Trip to Sealife

I’m not entirely sure what my brother-in-law does for a living, but his job seems to net him an incredible number of perks. Luckily for us, one of these included discounted tickets to Sealife – the aquarium on London’s South Bank. Mr Techno had work, but Tom and I headed there last Sunday to meet Mr Techno’s brother, his sister, her husband, and their daughter, who is the same age as Tom.

It was pretty epically busy, since we had forgotten that it was the last weekend of the Easter holidays. It did take away from the experience a bit, as we had to duck and weave round the crowds to see anything. Also, small toddlers, dark spaces and crowds are not a winning combo. Luckily we didn’t actually lose either of them, but Tom did make a few bids for freedom.

It isn’t the easiest place to take photos either, so apologies for the shockingly poor quality!

Sadly, we were all annoyed from the start by the insistence that you wait in line to have a picture taken before going in, which meant we had a really pointless five minute wait. With the group behind us complaining loudly the whole time.

Once we got into the aquarium proper though, things improved. We saw starfish, seahorses, lion fish, sea rays…and a whole bunch of other fish I can’t really name but which were pretty cool. Tom was especially enamored of the clownfish, despite never having seen Finding Nemo. I liked the various seadragons, which disguise themselves as leaves, seaweed, branches etc.

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We walked through the shark tunnel too, though that seemed to freak the toddlers out more than anything. Then there was a rainforest section, which included alligators, piranhas and terrapins.

By this point, the toddlers were a bit over the whole thing and wanted their lunch and naps. So we were pleased to see a sign saying we were ‘surfacing’ which we assumed meant we were near the end. Sadly…not so much. There weren’t really any fish left to see, but we had to walk through two further exhibits – one about the Thames which was mostly focused on the sewer system – and one with looped clips from Frozen Planet. Both of which seemed pretty pointless. And of course there was the obligatory gift shop.

Overall I have to say I wasn’t too impressed. With the discount we got and the toddlers being free, it was just about worth the money. Without the discount… I would have been pretty disappointed. The crowds didn’t help of course, nor the toddler crankiness at the end. But it felt like there was a lot of filler, especially towards the end. Plus the penguins were on holiday (due back in May) which was disappointing!

Fortunately, the food market on the South Bank filled the food requirements and we headed back to my in-laws house in Waterloo for toddler naps.

Pros and Cons of Raising an Urban Wildling

Bearing in mind my commitment to spending time outdoors, it may not come as a surprise to learn that I never intended to be raising a child in London. In fact, I never even intended to live here myself.

For a few years after Mr Techno and I got married, I resisted the idea of moving to London, which was exactly what most of our contemporaries did straight after leaving uni. But eventually it became clear that we needed to be here for the sake of both our careers. After a few awkward months of commuting from Leighton Buzzard, I agreed to the move and we started renting the flat where we still live in August 2013.

In December 2013, we got a bit of a surprise when we learnt I was pregnant. A very happy surprise, but not one we had planned for! We were lucky that we already lived in a two bed flat (though the second bedroom was being used as a living room), so we were able to stay put. In August 2014, we welcomed Tom.

Raising a child in London has both pros and cons, especially when I’m aiming to raise a ‘Wildling’ rather than a city child.

Pros

1) It’s easy to get around locally on foot, meaning we get to spend more time outside.

2) Lots of green space. London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. According to Visit London, there are more than 3,000 parks and open spaces in the city.

3) Good public transport links mean we rarely have to use the car.

4) City farms!

5) Endless toddler groups, soft play centres, and other child-friendly activities and events.

6) Easy to find like-minded parents – with this many people around, there is bound to be a group for parents who share your parenting approach.

7) Good choice of childcare. Outdoor space was a priority for us, so having a range of nurseries to choose from gave us the opportunity to find one with the space we were looking for. There are also different options such as Montessori or Steiner preschools for older toddlers.

Cons

1) Not much garden space. We are actually unusually lucky in that our flat does have a small garden. But we are on the first floor, meaning we have to go down a steep, narrow staircase to access it. It is also tiny, paved, and acts as a toilet for the local cats. Because we rent, there are limits to what we can do to improve the space. Though it will be my project for this spring.

2) Traffic. Cars, cyclists, even fast moving pedestrians can be hazardous to slow-moving toddlers who are just learning to walk and have little concept of personal safety.

3) Busy wild spaces. Although London does a good job when it comes to the provision of green space, the large population means that you have to share them, especially on warm days and weekends.

4) Limited step-free access. For those of us with buggies, accessing the tube can be difficult and frustrating. Buses are great, but slower. So getting to some areas of the city can be tough.

5) Pollution.

Hey, look at that! Seems like the pros outweigh the cons, at least for the moment. Truthfully, I am really happy with our lives here. It may not be what I planned, but raising a Wildling in London is not as much of an effort as I might have thought before Tom was born.

What about you? Do you have an urban family or are you rural all the way?

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