For his birthday, I’d promised Elijah I’d take him to the aquarium. It started with my very early arrival to Elijah’s house – so early in fact, that Elijah was still asleep when I got there! But soon enough he was up, and whilst Daddy was getting him dressed etc I learnt how to use the stroller, and Mummy showed me the Thomas the Tank Engine backpack she’d prepared with nappies, nappy bag, spare clothes and snacks in. We also packed a few books in my bag (including Shark in the Park!) and their old digital camera so I could take some photos (I’m camera-less). Elijah threw a bit of a tant about going to the potty before leaving, but Daddy very patiently got him back to base and convinced him to go. Kisses and hugs to mum and dad and a “Now, will you be a good boy for me today? Yes? Ok good!” followed shortly thereafter, and then we were off!
It occurred to me as I was leaving the house that I hadn’t really asked too many questions of his parents past ‘oh yeah, what time does he normally have lunch again’, and was simply striding along in my very childfree, idealistic mind that everything would be fine and that Elijah would be perfectly behaved all day. The stroller ride certainly wasn’t posing any problems. Elijah, holding the backpack on his lap, liked to point out things to me as we went along (this was to become something of a theme throughout the day). “Stripes!” (Zebra crossing) “Berries!” (berries on path dropped by overhanging tree) “Bump bump!” (Sound of stroller as the wheels bounced over the berries).
Unfortunately we just missed our train by a few minutes, but Elijah successfully walked down a seriously big set of train station stairs and helped collect my ticket and spare change from the ticket machine. After being asked to sit beside me on the seat or always hold my hand if he wanted to stand up, he entertained himself for a whole 25 minutes by critiquing his surroundings. “Going up ramp” (lady walking up ramp) “Down stairs!” (People going down stairs) “Clack clack!” (Man’s wheeled luggage bouncing over a crack in the station) etc.
Once on the ‘big train’ (to distinguish it later from the ‘Monorail train’) Elijah was very well-behaved, staying on his seat and charming the other passengers with his level of interaction with sighted objects. We discussed how trains went “faster and faster” as they left stations, and then slowed down (“Annnd stop!” – Elijah started joining in after a few times) at stations. “Doors open”, “then passengers get off, and passengers get on”, “doors close”, and then back to “faster and faster”! Elijah would also point out other trains, noting when they were going in opposite directions. Being that we were in the mid-level part of the carriage, he also pointed out to me that we were travelling sideways. When he mistook the adjoining carriage as a different train going in the same direction, I explained that it was actually part of our train, just a different carriage. Later – “that’s part of our train” (accompanied with gesture). Elijah also made friends with other passengers who were very impressed with his perceptiveness, sharing handshakes, hi-fives and goodbye waves. This, plus only one book, took up a whole 50 minutes.
After alighting at Town Hall station (more steps), I put Elijah back into the stroller and explained that we would be going on another, smaller train. On our way to Galleries Victoria we got to hear the Town Hall bells striking 10am, which Elijah greatly enjoyed. Once at the monorail station itself we eagerly looked out for the train and hopped on. Elijah wasn’t quite as excited with the monorail train as I had thought he might be, but I put him on my lap anyway so he could look out the window. (Perhaps it was his first time looking down from heights?)
As per Mummy’s suggestion, the one of the first things we did upon arriving at the Aquarium was check out the bathrooms so Elijah would feel more comfortable using them later (particularly as there weren’t any parent’s rooms). Elijah said he didn’t want to go though, so we got our tickets, took the stroller to the cloak room, and started looking at the fish!
We saw penguins, platypi, little fish (“baby fish”), dugongs, sea snakes, eels, differently-coloured corals, some really really big fish, a Touching Pool where Elijah got to stick his hands in water and touch rocks and starfish, sting rays, and of course, SHARKS!!!
Highlights included morning tea (under a giant crocodile display, no less!), the glass-ceilinged viewing tunnels, face-painting at the ‘Mermaid Lagoon’ and having ‘pre-lunch’ in front of a massive viewing tank of sharks.
Elijah and I also had some fun in the Aquarium store (clever marketing strategy actually – the Aquarium exit IS the store, so you have to oggle the merchandise before you leave) and I bought Elijah a little momento of our Aquarium trip to take home. :)
Lunch was spent in the Aquarium food court, overlooking the beautiful harbour. When Elijah let me know he needed to go to the bathroom, the family at the table next to us was nice enough to mind the stroller while we quickly hotfooted it to the (adult!!!) bathroom, where Elijah had no trouble doing his business. Once back at our table, we finished lunch whilst Elijah pointed out boats, the minitrains going by, and the “flags on building”. It took me a little while to figure out he meant the flags on the bridge, but close enough, right?
The ride home was fairly smooth, save a rather desperate second toilet request from about Parramatta Station onwards. Somehow Elijah managed to hold on all the way till he got home – amazing! Afterwards there were hugs from parents, smiles, bounces and concerted effort from both parents to try and take a non-blurry photo of Elijah’s painted face. They tell me that means he had a really good time :D
Elijah proved himself to be extremely well behaved and easy to manage over the course of a long day (I arrived at 7:30am, and I think we got home at 5pm!). One thing that’s not really accurately represented above is the size and noise of the crowds - especially in the underwater tunnels, Touching Pool and food court there was pushing, screams from young children in various stages of tantrums, and raised voices from parents trying to control their children. Given that the most I’d ever had to do to Elijah was a quiet “How about we move onto the next one now?” I felt very lucky to have such a well-behaved child under my responsibility! One thing that really stuck out to me over the course of the day was the amazing job his mum and dad have really done parenting Elijah to make him such an attentive and polite boy.