Beware the dino-robots!

Early this morning, our central heating stopped working. We had one very cheap, very inefficient backup heater which I found and applied to our bedroom in short order – but the rest of the house slid slowly into “Oh please can I be anywhere but here” territory.

After borrowing a second (tiny) heater from my brother’s wife, I had the bright idea that we could maybe go to Questacon (we have annual passes, and it was raining and 5 degrees outside – as I write, TJ’s bedroom is 11 degrees and falling; we’re not putting him in there). I had the even brighter idea of calling Questacon first – at which point we discovered that Mini-Q was so full (it’s school holidays) that we wouldn’t be able to get in today – at all.

At this point TJ was stirring from sleep, which meant we needed to think fast (he chucks up a LOT, so it’s unwise to feed him and then put him in a tight-fitting car restraint somewhere neither of us can reach to mop him up en route – but he’ll usually sleep peacefully in the car). I looked up free events in Canberra, and found out that one had finished at The Portrait Gallery earlier today. Taking that as a sign that there’d be at least one kid-friendly corner in the main gallery, we headed in that direction, while hastily scanning “Places of Interest” in a deeply out of date street directory.

“Why are so many things OUTSIDE?!?” I was heard to wail.

Then I spotted it at the same time CJ thought of it: The Dinosaur Museum! Of course! CJ’s always wanted to go there, and we’ve been talking about dinosaurs plenty lately. Louisette even has a triceratops toy called “Pippi”.

So we swung the car around and headed for prehistory, telling Louisette we were looking for dinosaurs.

I’m a strong believer in NOT traumatising young children, so I talked about how there aren’t any real dinosaurs any more, so we’d mostly just look at their bones.

All of us were delighted when we pulled up to the museum to see a whole bunch of enormous fibreglass statues wandering the lawn (with chains on their ankles adding what I felt was a touch of realism*, since it prevented them running away). Louisette had the face that makes parents immediately shell out all the money in their wallets without checking the denominations. . . the face of pure, joyful wonder. (Rather appropriately, it vanished as soon as we whipped out the camera. But you get the idea.)

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We went inside and were immediately impressed by an animatronic creature slightly bigger than Louisette. I’m a strong believer in NOT traumatising young children, so I hastily explained it was just pretend. All was well, and we went in and paid our $14 each (kids under four free – a good deal as long as they’re not scared by animatronics).

I was immediately impressed by the interactivity of exhibits (more than half could be touched, and we even stole some of their free colouring-in sheets on the way home, which Louisette enjoyed and which I assume helped her consolidate the experience – important in her age bracket!) Louisette was out of her mind with excitement, jumping up and down and exclaiming over everything. CJ wasn’t jumping up and down, but he was definitely bouncing a little.

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Louisette ran ahead of us and spotted a larger animatronic display, which made her stop dead take a few cautious steps backwards in a highly adorable manner. Since I’m a strong believer in NOT traumatising young children, I quickly repeated the information that it was really just a robot made to look like a dinosaur, because there aren’t any real dinosaurs any more. She was reassured by this (although I did wonder if my explanation would backfire and she’d develop twin phobias for the Playschool staples of dinosaurs and robots), and enjoyed looking at them.

A lot of the exhibits were animatronic, and others were bones or bone models, pictures, and statues. Louisette is fond of cataloguing facial features (“Two eyes, big smiley mouth”) so I help her up to see the tongue of a large statue.

I’m a strong believer in NOT traumatising young children. . .

Unfortunately, just as I held her up to the dinosaur’s gaping maw, our movement tripped some kind of sensor and the BIG SHARP-TEETHED PREHISTORIC MONSTER LUNGED RIGHT AT ME.

I screamed and fled.

*ahem*

In my defence, I took the small child with me (good to know that when my primeval instincts kick in at the worst possible time, I don’t automatically throw the child at the dinosaur in order to save myself). She also screamed and fled, in the exact same instinctive manner – screaming, jerking back, and diving for the floor in lieu of a better hiding spot. I found myself crouched wide-eyed (and somewhat regretful of my recent decision-making skills) on the floor. She jumped from my arms and hid her face in the carpet, sobbing.

CJ and I both leapt to reassure her, but she spent most of the rest of our time clinging to him and refusing to get down. In a little while she was able to discuss calmly how Mummy and Louisette had “A big surprise” but was somewhat suspicious of all the statues from then on. And, let’s face it, so were CJ and I. (And we always will be. Sidebar: Don’t Blink.)

She was walking on her own again a little while after we got to the gift shop, and mentioned that she liked “the spiky ones” so we bought her a plush stegosaurus in a rush of parental retail therapy + guilt.

The rain had stopped, so (after checking with a staff member that there were absolutely NO animatronics outside) we were able to walk around the awesome fibreglass statues, and Louisette was cautiously willing to touch some of them (and knock on them to hear that they were hollow due to not being real).

WHen we arrived home, Louisette happily introduced her dinosaurs to one another in a manner that I’m pretty sure wasn’t historically accurate (although what would I know? Maybe triceratops DID ride stegosauruses), then put on her rain jacket backwards and waved her arms saying, “I’m a robot. Beep bop beep.”

I think the kid is okay this time.

There are a few morals to this story.

Buying stuff makes it better.

Traumatising children is bad for your back.

And above all. . .

Beware the dino-robots!!!!!!

*Don’t steal dinosaurs, kids!

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