Ripley’s Aquarium and What Came After

065The 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.

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4 thoughts on “Ripley’s Aquarium and What Came After

  1. My husband loves aquariums! I like them in theory but like you mentioned, they are so crowded that it’s difficult to enjoy! Also, sorry about that burn…sounds terrible!

    • I love them too… I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up! Thanks for the kind words about the burn… it hurt like crazy but it’s better now.

  2. Oh no! That sounds so painful! So sorry you were burned. But what a good mom you are for reassuring your son he is not to blame.
    It’s been years since I’ve been to an aquarium and I can’t wait to take my little guys to one someday and experience it trough their eyes! I’m thinking an outing during a school day (we homeschool) would be perfect to avoid the crowds. 😉 I’m not a crowd-lover myself and it can get so worrisome to make sure you keep track of everyone you brought along!

    • One of the huge beauties of homeschooling is having more control over one’s schedule… I’m sure you’d do better during a school day. Also, I think going first thing in the morning, or after 7pm (depending on how old your kids are) when they have a discounted price. Good luck!

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