I took the kids on a field trip the other day. We visited the USS Something-or-other battleship in all its ancient military glory. I thought long and hard about going on this field trip. I waffled. I debated. And I quailed when we arrived and I saw how easily kids could fall off the deck into the muddy water below. But we went anyway.
I gritted my teeth and determined that I would be “that” mom on this trip. The mom who yells “STOP!” loudly, holds hands of toddlers despite their screaming and writhing, and barks orders like a drill sergeant. Whatever it took to keep my kids safe, I would do. I consoled myself thinking that they would be pretty bored and we probably wouldn’t spend very long exploring the ship anyway.
Boy was I wrong.
Not only was the Engineer enthralled, his little brother thought I had brought him specifically to a ship shaped maze just to play hide-and-seek with him. The Princess was entranced by the lights right at her level and decided to touch every single one we passed. And we passed a lot. Because we had to explore the ENTIRE ship and see everything. All 3-4 levels (I lost count on the stairs) plus the bridge and the turret. Did I mention there wasn’t any air conditioning below decks?
I thought it was rather funny – most of the tourists visiting the ship were retired. Older. And mostly male, dragging their reluctant wives with them or leaving them behind in the air-conditioned gift shop. And then there was us.
Little kids. Bouncing with energy, boiling with questions about anything and everything they saw, and loud. Very loud. It’s a good thing the engine was running the fans and was also loud, otherwise you would have heard the Engineer’s voice reverberating through the entire ship.
And then there was me, of course: the mom with a perpetual panicked look on my face counting heads, then recounting over and over just to keep track of them. Turns out little kids fit through ship hatches just fine, while I don’t. Plus, those polite chain barriers mean absolutely nothing to a determined 2-year-old.
After we bounced through the entire set of lower decks, we climbed into the missile room. I would have avoided that, given my choice, but the self-guided tour relentlessly directed your steps and the only way up was through the stacks and stacks of missiles. Of course, the Engineer wanted to know exactly what they were. So I ended up having to explain what missiles were, what they did, and that they were designed to fit those HUGE gun tubes on the top deck that we had taken a picture of. He thought they were cool.
He also wanted to know why they were that shape – the sleek, deadly, pointed tubes that flared out into cylinders. So then we went into the aerodynamic side of things. We got a few weird looks from the retirees.
Then we headed to the bridge. He was initially confused when I told him the bridge was where they steered the ship – he had mental images of the huge drawbridge that we went over to get there, complete with the barge that made traffic completely stop until it made its slow way under and out.
The bridge was a kid’s dream: portholes to see through, a wheel to spin, and a floating (spinnable) compass. And the buttons, toggles, gears, and various handles were so enticing! Plus some designer without kids (obviously!) had set up an intercom in the bridge itself to simulate what you would hear if various horns and alerts went off. Every kid in that bridge, mine included, fought over those buttons. The Engineer wanted to know what they all meant, so I explained. Got a few weird looks over that too, because middle-aged moms apparently aren’t supposed to know what the General Quarters alert means. We heard foghorns, horns, squawks, and “This is not a drill, this is not a drill” over and over until I announced that we were heading back down to the lower deck.
Then the crowning glory – the kids got to sit on a antiaircraft gun and target it. The Engineer moved the gun around, while the Princess and Destroyer raised and lowered the gun to aim it. Their first real team-building exercise was trying to manipulate a heavy gun together. /facepalm Thankfully I doubt they understood what the gun actually was designed for and I certainly didn’t mention it.
The Engineer declared that this was “the best day ever!” after the field trip and told me he had so much fun. I’m glad he did. But I underestimated him – what he could understand and figure out all on his own. My gifted kids often surprise me with their insight and understanding, all the while I’m struggling to keep them from launching themselves off the ship into the water. Asynchronous learning. It’s rough!
We’ll go back when he’s older. I want him to understand why those missiles were needed. I want him to realize what kind of sacrifices the men who crewed that ship went through. And I want him to look at what that generation accomplished with what we consider so little, technology-wise. When he’s older, we’ll study what part of the Pacific Theatre that ship served in while she was in operation, and what role the battleship played in World War II. It might not be a “fun” trip, but it will be interesting and thought-provoking.