Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Fabulous find #49291-- the local aquarium has a 35 minute Creek Cruise for $7 a person departing hourly starting at noon. I stumbled upon this hidden treasure while sitting at the doctor's office, and snapped a picture of the smallish ad in the free parenting magazine with my iPhone. I was certain with a ridiculous level of giddiness and pride that no one else was privy to such a great find. I failed to realize:
  1. It's tourist season, and
  2. It's a free parenting magazine in a doctor's office. Label this post "Duh."
Feeling like I held a sacred revelation, I waited the perfect amount of time to disclose my find to the boy-os-- enough to allow them to anticipate the adventure, but not so much that they nagged me about it unendingly. We eagerly approached the ticket counter at 1:30, only to find they only had tickets left for the 5:00 cruise. This would have been nice to know when I called at noon and asked if the cruises typically sold out and if we got there 30 minutes before would that be good and was assured it was all good. Luckily, we were there with a friend who has a membership, so we quickly changed plans to spend some time exploring the museum, and I was proud of the boy-os, who had gotten pretty excited about a 35 minute cruise around the marsh, when they were just as excited to be around all of the fish on the other side of the glass.

In an attempt to completely tire them out, we decided to do the nature walk to the other building, which takes 10 minutes, one way. We found a room on the way to the nature walk, where there were stuffed animals, a chalkboard wall, a magnetic fishing game, hopscotch, books, and a mini-aquarium. It was pretty basic by design, not grandly decorated or overly emphatic in an attempt to be a cool room at the aquarium. In short, it was simple. Understated.

Simply perfect for a 5 year old, so Gage, of course, was fascinated by this room. Those of us who know Gage are not surprised. He is often in what we call "parallel world," a space he enters that has him playing happily on his own alongside, not with, other kids or adults. Don't mistake this for the idea that he isn't social. Oh no. He will talk to anyone, even the guy in the car next to us when we both had our windows down. "Yes, he's friendly," I often find myself saying. And let's not forget about the time he attached himself to another soccer mom's leg during a game when he was two. I felt the need to profusely proclaim, "Really, we love him and show him affection, I swear!" He is just so comfortable in his own skin, and totally into the really simple things-- like this room.

I sat back and watched him find puppets and stuffed animals to engage in a great battle, tote his favorite "squib" (see Gagey-isms post for translation) to the book area, complete several games of "ho-scosh," and wrangle several buckets of magnetic fish. I felt like I was looking at one of those Family Circus cartoons that show the tracks little Billy takes all over the yard. He came over to me every so often to show me a puppet or talk about what he saw, but mostly he was completely absorbed in this free play-- even on our second visit after the nature walk and otters and snakes, which he was also excited about.

Watching this moment of pure abandon on the part of my 5 year old, struck me quite powerfully. I often feel like we inundate them-- with TV, with toys, with activities, with stuff. It took a simple room with simple toys to completely enthrall and engage a young mind that is already full of wonder. I know these were new items and new is always better than the same old toys you play with every day, but it did not take new and flashy toys to catch his eye. It took new and simple-- basic playthings that allowed him to make the rules and create his own "new parallel world."

Before we go getting way too serious (this post is not meant to invoke tears), let me just say I don't want this to end for him. I want to jump into his parallel world-- invited, of course, and live like he does... Minus running into the glass window like he did at the gym today. That would probably be something I could live without.


  1. Aw! I love it! It's hard to remember sometimes that they really don't need us to guide everything that they do. They learn so much through free play. Thanks for the tip about the marsh cruise. I'm going to suggest it to my inlaws, and if they don't wanna do it, we'll do it some time without them!

  2. I really hope we get to do it sometime. Maybe towards the end of August when tourist season is dying down. :)