“Have to pee,” announced the child.

“We’re almost there.”


“I told you. The Aquarium.”

“What’s that?”

The train ride was taking forever. She was out of snacks. The 3 toys she’d packed had become boring and obsolete. They’d already read the same book 6 times and it ended the same way every time.

Goldfish crackers circled them like hungry piranhas closing in on their helpless plastic bench as they hurtled through a dark, endless tunnel

Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. They reached their destination. 

At last! Downtown! A far cry from their end of the vast city. This was going to be an adventure, full of magical memories and teaching moments… even though she was already exhausted.

Why did she bring so much? Why did they dress so warmly? Why did she skip leg day?

Because she had a 4-year old, that’s why.

She navigated the streets like someone who hadn’t left her neighbourhood since becoming a mother. 

“PEE!” He reminded her, just as the Aquarium bathroom revealed itself. They peed.

She artfully avoided her frazzled reflection in the bathroom mirror. “Let’s go see fish!” She exclaimed.

But the boy had that look. He wasn’t going to make it without a proper refuel. 

Lunch was expensive and salty.

And, it was strategically located right next to an indoor playground. So the fish had to wait.

Her son went up one octopus tentacle, disappeared from sight for 48 very long seconds, and came out of a fibreglass shark’s mouth at the opposite end of the structure.

Up he went. Disappeared.

Down he returned.

Up he went. Disappeared.

Down he returned.

Up he went.

And up he stayed.

For a really long time.

Where was he?


She pushed her way through crowds of disenchanted parents and legal guardians. Where was he?

Panic and sweat. She hauled herself up the narrow coral-themed stairs, lugging coats and boots and the bag full of useless train entertainment with her. 

Who designed this thing? Not a single mom, that’s for sure. You need 3 point people to keep an eye on one child on this contraption. And she was only one.

She found him! He was just sitting quietly, taking it all in. “I was watching you,” he grinned, pointing matter-of-factly to a pirate ship observation deck. “Mama’s funny.”

She checked the time. It was so late, already. Dread for the long ride home started settling in. They hadn’t seen any fish yet!

So they tore through the place.

Clown fish! Boring! 

Jellyfish! Scary! 

Octopus! Can we get one?

They swerved in and out of the crowds of people, completing the 90-minute tour in 17 minutes. That’s efficiency. 

Almost at the exit! She could see daylight! Just beyond the… GIFT SHOP.

Oh no.

“Wait,” said the son, digging his heels.

“We can’t. We’ll be late,” she pleaded. There was no money for a cab ride. And no money for a souvenir.

“This is for you, Mama.” The toddler held up a green plushy frog. “You don’t have any toys.”

They made light speed through the gift shop and back onto the train, barely making it in time for the designated drop-off. 

But they made it.

And then her boy sped away yet again, this time without her. He was gone, off to his other household for the weekend.

And it suddenly got quiet. And still.

She got home and the green plushy frog found a spot on her bed, next to her sleeping, unbothered cat.

She was happy, right? It was a successful day.

She sat. Quietly. For the first time in hours, she just sat.

A deep breath.

She sank to the bottom.

Her eyes filled with saltwater and the cat made a faint murky sound in his sleep.

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