The Dad Life Goes Aquatic

The last big stop on our staycation was the Boise Aquarium.

Before I get into this, I’d like to reiterate a point I made in my post talking about our trip to Zoo Boise. The Boise Aquarium has been in the works for quite some time, and financially it’s been nothing but an uphill battle. There have been countless fundraisers and pleas for donations to the public, and in all honesty I’m really happy for the people involved that this dream has become a reality. Sadly though, lots of people who insist that Boise is the type of city deserving of high quality, tourist-drawing destinations are the same people who won’t do anything to help bring these places into the area. When Melissa and I decided we wanted kids we didn’t just complain to the city, we took action. So we’re faced with this issue. It’s great that we have an aquarium, but you can’t do much without proper support and funding. I feel bad to some extent, but my point is that I understand their situation and I did keep that in mind during our trip there.

So just like my Zoo Boise post, this story got interesting right as we entered the parking lot. I’m really going to try throughout this post to not be overly mean, but the aquarium is located right by our local mall, across the street from a Sheriff’s office, and shares a strip mall with two bail bond places and a mattress place. Seriously. That was the location that people scouted and haggled over. Architects spent days drawing up detailed plans that had been discussed with the aquarium staff to ensure things were laid out in a specific way. Construction workers spent weeks building the inside, sculpting the fake rocks to make the fish feel comfortable when they were added, and adding giant filtration systems so that fish that don’t even exist yet would someday be added and be able to survive in the water they use. I just don’t understand what drew them to that spot. Maybe it was close to someone’s house.

Next comes the price. I’ve said several times that for us, we live by the idea that ticket costs for our family only need to be justified by the ability to get our money’s worth out of the visit. I hope that makes sense to other people. Fourteen dollars for an hour long trip to the zoo is not too bad. For the aquarium, prices were $9 each for Melissa and I, $6 for William (12 and under pricing) and Carter was free (2 and under pricing). $24, and ya know, that’s really not expensive. The problem for me was what we got out of that $24, and it really didn’t seem like much.

So, the inside. Right off that bat it was pretty clear that they were fishing (PUN!) for a certain audience. When you walk into this very warehouse style area you are instantly greeted by a large open-top tank filled with all the familiar fish from “Finding Nemo.” Okay, ha ha, I see what you did there. It kept both boys in total amazement for what felt like a while, but we found it a challenge to keep up with William. The large tank was made as a feeding area. For an additional three dollars you could get food to feed certain fish, and the tank was very low to the ground to help with that. Low enough, you might say, to entice a very excited toddler to jump in and swim with his favorite fish in the world. So we found ourselves in deep water (PUN!) trying to battle between moving on to the other tanks and William so desperate to stay and jump in with “Nemo.”

With such a grand entrance, it was unfortunate that most of the tanks within the aquarium walls are no bigger than anything you’d buy for your own home, and more than a few house the famous clown fish. There was another larger tank filled with small sharks and sting rays, another area that we found difficult to get William to leave. We found that even though it was not exactly crowded within the aquarium, the sharks and rays tank was the most interesting thing and was therefore quickly overwhelming for the boys. There was actually a really neat area for starfish made out of an old boat, but while Melissa and I thought it was interesting, the boys did not.

The two bigger tanks held the attention of the majority of the people, the majority of the time, and why shouldn’t they? The alternatives just couldn’t compete. There was also an octopus, a few reptiles, and a new puffin area, but none of them could pull people away from the two bigger tanks. There was also, according to their website, supposed to be a loggerhead turtle which was nowhere to be found. They are also trying to raise money for a 130,000 gallon tank to be filled with sharks and rays that people will swim with, as well as a seal at some point. Honestly, I can’t imagine where that is going to fit because at a normal walking pace I could go from start to finish in two minutes. Considering the adult price is two dollars more than the zoo, that hardly seems worth it, someday perhaps. They don’t seem to be using the right bait (PUN!) to get people in the door.

How about something positive…

A very unexpected, very cool thing happened as we were milling around the exit area trying to decide how many times we should go back to the beginning and start the process over to make the trip worth it. There is a sort of learning area at the end with lots of books and a desk are where kids can color in books that have fish that surprisingly were not clown fish. As I was making a mental note that the last fish tank held lion fish, meaning we start with “Finding Nemo” and end with “Deuce Bigalow” a staff member rounded up kids who might have been there as a group, and read them all one of the books. I really liked that moment.

So will we be going back? Again, like the zoo we don’t really have options for this type of entertainment. When the boys are a bit older and understand they can’t just jump in with the fish it will be easier, of course it will also be more expensive when we have to pay for Carter. As the aquarium continues to ask for money and have fundraisers it is possible that things make great forward strides. Till then, we watch “Finding Nemo” all the time and we can get our fill of clown fish that way.

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How to Incorrectly Give Advice

As a parent, giving advice to other parents is a tricky thing. Some people are extremely passionate about their own particular style of parenting and take strong issue with people who don’t wholeheartedly agree with them. Parenting has become a cautious subject, much like politics or religion and while everyone has the right to discuss their point of view on those subjects, everyone else has an equal right to disagree. You really have to be careful when talking about parenting. Even more so now that there are more and more men taking a very visible presence in the upbringing of the children. I’m in no way implying that fathers of previous generations had no tangible role with their kids, what I’m saying is that lately dads are making a stand against the idea that mothers make all the choices for the children. Sadly there are still negative stereotypes flying around insisting that the majority of men have no clue how to change a diaper or simply take a child for a walk.

