the art museum (though I'm forcing them to go visit one with me sooner rather than later) and that she treated us to the day on the Inner Harbor. Aquariums and lunches at Shack Shack are far from free. So thanks, mom.