Saturday, August 16, 2008

Monterey Bay Aquarium, our very unsuccessful family trip.

First, let's look at some neat fishy shots.

Now, let's recap our visit with our wily 18-month old.

We planned the visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium perfectly. Since the last fiasco when we went to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose, we learned a few things: 1. Don't disrupt the nap. 2. If you disrupt the nap, the following week will be really messed up.

We planned to leave at 9:30, which is Mateo's nap time, give or take 3o minutes. We figured he'd sleep in the car until we got there. We were almost correct - he slept about an hour, which was better than nothing, so we were very pleased with ourselves. Look at us outwitting our child!

I packed some snacks for him and figured we'd buy something at the aquarium or the 50 or so eateries located in Cannery Row. I gave him some crunchies as soon as we got there. He began plowing through them, finishing each portion with the "more" sign and and woeful "moooo?"

He was pretty taken aback by the aquarium, never having seen something quite like it before, so he soon forgot about his food. We went to the big tank where they were feeding fish and cleaning the glass, and my husband took Mateo out of the stroller.

And this is where it all went wrong.

See, Mateo can walk, and he walks just fine. He's been doing it for some months now, has really good balance and can even trot on occasion. He's also very active, energetic and excitable. Walking plus active plus energetic plus excitable equals quite a bit of madness and darting around. Once he got out of the stroller, all he wanted to do was walk and be free. And can you blame him? Everyone else is, so why does he have to be held?

By the time we got to the aquarium, it was pretty packed, especially where we were because of the fish feeding. We were apprehensive about letting him free to move around on his own because some areas of the aquarium are dark and Mateo's pretty quick when he wants to be. Plus there were way too many people who were not paying attention to anyone but themselves, so the idea of him running around, hitting people or getting stepped on or rolled over by a stroller was not one we wanted to deal with.

What does an 18-month old who can walk and wants to walk and has a pretty good set of lungs do? He screams. Loudly. And won't stop until removed from said situation.

What does a first-time father do? He gets totally frustrated because he seems to think his child wouldn't be one of "those" kids who flip out and have tantrums when other people are around.

What does a first-time mom do? She wants to protect her baby from the frustrated father, so she swoops in and takes him away.

We went upstairs to the "splash zone" (a more kid-friendly area), and things weren't much better there. We both tried to hold Mateo, and we both failed miserably.

I was squatting with him in front of a huge aquarium space filled with all kinds of ginormous fish, and he was fine for about 30 seconds, and then he wanted to run away and be FREE! Unfortunately, this was one of the darker and more packed full of visitor rooms, so when I turned around, holding my squirming, screaming child, I was faced with a wall of people 4 deep. No one would move out of my way, even with Mateo screaming his little head off, so I just started walking through the crowd as best I could. Mateo ended up hitting one lady because he was so frustrated with the situation, and I didn't acknowledge it because if you don't move out of the way and are that rude, then I think you deserve a good smack, and since I can't do it myself, I'll let my kid do the dirty work.

We then came across a kid room, where each of us separately followed Mateo around while he darted here and there and there and here, being the Bossy Bear he normally is. I think most kids are used to being pushed around, but it was still stressful for both of us to follow him around as he was trying to get in other kids' way and do as he pleased.

We left to go look at the penguinos and then try to find some food because I figured a lot of Mateo's craziness was due to hunger at this point. When we got to the penguinos, my husband tried to hold Mateo so he could at least see them since none were in the water and that was the only way Mateo would see them. He started flipping out again and screaming and my husband was huffing mad, and the whole situation went downhill fast.

I suggest finding food and giving up on the penguinos, but we got sidetracked by another exhibit where you can touch stingrays and other animals. Mateo was fascinated by a water display where water rushes into an glass enclosed space like waves would, so we stayed there for a bit. Now that he was calmed down, I suggested food again.

There was an express food eatery outside, attached to a sit down restaurant. So outside we went to see what they had to offer. I thought it would be brilliant to hold Mateo, so I took him out of his stroller, and he immediately tried to dive over a fence and into the ocean. I decided to put him back into the stroller, and he decided to have a conniption fit. My husband had to get out of line to help me put Mateo back in the stroller because he was all arms and legs and screams, making it impossible to put him in the stroller by myself.

After we got him in, my husband informed me that a pizza slice was $7.00. We weren't ready to leave the aquarium, so I told him to just buy it so we can feed him because it was obvious he was starving.

I moved to a bench and gave Mateo more crunchies while we waited for my husband to get through the express line that ended up not being express (of course), and about 10 minutes later he came over to us with the $7.oo pizza. After we all finished sharing it (Mateo ate most of the cheese), we walked around some more, bought a hammer head shark for Mateo, and then left.

After we walked up the street, we decided it was time to get more pizza and then go. Mateo was really good eating the pizza, more because he got to sit in a booster seat at the table with us, so the day actually ended on a good note. We left, and Mateo fell asleep for another hour or so.

What did we learn? Bring a small cooler full of food. Wait another year before taking Mateo anywhere that crowded. Try to avoid weekends, although I don't see that as being possible for another couple years.

I also realized my hatred toward crowded places has diminished because the only time I got annoyed was when no one would get out of my way when I was trying to remove Mateo from the big fish exhibit. Usually I'd be super annoyed the whole time because people are so oblivious to other people.

All in all, it was a pretty frustrating day for all of us. I felt bad for Mateo because he desperately wanted freedom and I felt bad for my husband because his expectations of how Mateo should act are a bit too high for Mateo's age. I felt bad for our bank account because the day out cost us a lot. And I didn't even get that many pictures. Or a cool pirate shirt for Mateo.


Neece said...

So we were there at the same time and didn't even know it? My time was better, but we got there at 9:30 am and left at about 1 pm, found a fast food restaurant for lunch, and all kids were asleep shortly after getting on the highway. I couldn't have done the aquarium a year ago. You are braver than I.

Nut Nut said...

Two things: I think that's dumber than you AND I don't have twins....