Last year around this time I wrote about the Jane Austen tradition I wanted to start for Little e, given that she was turning an impressive four years old and it was about time to get meaningful. (Yes, I have written this year’s letter.) And now that she’s five (FIVE!), I felt my creative birthday juices flowing again.
It needed to include transit—the more modes the better—and yummy food, most of which would be types of dessert, and going somewhere super fun, of course. I had hoped to make it an overnight thing, but there wasn’t a ferry off our island at a reasonable time, so we settled for the first sailing in the morning and a really long day. More on that later.
I wasn’t surprised that when I suggested the birthday adventure to Little e, she was into it right away—DH and I have worked hard to raise a spontaneous and adventurous kid—but I was surprised at my own reaction. I’d forgotten how much I’d wanted to do this. How long I’d been waiting, apparently subconsciously, to take my child on a bold and daring trip, just us. Probably since I grew out of childhood myself and started thinking about the things I’d want to do with my own (theoretical) kids. It was like I heard the twenty-years-ago-me musing about this very moment, and here my actual daughter was, smiling up at me asking if we could take more than two busses. Oh right—this is why I had kids. I got a little choked up.
So we started planning (mostly me) and asking questions (mostly her). We would have to get up before DH and The Tiger and even before it was light out (Would we have to wear our pajamas on the ferry?). The bus would pick us up after we got off the ferry (Were we allowed to talk to the bus driver?). We’d spend the morning at the Aquarium (Were we going to be able to pet the penguins because last time there was no way into their enclosure and it was so disappointing?). Stuffed animals were chosen for the trip. Extra clothes were squeezed into the backpack. In hindsight, I was far too light on the snacks.
And then the day came. There was a painted sunrise and greasy breakfast. There were multiple bus rides (one with a breakdown on the side of the highway!)and lots of opportunities to climb things. The penguins were disappointingly enclosed again. The daddy seahorses were hugely pregnant. We had doughnuts for lunch.
Halfway through the day, as we were leaving the aquarium en-route to lunch (triple-chocolate, sea salt caramel and Earl Grey respectively) I realized something I never would have considered twenty years ago as I dreamed of this trip. I had chosen to spend a very long day solo with my five-year-old in a place where we had no ‘down space’, no familiar couch to rest on or friend’s house to chill at while watching Paw Patrol. The only place she could have a nap was in the carrier-backpack I’d brought for that exact purpose, though that would mean lugging her 40 pound dead weight around for an hour on pavement. I hadn’t remembered how hard it can be to just be out around town, like we adults are used to, with a kindergartner. Predictably, there was a meltdown, followed by some comatose time in the backpack, and by the end of the return ferry ride we were both feeling a bit twitchy.
But overall, it was a success. It was a lot of fun. It was an adventure. And like childbirth, the not-so-great parts start to fade from your memory pretty quickly. I’m already thinking about what could be possible next year. What could be possible five years from now. Other cites, other countries. Maybe other continents. The explorations are endless.