You can’t do that


Stuck in a rut and your life is just the same old grind? Needing to add some excitement because you’re bored? Boy, do I have the solution for you.

Take a 5- and 6-year-old to Washington, D.C., and visit the Smithsonian Museums and the National Cathedral.

I promise you’ll no longer be bored, and excitement will indeed be back into your life.

Such was the case with our quick Columbus Day vacation to our nation’s capital with our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline. It proved to be even more exciting than The Wife and I had imagined.

“You can’t do that” was repeated over and over … and not just to the 5-year-old. Confused? Read on, Dear Reader, I promise you’re not gonna believe this one. I was there and still can’t believe it all happened.

First up: The plane ride. Even before we got out of the car, the girls went crazy about the airport. For Breast Awareness Month, the canopy over the passenger pickup-drop-off was all lit in pink.

At 6 in the morning, it was truly spectacular, but perhaps not as special as the pilots allowing our girls to not only sit in the captain’s chair, but also wear their caps. Thanks to Delta for giving them, and us, that memory.

And the answer to “Can you keep the captain’s cap?” “No, you can’t do that.”

Next: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. After over six years of construction, the new Hall of Fossils housing giant bone collections of land and ocean dinosaurs was finally open. The Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil on central display has survived over 68 million years.

And, as of last weekend, it also survived a visit from our little red head, Sweet Caroline.

For those of you planning a trip to see the T-Rex, king of all dinosaurs, if your kids want to climb him, the security guard will have a stern answer for you: “You can’t do that.”

The Butterfly Pavilion is on the second floor of the museum and is full of … butterflies. From the small yellows to the giant blues, they all put on a brilliant fluttering display of color to the delight of both kids and adults alike.

Look? Yes, you can. Stay as long as you like? Yes, you can. Can a happy, blond, curly-haired 6-year-old let the big blues climb aboard her outstretched finger? Yes, she can. But such action will prompt a stern reminder from the butterfly attendant, “You can’t do that!”

At the National Museum of the American Indian, you can see how the original inhabitants of this great land lived. You can experience many hands-on displays and see the clothing, tools, and houses associated with the different tribes. You can play some of the games their children still do.

Hint: they are really hard for adults to master. Can you sit in the hand-carved canoes on display? No! You can’t do that.

After spending most of the day at the National Zoo, late Sunday afternoon we visited the National Cathedral and its playground at the bottom of the hill. We only walked around the outside of the cathedral, but it was magnificent! With bell towers, outside arches, and all that stained glass, it reminded me of a much smaller version of Notre Dame. But a whole lot closer than going all the way back to France.

A short walk brought us to our final destination for the day: the newly remodeled playground. Our girls joined in the fun with about 20 other children exploring the underground slide, ropewalks, swings, and my favorite – a 100-foot zipline. There were also three climbing towers connected by rope bridges suspended twenty-feet above the rocky terrain.

After returning from the restroom, this is where I found The Wife. She was standing next to a tall lady watching her three kids also climb the towers. Sweet Caroline had made her way halfway across the first bridge before passing the lady’s daughter.

Then the mom climbed the tower and crossed the rope bridge to help her youngest boy who was having a little trouble navigating the ropes. Returning to the ground, she walked over and was once again standing within five feet of The Wife, carrying on a casual conversation about kids.

I told her she was braver than I was to climb on that rope bridge. And that’s when The Wife pulled me close and whispered, “You know who that is?”

My guess was a mom. The Wife pointed to a large fellow standing under the branches of a nearby pine tree, then pointed to another one, then another, and then another. In total, there were half a dozen large guys just standing around looking – at what I still didn’t know.

“You didn’t notice the helicopter flying over head or the three black suburbans at the top of the hill?” Nope, hadn’t noticed any of that – had to go to the bathroom.

“That’s Ivanka Trump and her husband is over there. She just being a mom watching her kids play.”

“Can I go over and get a picture with her?” I asked.

The Wife responded, “You can’t do that.”

“Can I tell her what I think about the job her dad is doing as president?”

The Wife again replied, “You can’t do that.”

And that’s about the time our Sweet Caroline walked over to that very large guy standing under the branches of a pine tree. For those of you who don’t know yet … you can’t do that.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]