It began weeks ago: Princess approached me and laid her adorable head on my knee, and, bottom lip quivering, said:
"Mama? I want to go and see Shampoo."
"You want a bath?" I asked, thoroughly confused.
"No," she answered, rolling her eyes at my stupidity. "I want to see Shampoo the WHALE." (You must imagine this last word spoken in 3-year-old Texan dialect, so it comes out WAY-yull.)
"Ah," I said, throwing a helpless glance at Sven, who, helpful as always, shrugged. "Well, sweetheart, we have some vacation coming up, so we'll see if maybe we can go and see Shamu."
"Not 'Shamu,' Mommy," she patiently corrected me, "Shampoo. Shampoo is the whale. Shamu is the baby brother." My misinformation sufficiently corrected, Princess went on her merry way, satisfied that her mommy would take care of it, so there would be no need to bring it up again.
Ha, ha! Clearly, I jest. Princess has mentioned Shampoo and her need to see him at least thrice daily for the last three weeks. Last year it was caves. I'm thinking this year may be the Year of the Whale.
So, like any parents with a firm and reasonable grip on their children, Sven and I planned a trip to Sea World: San Antonio because we wanted to go. Not because Princess made us.
I must confess: I truly, truly wanted to heckle the Shamu show. It's called "Believe!" and it is the cheesiest, most cliche "story" imaginable. It starts with a movie. There's a little boy who loves killer whales, so he looks at them in a book, then whittles a whale tail out of wood and wears it as a necklace, then goes to the beach and sees a killer whale, and canoes out to meet it, and the whale says, "What's up?" and the music swells. Then, the real-life trainer walks out, and he's wearing a wooden whale tail pendant! Which is also available in the gift shop for $15! How inspiring.
The problem is, I am literally awed to tears by the magnificence of those animals. Before the show, the whales are all swimming around the pool, warming up or something, and the moment I see them I just start bawling. When the necklace-wearing trainer points across the water and Shamu leaps up, I am genuinely moved, despite the cheesiness. They are amazing to watch, and Princess and I were very happy, though I think Princess was a bit embarrassed by my enthusiasm.
"Mommy, stop it," she said to me as I sobbed into my souvenir Shamu bath towel, a bargain at $10.
"Did you see that?" I asked her, tears streaming down my face. "Did you see the whale give him a kiss?"
"I want to sit with Daddy," she replied, edging away from me.
After I had sufficiently recovered from Believe! we went to Viva!, billed as an amazing interaction between acrobats, dolphins, and beluga whales. This, I could have heckled. Unfortunately, Sven Jr. was so emotionally drained from Believe! that he was asleep in the stroller, making it necessary for me to stand at the back of the theater and only glimpse the show between the heads of children who were standing on the seats to better see the show. However, I think I caught the gist...several vaguely fish-costumed acrobats fall in the water, and they bring out the dolphins/whales every ten minutes or so. I won't mention that the fish costumes were skintight and very unforgiving, particularly on some of the auxiliary fishes.
Princess was soon bored with Viva!. I wanted to go and see the Penguin Encounter!, so we did. We stepped on an automatic walkway, the kind you see in major airports, and very slowly went by a room full of penguins. It made you say, "Wow. Look at the penguins." I bet they think we're idiots. In fact, I bet the penguins think that walkway is there for their amusement, and if we could understand their language, we would here snarky comments from them about fashion choices and hairstyles.
After the Penguin Encounter! we went to Dolphin Cove! where we can feed and pet real live dolphins. Except it was so crowded they had cut off the food, and the dolphins were not interested in being petted by Sven Jr., much to his dismay.
"Hoo dey?" he demanded, pointing imperiously at the dolphins. "Eee ta." Translation: Bring me a dolphin to pet, and I shall reward you with a moist kiss and pull your hair for an hour.
"Honey, they just want to swim," I answered.
"Oooo," he answered disapprovingly. Translation: Those rude dolphins. Don't they know they exist, as does everything else, for my amusement.
"I'm sorry, sweetie," I said, wincing as he grabbed my hair.
"Pa bo," he replied. Translation: You're all right. I may kiss you later.
After Dolphin Cove! and the Coral Reef! Princess demanded to go back and see the Sea Lion Exhibit! and fell asleep before the sentence was out of her mouth. Sven and I raced to the car as quickly as we could while Sven Jr. poked princess with impunity, and we headed home, exhausted.
I can't wait to go back.