Under the Sea

If you're visiting the page today to read another "mommy and Maddie story" you might be disappointed. Today you are going to read about daddy and Maddie and our trip to the Georgia Aquarium. We usually do all of our day trips as a family of three. This one was sure to be fun, sprinkled with some challenge, as I maneuvered the aquarium solo, without the helpful hands and watchful eyes of my wife, Amanda.

Spoiler alert, you can infer that I did in fact survive.

We arrived at the aquarium around nine on a weekday. I mention this to point out that weekdays are always a good choice for any type of crowd gathering attractions. Maddie was beyond excited! The past three days were consumed with jabbering about going to see the "fishies”. I loaded her into her new wheels and strapped on her Hello Kitty youth batting gloves. We made these gloves user friendly by cutting the fingers out of them. The gloves are useful in protecting Maddie’s hands from blisters and perhaps less germs.

Maddie's new wheelchair came with a backpack designed to slide neatly on to the handles between the wheels. This was a must for my first solo trip. It was packed with all her catheter supplies, snacks, juice, a change of clothes, and all the gift shop goodies we purchased. Remember Mommy was not there to say no to on this shopping excursion. Maddie and I were a bit indulgent. With all the necessities for the day, we began our adventure. My intent was to see as many of the exhibits as possible prior to the dolphin show at 11:30. Her enthusiasm for the fish quickly shifted when she discovered a short tunnel that she could go through in her chair in the River Scout area. From this point forward her interest in the animals became overshadowed by her desire on finding the next tunnel to explore. When we found the largest tunnel in the penguin exhibit, we meet our first major accessibility snag. There was a turn into the tunnel, it sloped to a point that her chair would not fit. We put it in reverse, regrouped, and did it the old fashion way on our hands and knees! This was one of the times that momma's absence was most notable as we had to leave her chair and my lifeline, the backpack, unattended during our crawl. Being nose to nose with the penguins was well worth the risk.

After the penguins, it was time to head to the dolphin show. In line, my nerves started to get the best of me because there were no obvious signs as to where the accessible seating was located. Thankfully, we were greeted at the door by an usher who lead us to an elevator. Once we were in the auditorium, I was given the option of transferring Maddie out of the wheelchair into a seat or parking her wheelchair against the rail on the second level, stage left. Fortunately, this is not much of a complaint because there really are no bad seats. The anticipation of seeing the dolphins evoked such emotion in her. I had no choice but to officially relinquish my restraint as an adult. My daughter's delight brought out the child in me! I escaped into the world of imagination where dolphins mesmerized me and where bubbles fell from the sky. I am sure I only grasped a portion of what my child was dreaming of during this visually fascinating show.

After the show, it was time for her mid-day catheterization. We had the good fortune of being right next to one of the two elusive family restrooms.

Next up was lunch. Imagine, me delicately balancing a tray of food while steering a four year old, who was all too eager to "help", through a maze of people. Then maneuvering our way up to the second level, while searching for a table. Not a big deal until, the sneeze! I was once again saved by blind luck as I set our tray on the floor to resolve Maddie's conundrum. An employee with a face painting station set up next to us, took pity on our present plight and informed us that it would be much easier to find seating in the ballroom that I didn't even know was an option. This proved to be the pinnacle moment of the trip because it allowed us an alternate view of the beluga whales. I failed to mention that the beluga whale fly by earlier in our trip was a disaster. This was during Maddie's great tunnel quest and no amount of my urging to look at one of my favorite animals in the aquarium was going to interfere with her present tunnel goal.

As I was halfway through my meal, Maddie voluntarily wheeled away from me. Without the lure of the tunnels as a distraction, the whales suddenly became the coolest thing ever. The whales did not disappoint, as they spent a good twenty minutes putting on a personal show for the limited but privileged audience that happened to stumble upon the secret of the ballroom viewing window. This was so striking for Maddie that it turned the rest of the trip into a focused excursion to see and do all things Beluga whale. We began with revisiting the face painting station to get a beluga whale painted on Maddie's face. We revisited the front side of the whale tank before ending our journey with the quest for a plush toy Beluga. We added the small toy Beluga to our already procured stash of souvenirs.

This experience gave me confidence and I can now look forward to our next daddy/daughter adventure, with less apprehension.

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