There are lots of things that we know are bad ideas: swimming too soon after eating, drinking too much coffee, not looking when you cross the road. Some other things are bad ideas, just not such obvious ones.
Firstly, let me tell you what is a good idea: make friends with a fabulous person. When, around of the time of your birthday, you start whining to this person that you don't want to do anything for your birthday because no one will come, you can't cook for that many [insert extra whinges as appropriate], this fabulous friend declares that, nah, now worries, they'll invite all your friends over for you and, further they'll all bring food. Just buy booze.
And, then, as if by magic on the allotted day (almost) all your favourite people in Cape Town arrive at your house carrying the most delicious selection of food. The evening is brilliant and everyone has a drink. Or 2 or maybe more. Not too many per se, mind. Just too many if you have kids (which is more than 1/2 a glass- yet a day's parenting can sometimes feel like it deserves at least a bottle. But, of course, you can't drink that much EVER because there needs to be at least one sober parent, which normally means both, because otherwise the non-sober one is really a drunk who drinks on their own, and that's just too tragic to contemplate.).
The fabulous-ness doesn't end.You go to bed at 1am. Which for a parent with little children is actually just CRAZY. NUTS. The unadulterated joy and bliss ends at 730 the next morning when your 3 and 5 year old storm your bedroom with their delight and enthusiasm for the day which is absolutely beautiful and you are grateful for, but you went to bed at 1am and anything above a whisper and being stroked by a feather is far too much to even contemplate.
At this point the previous seems like a bad idea, especially as it is drizzling outside so you can't release their energy outside. You suggest seeing Tinkerbell at the movies, but your husband- having also gone to bed at 1am- will not entertain the thought of Disney 3D in Dolby Digital in his frame of mind.
So, instead, he suggests the Cape Town Aquarium. Out loud. The bouncy, happy children seize on this idea LOUDLY and EAGERLY. You shoot him a hateful look. You know it is A Bad Idea.
Let me clarify: the Cape Town Aquarium is an amazing aquarium. It is fun and interactive. It is educational. There are some amazing displays, arts and crafts for the kids, puppet shows, a sandpit, animal feeding times. It is easily the best aquarium I have been to.
It is also where anyone with a child under 7 goes on a rainy day in Cape Town. So, if you are desperate, that's where you take the kids on a rainy day. And is where I was compelled to go the day after the Good Idea. Now we were really in Bad Idea territory.
So, imagine if you will, a depository in a major city for every child under the age of 7 who hasn't had enough of a run around to burn off all that small person energy. A seething mass of children muscling in to pose in the middle of the clown fish tank for the billionth time. The tiny elbows jutting at your shins, the mass freaking out as they can't see their favourite crab or shark for the crowd, the tired undertone of bewildered, exhausted parents trying to instill discipline and keep an eye on their offspring as they bugger off as they please into the throng. Then, at the the end, you have to navigate the gift shop. They really should provide children with blinkers before they walk past the slimy fish toy or fluffy dolphin but I suppose that would defeat their point- if help my sanity.
My husband and I have promised one another that, one day, when the kids get older we will go to the aquarium (and all other places of educational interest that we have been to with them) and actually read about the exhibits rather than taking the "toddler express tour" (jogging, pointing, briefly stopping, then sprinting tour).
In the end the experience was not so bad as we missed the puppet show (which on the 14,567 occasions I have seen it previously seems to consist of an unfortunately scratchy-voiced woman screeching whilst holding a water life puppet of some description whilst 40,000 infants howl and scream in delight).
Also, I got to observe one the things I find most fascinating: people taking photos of the stuff in the tanks/exhibits. I can never understand why. It's going to be a rubbish photo and there's a better one in the leaflet. Nonetheless, they are persistent in lining up shots of tanks of seahorses or starfish in a darkened room. What a waste of memory card space.
Next year: party to be held on a day before a sunny day...