Last week, we visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore with my parents. While Sprout would have been happy looking at fish at the pet store, I’m glad we brought him. I embrace any chance I get to share wonder for nature. While he couldn’t see into the small exhibits, he loved standing in front of the large coral reef tank. In fact, he put his hand on the glass a few times, trying to catch the colorful fish swimming by.
But of all of the exhibits at the aquarium, one of the best is the Dolphin Discovery area. While I’m generally against dolphins being in captivity, the aquarium has a strong focus on education and doesn’t teach the dolphins unnatural behaviors. In addition, all of the dolphins were born there, except one from a different facility. As a result, they have a family pod like they would in the wild. While the aquarium has educational demonstrations, where the staff members talk about how interactions with the animals, the most interesting part is the underwater viewing area. It allows you to watch the dolphins hanging out as if you were under the water with them – swimming around, playing with their toys, and interacting with each other.
Despite the fact that it was the end of the day and he was quite tired, the dolphin viewing area was definitely Sprout’s favorite part. We stood him up and he watched them swoop through the water, fascinated by their movements. When he’s intently observing something, he usually has his “serious face” on. However, he was actually smiling this time!
It shouldn’t be surprising that Sprout loved the dolphins, as they’re my favorite animal. In fact, when I was a little girl, I wanted to become a marine biologist (but only in the summer).
As it so happens, Sprout and dolphins appeared to have a lot in common besides my fondness for them:
1) They both speak in their own “languages” that I don’t understand. Sprout “speaks” in a random strings of consonants and vowels, interspersed with grunts. The dolphins speak with clicks, whistles and squeals. Both are communicating, but heck if I know what either of them are saying.
2) They both enjoy things with fringe on them. The dolphins had a green toy made out of rubber that had a bunch of thin pieces hanging loosely off of it. Sprout is obsessed with the fringe on my scarf and has an ongoing fascination with tags.
3) They like playing in water. There’s a “splash zone” in the dolphin observation area for a reason. While Sprout hasn’t been fond of baths in the past, he’s learning to enjoy them more. He especially likes kicking his feet and splashing his hands when he first gets in.
4) Their movements seem random but have their own internal logic. The dolphins had a definite purpose to where they swam, but it was hard to tell what it was. Sprout has certain places he heads for consistently – most of which end with him getting stuck under a piece of furniture – but I have no idea why he chooses them.
5) They both love interacting with people, even if neither party knows what on earth is going on in the head of the other. Both babies and dolphins have thought processes and perspectives that are alien to human adults. But they both fortunately think we’re worth watching and engaging with. I think Dylan and the dolphins could have watched each other for much longer.
6) They have a sense of unfettered joy.