Yes, you read that right, we were at the Shedd Aquarium and I had more than five children with me. How can this be you ask, because you have read more than one tirade from me about the Shedd Aquarium's punitive large family policy. In fact, you feel as though I write about it all the time. Did I finally cave in and pay the
Ha! You don't know me very well then. No, my good friend, who is the mother of the H-S family I write about, had a brilliant idea... she scheduled a field trip for us. Evidently it's fine for very large groups of children to visit the Shedd for free, but it's not OK for large families to visit without paying buckets of money. Alright, we'll play along. This way a place to stash our lunches was provided. And it was free, did I mention that?
First we had to get there. We needed to be downtown by 9 am, so I figured that leaving close to 8 am was called for because of traffic. We also needed to get lunches made and packed before we left so we had something to eat. This would not be a problem if one wakes up on time. Waking up on time would be, oh, not 7:40 am. I didn't really think it was possible for us to get people dressed (myself included), given breakfast, pack lunches, oh, and have a seizure, by 8:15, but we did it.
Traffic wasn't great, but we were moving. Slowly. Very slowly for a while, which turned out to be a good thing, because L. threw up and A. unbuckled to aid her. (I have driven faster in parking lots, so I don't think she was in any real danger.) L. had been under the weather for the past couple of days, but I thought she was better. Instead, I took the plague child with me to the aquarium. (She does seem better now as she has managed to keep her lunch down. Hooray!)
But we got there on time which is what really matters. Right?
Some of the things in the aquarium are as I remember them and everyone enjoyed those. We got to see baby sharks that had yet to hatch out of their eggs, leafy sea dragons and sea horses (I LOVE leafy sea dragons!), a baby beluga, jelly fish (including baby jelly fish), and saw the sea lion have a training session. God's creations are so cool, diverse, unusual, beautiful, odd, that it's hard to get enough of them. There is very little they need to make them interesting to children (and adults).
Evidently, though, there has been a change in the management philosophy, because just showing us the wonders of the underwater world isn't enough. It seems to make these wonders really interesting to school children, more must be added. And that more would be in the form of screens. Screens which show the very same animal that is in the tank right next to them. Over and over and over, throughout the museum. It was crazy.
And it didn't stop with the exhibits. We got to see the 'show' while we were there as well. On the way to the aquarium, A. and I were joking that at least we knew this aquarium visit wasn't going to be nearly as odd as the one in Zhengzhou, especially the shows. Boy, did I have to eat my words. In the past, the Shedd's position on animal shows was that they didn't 'do' shows. They instead showed you how the animals were trained and why the trainers would ask for each behavior. The dolphins still did jumps and flips, but it had a different feel than say a show focused more on entertaining the human audiences.
My how things have changed! The whole show was what Charlotte Mason would have called 'twaddle', with the actual animals taking up a very, very small portion of it. Instead we had giant screens rolled down over the floor to ceiling windows which look out over Lake Michigan (it's really very beautiful, the building) and images of other coastal scenes were shown, or projected images of what was going on right in front of us (the sight lines were good, everyone could see), or loooong self-referential video montages about how wonderful the Shedd is. Oh, and Santa (or that Christmas Man as K. announced) riding around in a boat and a traveling trio who would appear randomly in different places, one time donning rubber boots and singing out on the rocks that the trainers usually stand on. A. commented that she though she actually liked the show in Zhengzhou better. Trust me, it wasn't a compliment. And it wasn't just me being hard-to-please, I heard other people muttering around me as well. Mutters along the lines of, "How much did we pay for that?" But it was really the heavy reliance on screens instead of just letting us watch the dolphins and belugas which was most disappointing.
The screen problem was apparent even among individuals. Some children and adults had tablets at the show and instead of just watching it, watched it from their tablet. I'm assuming they were filming it (does one film on a tablet?), but I can't imagine wanting to watch it again. Why not just enjoy it and put the screen down? And more than once I was trying to show one of the little girls or H. something in a tank only to discover they couldn't see anything because one (and even two) phones were being held right in front of the tank so someone(s) could take a picture. I came perilously close to starting to tell people, "Thanks, I've seen a phone before. Can I see the fish?"
Have we ceased to be a people who can find life not on a screen interesting? It's almost as though people cannot even process information that is coming to them if it's not on a screen; as though the screen acts as a translation device to that the person can understand it.
I cannot think of a greater gift you can give your children than to teach them function without a screen. I know the argument is that we need to give them a competitive edge so that they can succeed in our technologically heavy world. Baloney! Have you watched a child figure out new technology? They don't need any help, they've got it covered. Plus, by the time they're adults, the technology we are using now will have gone the way of the horse and buggy. Better is to develop their brains so that they don't need technology to think, imagine, learn, play, find wonderment about their world, and entertain themselves WITHOUT screens. I can't help but feel children who need screens to do these things are the ones who are crippled and without a competitive edge because they need an outside source to use their brains.
It's another hopeless battle on my part, I know. Screens are everywhere, even at the checkout line in the grocery store or at the gasoline pump. Are we afraid to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts? Do people even have thoughts anymore? I will continue to wage war against them as much as I can. My family does use items with screens, but we try to be careful about their use. It's one reason we keep the computer turned off on Sundays and don't have video games. It is to remind us that they are tools and not vital parts of our lives.
But do use your screen to look up leafy sea dragons, if you don't have a live one to look at. They are very, very cool.
Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.
But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.
This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.