No, unfortunately this isn’t a story about four toddlers rampaging through the city with exploits about their love lives and careers. We only have two of them after all and clearly they’re not old enough to have careers yet (or love lives for that matter).
We did, however, recently take our two boys into central London for the first time, to visit the Natural History Museum. As we still haven’t managed to produce the required eyes in the back of our heads, we decided to enlist my parents to come with us as a backup.
We had promised our eldest son that he would be able to visit London to see the dinosaur bones as a birthday treat for him. Of course all he was really interested in at that point was the fact we would be travelling there on a train, which has been his obsession for pretty much as long as we have known him. He knew were were going to be going on a Saturday, so every time he knew there was one coming up he would say “Are we going to London the next day?” – He says “the next day” sometimes instead of tomorrow (or yesterday).
Then the Saturday of the trip arrived.
We had two excited toddlers (are they still toddlers when they’re 4?).
Youngest was more excited than I thought he would be, as we hadn’t really said a great deal to him about it, thinking he wouldn’t be all that bothered. Two overexcited toddlers and a train-phobic and anxious Dad aren’t the best mix!
My raised voice, probably heard by the whole street to make myself heard over the cacophony of excited toddler noise, asking them to sit down on the sofa and calm down, or we wouldn’t be able to see the dinosaur bones (this wasn’t an idle threat, I would happily have stayed behind with one of them, such is my hatred of train travel), was met with immediate obedience. Totally amazing.
Despite the train station being only a mile or so away, we drove there, with the forethought of the trip home with two very tired children being easier in the car than walking.
On the station platform we met the boys’ grandparents and I commented that the earliest memory I have of going on the train was to visit the Natural History Museum with my own grandparents, many many many years ago. My Mum then revealed that my Grandad (her Dad) used to take us there once we turned 4 and he did so for me and my siblings. So it turns out by taking our eldest son there for his 4th birthday we are continuing a family tradition which I wasn’t even aware existed.
The train journey was uneventful, with both boys being extremely well behaved. Youngest started getting a bit antsy, but entertained himself by giving the lady sitting opposite some coy smiles – enough to melt anyone’s heart.
Before getting on the underground everyone had a toilet break except me and our eldest. So I took the opportunity to give him the ‘stranger danger’ lecture. I also told him he had to hold someone’s hand at all times so that he didn’t get lost.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, and we arrived at the museum. But, both boys looked exhausted. We gave them their lunch which my partner had made in the morning, and that seemed to reinvigorate them.
Then came the dinosaurs. If lunch hadn’t brought the boys round, this certainly did. The children were in awe of them. Youngest was a bit frightened, but not too long after informed me “not scared of raroars [dinosaurs] any more”, “more raroar bones please”, “cam [can] I hab [have] more raroar bones please”, etc. They both really loved it, and that made the whole thing worth while.
Eldest certainly had his attention held by it all, he was the one who we had expected to benefit the most from the trip. What really surprised me was how well it held the attention of our youngest. His attention span is usually fairly short, a few minutes at best, but I think there were so many new things to see that he didn’t have time to get bored. I have never heard him ask “what’s that?” so many times before. Every time he spotted something new he wanted to be lifted or put down, so that he could get a closer look. He is very tactile, so was a bit disappointed that he couldn’t touch some of the exhibits that were behind glass. His good behaviour was also aided by the fact we had 4 adults there, so whenever he got fed up with one of us and looked like he was going to cause a fuss, we handed him over to another adult.
We had a quick look at some of the other exhibits, particularly the blue whale and other mammals, and then headed back home.
I have to admit to being extremely anxious about this trip, but unnecessarily so. Both boys were extremely well behaved, we had no tantrums at all from youngest. The trains even ran on time! I will say though, I don’t think it would have been half as good if my parents hadn’t been there to help us out.
Would I do it again? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. It is these firsts, giving our children these new experiences, that makes being a parent so totally worthwhile.