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Daddy in deep water as fins and fishes close in

Just got back from the first-grade trip to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden.

Like signing up for a spin class, volunteering as an excursion chaparone seems like a good idea months before the obligation.

Then reality hits. Schools meet schools, kids and fishes, in a splashy swirl of kinetic commotion. Lots of up-close interactions. Lots of bodies in tight spaces.

I followed my three charges (the Little Girl included) like a pilot fish, annoyingly attentive, doggedly plodding.

I called a little girl "honey" out of some reflex and my daughter shot me poison darts with bulging predator eyes.

Because the students had been studying creatures of the sea in class, the kids squealed with the zeal of Us Weekly readers spotting Russell Brand on the street whenever they met up with a clown fish, or an eel, or some other water monster they recognized.

"You know, the puffer fish…," one of them began to instruct. I nodded like I cared. I certainly did not.

The crowds were getting to me. It was so tight and noisy in there, like a Chuck E. Cheese party in an elevator.

And the video of a river gang of piranha eating a bird freaked me out. I tried to shield my charges, but they were Jacques Cousteau-blasé about it.

"The bird should be more careful," the boy I was overseeing said. I began to fear him, and let him take as long as he wanted to drink from the water fountain.

Toward the end, we caught up with the seahorses. They're favorites of single dads like me, since they give birth to their babies.

"They're endangered," the Little Girl told me.

"Nah," I said under my breath. "They're hanging in there."