Yesterday, we woke up to a rainy day so I decided to take the kids into New York City to the Museum of Natural History. It was a bit of an impromptu decision – I usually plan well in advance for the hour long trip from our home into NYC – but yesterday I threw a bit of caution to the wind and corralled the kids around 8 am for our journey. I have also committed to taking the kids on “field trips” this summer when we have free no camp or work days.
They were thrilled and I figured we’d stop for breakfast at the diner across from the Westport station, catch a train, and arrive at the museum mid-morning. No rush.
On the way out the door, I noticed that my iPod Touch was low on juice and that I didn’t have any new kids shows on it. First mistake. I hesitated, should we delay departure to charge it and download some more shows? Nah, we’ll be fine. Right.
Son really wanted to take the subway up to the museum so I found directions on the museum’s web site. We’d take the S train from Grand Central to Times Square then the B or the C uptown. What I didn’t know is that the walk from where the shuttle arrives in Times Square to the C train is about 15 minutes underground. No fun carrying a backpack and a three year old who you’re afraid might pee in her pants any minute.
The C train arrived at 81st street and Central Park West and there was a museum entrance in the terminal as we departed the subway. Perfect! Except for the long, long line to get in. We scouted for another entrance and made our way through a deserted door on the lowest level.
Next we squeezed through the masses to find the kiosks on the 1st floor. I’ve learned these are the only line-free place to buy tickets. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure on the two broken kiosks yesterday, which left only two working and another line. We waited for 15 minutes. By now, it was 12:15, Daughter was into full whining mode, I was hungry, managing low level frustration, and wondering if this had been a good idea after all.
The first available Planetarium show was 3:30 and we got into the new frogs exhibit at 2:30. That left three hours to explore the dinosaurs, Indians, mammals and other exhibits. I knew it was too long for my young kids but couldn’t turn back now.
We headed for lunch since the lines at the cafeteria can get very long by early afternoon. There we were, at 12:30, having eaten two meals out, taken the train and subway, waited in line and spent approximately $170 without having seen one bit of the museum. (Yes, this amount is extreme. Here’s the breakdown: $8 parking at train station, $23 train tickets (Daughter rides free), $15 breakfast, $72 museum tickets including the Planetarium and Frog shows, $47 lunch. Knowing we’d be so long at the museum, I bought extra snacks – peaches, apples, pretzels – to sustain us.) Mommy frustration was easing up a bit.
We headed first to the dinosaurs, watched the Meryl Streep narrated show about the history of all species, then checked out the Northeast Tribal Indians. Son was fascinated and we crashed on the floor in front of the big tipi, taking a needed rest.
Killing time until both our shows started turned out to be harder than I’d predicted. We had a few harried rushes to the bathroom only to find long lines.
At 2:10 we found a long wooden bench across from the rain forest and ate our apples while waiting for the frog show. Son loved the poison dart frogs, Daughter was impressed with the massive bullfrogs, and I was into the gliding Chinese frogs.
At 3:00 we tried to get into the Planetarium Stars movie early, but they were sold out and turned us down. We went outside to stretch our legs and walked across the street to get a bottle of water. We ate the remaining cookie and returned at 3:15.
Daughter, who’d been obsessed with seeing the “planet movie” all day long, fell asleep in my arms as we waited in the dark anteroom to get into the show. I woke her when we sat down and a big smile spread across her face as the first stars appeared on the rounded ceiling.
With the darkness and a comfortable chair, I fell asleep only to be awakened by an enormous boom as a star exploded above us. We looked up in awe. As Whoopi Goldberg wound down her narration of a star’s creation, Son fell asleep.
So much for my much anticipated napping train ride home. We took a cab to Grand Central Station and found seats on the 5:01 express.
We were in a row three across with a two-seater facing us. Just before the train departed, a dapper man in his mid-60s sat directly across from us, his knees in dangerous proximity to Daughter’s blinking sneakers. “Good luck,” I commented dryly.
We then set out on an hour long train ride with two antsy, over-tired, hungry kids and one over-tired, over-frustrated, at-the-end-of-her-rope mom. I offered the coloring books and crayons. No dice. I cajoled Daughter to eat a peach instead of more Chicklets. Son spilled the enormous bottle of water down the aisle and I laid down my precious New York Times in the puddle at some irked commuter’s feet.
Son and I played tic tac toe. Son, of course, didn’t want me to win and begged me to allow his three circles across rather than my x’s. “But that’s cheating,” the gentleman across from us decided to comment.
Listen, buddy, I thought. Do you want a peaceful train ride or not? Son and I have been working on good sportsmanship and this is not, I repeat NOT, the time for me to give him another lesson.
Instead, I politely ignored him and imagined that his perfectly creased suit pants probably left with a few smudges and cookie crumbs as payback for his uppity ness.
Fifteen minutes before we arrived at our station, Son’s physical need to move exceeded the confines of the train and my patience and we stood in the vestibule by the doors in a stare down. I had no bargaining chips left, he simply could not sit or stand sill or keep his voice in a hushed tone. He’s five.
Suddenly, a paper airplane flew through the air. Son retrieved it with a slow, shy smile and turned to find a middle-aged woman grinning at him. She offered a folded fan for Daughter and coached him on how to launch his craft.
For the rest of our trip, Son happily flew his new plane back and forth with his new friend. “God bless you,” I said to her as we got up to leave. “You’re a life saver.”
She smiled and nodded. “I’ve been there before.”