You know, just to look around.
Because I have a feeling the next 15 years are going to fly by.
While Brian is still pushing for Duke, I wouldn't mind visiting Palo Alto frequently. (Eighteen-year old Future Scott just rolled his eyes and smacked himself on the forehead). Just down the road holds my future occupation: otter-brusher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
See, this place is fantastic. It's tucked into the far corner on Cannery Row and is gigantic. While the otters are the main attraction, there's tons of other things to look at, too. They make the exhibits so fun and fresh, it's a joy to learn about our neighbors under the sea. For example, did you know kelp forests are incredibly important to the survival of sea otters? I did not, and now I can't help but look at kelp and think of cute little otters. Also, otters groom themselves for three to five hours a day; this helps their fur stay clean so it will keep them warm in the cold Bay waters. When an otter is in captivity, scientists actually have to comb the otters for hours to ensure a healthy coat. Hence my next career, as I whispered to Brian during the film. Therapist, schmerapist.
Scott was not too enthralled with the otter story. It followed Luna, a baby sea otter, before, during, and after her stay at the Aquarium. She was discovered on the beach after a big storm, having been separated from her mother. They took her in, brushed her (naturally), fed her, and brought in a surrogate otter to teach her how to hunt and open clams. Eventually, Luna was released back into the wild successfully. There was a lot of "awe-ing" during all of the otter footage, because let's face it - these little guys are just so darn cute. I was melting into a puddle of Kim.
Scott was having none of it. He sat quietly throughout the presentation, and once the lights came on, he immediately looked at me with giant, watery eyes. Big tears threatened to roll down his cheeks. "What's wrong?" I cried, reaching over to drag him into the safety of my lap. "What happened?"
He choked a little. "Did...did...did Luna -" big shaking breath - "find her...mommy?" And then he collapsed on my shoulder, sobbing.
Insert giant wail here.
Okay then. This is one of those moments in parenting when you are faced with a tough choice. How do I handle this? Did I just traumatize my child with the story of Luna the Sea Otter? What do I do now?
So I took the very big step and decided to lie point-blank to my child.
"Yes, Scotty. Luna found her mommy. They are very happy now."
It placated him for about three seconds. And then Brian and I faced a barrage of questions for the next hour. Where are they now? Was it a mean storm? Why did the storm do that? Was Luna sad? Did Luna miss her mommy? Did Luna's mommy miss her? Despite our (I hope) calming answers, he kept asking the same questions over and over again...
Before OtterGate '13, we were having a great time. Scott was consumed with jellyfish; what they eat, how they swim, if they sting. We went through the jellyfish exhibit twice and he still wanted more jellies.
Scotty was crushed. Not Luna-Without-Her-Mom crushed, but pretty disappointed.
But - helpful Monterey Bay Aquarium volunteer to the rescue. She simply spoke quietly into her ear piece for a few minutes, and next thing we know, a woman carrying a tube of tiny jellies met us at the desk. She escorted us to the second floor for our own private jelly tour, free of charge. Is this customer service or what?
Yikes. My hand was ready to grab Scotty's and drag him out of there if necessary.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), Scotty listened almost too well. When the presenter asked if anyone in the audience had been stung by a jelly fish, Scotty's hand shot up. When I pulled it back down, he looked me and rolled his eyes. "Last week, Mom," he said in a voice far more mature than his age. Huh?
After learning how jelly fish eat (harpooning fish with poison in their tentacles), how they reproduce (surprisingly, not with expensive dinners and broken promises), and how they live, Scott still had more questions for the nice man after the lecture. Like a stodgy 45-year old intent on getting answers, he marched down to the podium immediately after the lecture and begin his litany of concerns.
Between sea horses and sea nettles, kelp forests and penguins, I think Scotty had a pretty fantastic day. Brian and I determined the best way to handle the Luna situation was systematic desensitization; since he had so many questions about it, why not let him see the film again? The story had a happy ending (though we tweaked it a bit. Sorry, eighteen-year old Scotty if you are reading this) and repeated exposure to the stimulus might help alleviate his fears. And so, Brian and Scott revisited the aquarium the next day while Mommy got a much-needed pedicure.
What was Scott's take on the story of Luna after his second viewing?
He told us he wants to be a sea otter doctor, since the man that saved Luna was a "good and nice man."
Does Stanford have that major? And more importantly, can Mom come and brush the otters?