Sunday, October 25, 2009

Planning a vacation with kids? Better leave your expectations at home.

Just got back tonight from a trip to Monterey, California where we visited the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.

We left yesterday, cramming four adults, three children, and enough stuff for an overnight trip (which is more than you might expect) into the SUV for a not-particularly-pleasant four-hour drive punctuated by whining, crying, yelling and complaining.

This morning we got up, ate breakfast, re-packed all the stuff and crammed it back into the SUV, then went to the aquarium.

The four adults--myself, my husband, and his parents--liked the aquarium quite a lot, and found it to be generally impressive.

The kids, not so much.

My almost-3-year-old daughter liked it the most out of any of them. She was also in the most agreeable mood. With three kids they are seldom all in agreeable moods, usually just one at a time, and this was her day in the rotation. She said she liked the fish. And she seemed really intrigued by the seagulls and pigeons outside. Of course, pigeons and seagulls can be observed at any time in Monterey without pricey admission fees. But whatever, at least she was happy.

My five-year-old son was not in an agreeable mood. At all. He barely gave the jellyfish, sea otters and penguins a second glance, instead choosing to spend all of his time at the aquarium pushing buttons and pulling levers. He has learned that the museums we visit are usually filled with educational displays. He doesn't care what the educational topic is, nor who else might be standing directly in front of the display trying to learn something, he just loves to push buttons and pull levers.

So there he would be, pulling, for instance, a lever that turned a plate of sushi over to display the dangers of overfishing bluefin tuna, and a few feet away there were some huge tuna swimming by in a gigantic tank. And I would say, "Look over here! Look! Look at these huge fish! And hammerhead sharks! And a great white shark! They are swimming right by our heads!"
And he would yank on my hand and say, "But Mommmmm, I want to pull the levers."

So he and I made our way through the aquarium, me trying to catch a glimpse of some amazing sea creatures, and he trying to locate the nearest buttons and levers.

Then there is my oldest son, who just turned seven. I figured he was having a pretty good time, but I didn't really see him that much since I was always off pursuing the buttons and levers. Apparently my impression was wrong. Later, when we were crammed back into the car, on our way home, I asked everyone to share their favorite thing from the aquarium.

His answer: "Nothing. I didn't really like it all that much."

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