I ran into this VHS case while picking up in our son’s room. I’m not sure if he still has the video but this conjured the Ghost of 4th of July Past.
We lived in Orange County, CA, which is between L.A. and San Diego. Joey was in his “I don’t sleep” years. We were exhausted, taking turns being up to take care of him at all hours of the night.
Along came the 4th of July. No holiday for caregivers, it meant being up whenever Joey decided we should be.
He was thumping around the house around 4 a.m. I was up keeping a weary eye on him and disgusted by the combination of sleep deprivation and the futility of efforts to engage Joey in some meaningful interaction.
So I plopped the both of us in my car and drove. Yes, parents will recognize the universal tactic of lulling a crabby kid to sleep via a wandering car ride. Works with toddlers.
It wasn’t working on Joey. I drove onto I-5 heading south along the ocean. I was in such a mental fog and he was so not going to sleep that next thing I knew I’d driven 80 miles to San Diego.
On a whim, I pulled into the Sea World lot to see if they were open for the holiday. Lo and behold, the ticket kiosks were just then admitting people.
Joey groused and made faces in protest of being marched into a strange place. His adversarial antics were a constant in those days, and he would either refuse to walk with me or scamper entirely away. Fortunately Sea World was not yet crowded and I could keep him in sight and retrieve him.
The impromptu journey took a positive turn when we went into the Penguin Encounter. After convincing Joey that he could not join the South American penguins in their outdoor display pool, I coaxed him into the dark, cool exhibit. On the other side of a panoramic window, penguins, puffins and auks posed like inflated statues. Every so often one or two would waddle to the water and, visible through the glass, shoot like torpedoes through the water.
Joey settled down and took this in. We stayed there for a long time.
My next victory was at the first dolphin show of the morning. I noticed a shiny black pilot whale in the holding tank, waiting to perform. Exploiting Joey’s love for Disney movies, I leaned over and said, “Look, Joey, it’s Monstro!” (that’s the whale in Pinocchio). He started smiling and then burst out laughing. I had us sitting down close, in the “splash zone,” and he laughed even harder when sea mammals sent waves of cold water over us.
The biggest hit of the day was a manatee tank. It was indoors, like the Penguin Encounter. The large, gentle creature was floating vertically underwater, and a human diver approached to feed it heads of Romaine lettuce. Joey was mesmerized and didn’t want to leave.
That led to the purchase of the video in the picture, a sweet reminder of a day with a wretched beginning that wound up as a great father-son experience. We played on some pirate themed climbing apparatus, hand fed dolphins while fending off seagulls intent on sardine theft, and of course found a place serving personal pizzas (Joey’s staple).
By the way if you meet Joey, asking him what the manatees do. He’ll tell you “Manatees eat the vegetables” (pronounced faschables).