Monday, February 13, 2012

beluga sunday

this week, we followed our almost 3-year old's lead for our one day a week excursion.

i was told by the boy's preschool teacher that he has been spending all of his time at the marine mammals "station," listening to "baby beluga" on repeat, snuggling the mama and baby beluga soft toy, and staring at the identification poster that features all manner of whales and dolphins.

at home, the boy has been spending all his time with the orca soft toy that his grandfather got him when they went to the aquarium together on his last visit, and requesting free willy and free willy 2, on repeat.

so to the aquarium we went.

i was very sad to learn that the vancouver aquarium lost another beluga calf.

tiqa was born just when i got pregnant with the boy. i watched his mother, qila (now the youngest of the belugas at the aquarium once again), give birth to tiqa, just when i was becoming a mother, myself. so i was nearly in tears when i asked about the details

although i feel rather silly feeling so strongly about the loss of a beluga i "hardly knew,"  i understand that my affinity comes from a primal place: the universal experiences of motherhood, parenthood, and loss.

"qila" (i think)

so that when the boy asked, "where's the baby belugas?" i had to tell him the truth. that they died. that tiqa was sick; and that her cousin nala died because rocks (and a penny) went into her blow hole.

"they died?" he repeated.

"they got sick?" he asked again and again, truly wanting to know.

and for the next few hours as we settled back home, he continued to process the information. "baby belugas died already," he kept saying. then he showed us that he understood what it meant for rocks to go into a whale's blowhole on the grey whale softie he got from the aquarium today (for free!). 

"all the belugas died already," he continued to say.

of course, the wife (and i) helped the boy along by reminding him of the belugas he did see. and the dolphins. and the turtles. and the sharks. that he can tell his teachers and his classmates about his adventures. lest he tell them only that "all the belugas died already." 

i know we'll continue to have more conversations about what happened to the baby belugas for a long time. every time we go back to the aquarium, i expect.

but boy oh boy, this was much more unschooling than we bargained for. 

as for the girl... she had a good time on this, her first aquarium visit. she saw her first beluga up close, gave qila her big smile, and then went on to other, more important matters: like snoozing on my chest, enjoying her first ride in a new (to her) carrier, and people watching.

not exactly a zero-dollar experience. nor was it void of difficult, but important life lessons.

but before kids, the wife and i would do dates like this all time: just the two of us, or with friends and family.  

only now we each have a baby to wear, intellectual curiosity to foster, and challenging parenting choices to make. 

an attempt to take a shot of the four of us.
the boy is on the wife's back.
the girl, on my chest, asleep.

all in all, the best way to spend a sunday, really: together.


  1. sounds like it was a big learning day! it's interesting to see how small children process the idea of death, it's so hard to know what they are really taking away from it. but good to focus on the other animals, too! I remember years ago visiting that Aquarium and loving the otters the best.

    1. it really, really was. as it turns out, the boy continued to dream about baby belugas. he woke up convinced that all he has to do is find them and hold them, and they'll be back. so i told him he could choose to be a whale doctor so he can help all the sick belugas. in his mind, it's so simply. he just needs to take the rock out of the hole.

      we visited the otters, too. they're pretty awesome and so fun to watch. we've been reading lot of otters since he was wee. he also saw the dolphins, the turtles, and the sharks. but it continues to be all about the whales.

      sigh. :)