The newest big attraction in Toronto was introduced several months ago: we finally have our own aquarium. Ripley’s Aquarium has gotten good reviews, in spite of tickets that are quite pricey. With an aunt and nephew visiting from out of town, and three kids keen to go, and my own lifelong wonder of the creatures of the deep, we went.
There were the requisite sharks, stingrays, schools of beautiful and sometimes astonishing fish, a petting station (horseshoe crabs), and a particularly ethereal selection of jellyfish. There were also less requisite attractions, like play apparatus designated for children in bright colours, like tunnels and slides.
And it was very crowded. I think the aquarium was good, but my attention was so focused on not losing a child that I couldn’t entirely take it in. I imagine the kids could only absorb so much too. I found myself fantasizing about being able to return and actually see the exhibits, rather than peer at them.
Generally I don’t love going to busy venues, so when I make these treks I tend to feel accomplished – like Something Happened – and I hope the children enjoy them. It’s summer, and my kids are not heavily scheduled, and I do like finding interesting opportunities for us to experience and learn together. It was too busy at the aquarium to really learn as much as we could about what we were seeing, but it was worthwhile exposure, and There’s nothing like a white seahorse creature that looks like a bunch of leaves to feed curiosity. It was successful overall.
And yet I doubt the aquarium, its glamour notwithstanding, encapsulated the primary learning opportunities that arose that day. These likely took place at the much more prosaic Chinese restaurant we dined at afterwards, where my son turned the lazy Susan quickly, and it knocked over a tall pot of tea towards me. I fell off my seat trying to get away but failed, and now have second degree burns over much of my left thigh.
I suppose there’s a science lesson in there somewhere. The kids saw how I treated (or tried to treat) the injury and know I didn’t sleep well because the burn continued through the night. (At 3am, I asked my husband whether the ibuprofen and Tylenol tablets I was taking together we’re still good because they weren’t doing much. “It’s Tylenol, not morphine,” he replied.) My kids can see the scarring and my reaction when they touch my leg, and I suspect we all have a new respect for heat.
But it’s when I realize that a boy feels blameworthy for the injury that the learning recedes and the knowing comes forward. It’s then when, in spite of the dishes and the blog post and the new project deadlines waiting for me, I clear a space. In the dark, I stay with my baby and whisper to reassure, and then just to talk, and we wait for sleep to come.
Sharks, rays, tea, burns. Learning, knowing. Full, full days.