I guess then, it might be a little surprising that on occasion people will ask for my advice on parenting topics. I really do welcome questions from people looking for my honest answer and not just some form of permission to continue doing whatever they are already doing. See, I’m not one to interject my opinion without question, and yes, I can see the irony in the fact that I have a blog filled with unsolicited opinions. This is different though. Out in public I don’t just flash my ID card and announce that I’m from the dad life blog – let me tell you the things I feel you are messing up with your kids. I really am happy to give advice when asked, but I also be sure to include the warning that kids are not a one way street. There’s a lot of paths to choose from, and it is gonna stay that way for their whole life. I can only offer people my side of things.

So what really bothers me is when I say something which in turn becomes true for the person and they act surprised. As if, “How could he possibly have been right? He hasn’t bought a new shirt in like five years, what the heck could he possibly know?”

Short example – I’ve told at least four couples that kids often force you to withdraw a little from the outside world, at least at the beginning. This can be as small as an almost pointlessly quick visit to a friend’s house just to have that quick connection with another adult. On the other hand, I sometimes feel trapped in the house. I’m not someone who takes my appearance too seriously, but on those rare occasions that Melissa and I try to fancy up a bit, I have a few options in the closet. I went camping this past weekend and knowing that it was gonna be a bit cold at night I needed to get to my jackets. They are in the farthest area away from the closet door which means I walked past my small collection of “nicer” shirts. THEY ARE DUSTY! I haven’t needed to upgrade beyond tee shirt in such a long time that my fancy button-up shirts are a worse option due to DUST! So again, telling someone that it gets lonely and I’m obviously around so please come over when you need some company, it’ll be good for both of us; only to hear those people say to me, “Wow, I haven’t seen anyone in so long. I wish there was someone a bit more on my schedule that I could hang out with during the day. Do you know what I mean guy with dust covered suit?” Well it’s a little sad.

Not everything with children is absolute, but there are certainly things that tend to echo for everyone. When our due date for William (our first) was approaching people often said things to us that were completely untrue. I heard many tales that painted a picture of the first few months as living in some dark dungeon that smells of poop and vomit. The newborn will scream, peeling the paint from your walls and causing such vibrations that your hair simply falls from your body like the first snow in winter. This sound will become trapped in your ears, a prisoner for eternity as you struggle against the will of god to sleep. As the days turn into months, your sleepless body will become fat and weak till one morning you finally emerge from your home, squinting as sun flashes against your eyes. As you raise your arm in hopeful victory, a majestic hawk will welcome you back to the world by defecating on your shoe and hat….and you will be a parent. My approach to advice has been more realistic, I hope.

Let me put it this way – In this forum, people need to walk the line between truth and entertainment, and that’s not to say that the truth is not entertaining at times. What I mean is when it comes to blogs, there’s often necessary fluff to a post. This is not a twitter feed and 140 characters just will not cut it. I can’t am not interested in putting up a bunch of posts with one or two sentences that read like, “What’s with these kids pooping all the time, am I right people? Meh! #TheDadLife”

I try to do my best to keep things honest when answering a question or concern about parenting, but perhaps the simple and truthful method just takes people off-guard these days. So in your own lives you might try something different to get your ideas across. Internet meme? Rewrite the lyrics to a popular song and sing it to the person? Flash mob your answer somehow? Maybe something elaborate like having an office building spell out your answer one letter at a time using the lights in the windows to create each letter.

In my experience, the direct approach to advice seems to be largely ineffective.

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Aww, look at the baby!

Age 32 – Realized I am no longer “cute” or “adorable”

Today we went to visit Mommy at work! It’s always good for the boys because there’s several people who genuinely like that two adorable, awesome kiddos have stopped in to break up the same old daily routine. Others politely ignore the small chaos tornado that rolls by, which is totally fine. I would likely do the same. Of course there’s a few people who give the subtle facial suggestion of, “GET THE HELL OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUT!!! NOOOOOOOOOWW!” which is difficult to pull off in a subtle way, but I understand that as well. We try to keep it brief.

Something happens every time we visit that makes me laugh. Sometimes it happens a couple times, but always at least once. There’s always that moment during the conversation where someone glances over and notices that the escaped midget sloth has been standing there the whole time. It usually winds up like this:

“Oh Melissa! The boys are so big, and soooo cute. You guys make such cute babies! And William is 3! I can’t believe it, and now look at you! You’re so thin and beautiful, I can’t even believe it.”

*Carter bashful face*

*William panic face, wants to go watch cartoons at Mom’s computer*

“Oh, hey Ev. How are you?”

“Pretty good, I -“

“LOOK AT WILLIAM’S SHOES! SO CUTE!”

———–

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are people in the office who like me. If that’s even the right word. Heck, one of Melissa’s co-workers was one of the first followers of this, my version 5.0a (let’s hear it for several consecutive days of posting people, I’m on a roll) blog. Still, it’s gotta be hard to figure out what to say to the overly shy, quiet, Michael Cera stereotype guy, who shows up like 4-5 times a year. I do appreciate the effort. It just dawns on me that I’ll never get back to that place where people made a big fuss about me. I’m just not that cute or adorable anymore.

I may need to start having my birthday parties at McDonald’s again.

Damnit. I hate McDonald’s.

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