Before Samantha was born, Steve and I lived in a crowded, culturally-diverse, hopping-night-life sort of neighborhood in DC for nearly 10 years. It was definitely fun (and a privilege) to live in the City, so close to everything and walking-distance to shops, clubs, national monuments and public transportation, but not, in our opinion, the place to raise a child. Living near DC but still in a suburban environment where children can play outside (mostly) safely was the preferable choice, so we moved to Virginia. As it turned out, DC also has issues with providing services and appropriate public education for children with disabilities, so we lucked out by moving anyway, but that's a whole 'nother story, and not mine to tell.
For nearly five years I have looked forward to the day when I could bring my little girl to the monuments and museums, and have her enjoy, soak up and remember the culture she was exposed to. Maybe I'm lazy, maybe I'm just a chicken, but travelling with a small child was always daunting to me. Her early feeding issues may have been the main cause of my trepidation, with the dislike of hauling lots of stuff thrown into the mix. I think I brought Samantha down to the National Mall and into a museum once, back when she was about 1 1/2. Actually, it was the day of her first anniversary after open heart surgery. It was a fine day and went well, but she was out cold by the time we got into the museum. So technically, she had been to the dinosaurs before, right?
A few weeks ago I decided to brave it and take her down to the Mall for the National Kite Festival (just about every event that goes on downtown is prefaced by "National"). We started off by getting some serious rock-star parking, right on the corner of 14th and Constitution - exactly where I wanted to be! We packed a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and veggie straws, and ate them in the shadow of the Washington Monument ("Look, Mommy - a castle!"), surrounded by the whipping splashes of color trailed through the air by a hundred kites. Samantha loves picnics, and still talks about that one fondly. When we'd finished eating, I asked her if she wanted to go see the dinosaurs at the museum, and to be honest, I don't know who was more excited - Samantha, or me, at her excitement.
I'm going to make my Good Mommies Let Children Watch Television acceptance speech now (and no, I'm not saying anything negative about those awesome mommies out there that don't allow their children to watch tv, I'm only justifying my own poor parenting practices...) and would like to thank Caillou and Peppa Pig for teaching Samantha ahead of time about how fun it is to visit museums and see dinosaur bones. Sammi's agile young mind was well-prepared for what she was seeing (advance-preparation always helps with her), and she was particularly entranced by the tyrannosaurus rex. I love that she knows what a "t-rex" is (now...to introduce her to one of the best bands ever, graced with the same ferocious name...).
Later that evening, while in the bath, she lined up her rubber ducky "class" for circle time and taught them about dinosaurs ("...dinosaurs have BIG teeth! One, two, three, four, five - FIVE teeth!") and kites and peanut butter and jelly picnics.