Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kid for a Day. (Dedicated to Elizabeth, who thinks she loves the zoo as much as me. Not!)

This blog could also be titled "Kids, when we're at the zoo, Daddy is the only grown-up in our family." Why? Well, when we take our annual (or sometimes bi-annual ) trip down to Seattle to go to the Woodland Park Zoo, I start out as a responsible adult. When we're still at home getting ready, that is. I arrange for someone to take care of our dogs in the evening. I pack our backpacks with all of the essentials, including extra sunscreen, snacks that won't melt in the sun, bandaids of every shape and size, kleenex, water bottles, hand sanitizer, little toys for when the boys start to lose interest in the animals, etc. I make a big picnic lunch for the family, and I ice up the cooler. I charge the camera batteries, pack a change of clothes and extra shoes for each little boy ('cuz you just never know when you're going to need those dry, clean clothes, do you?), and throw an extra hat in one of the backpacks, just in case my hubby decides, after 3 hours of walking around in the sun scorching his forehead and the back of his neck, that he'd like to wear one, afterall. I get everybody up, dressed, fed, pottied, and in the car first thing in the morning. And, for about the first hour-and-a-half of the trip, I can carry on an adult conversation with my husband, meet whatever kid need arises in the car, and basically continue to function as a mother and as a grown-up. However, when we start to approach Seattle, I begin to age backwards. It's like "The Curious Case of Beth Bacon at the Zoo", only I don't lose my wrinkles, cellulite, or aches and pains. I get to keep all of that and just become emotionally immature. I become distracted, giggly, and excited. I tend to clap my hands together rapidly A LOT as I envision all of the great things I'm going to see (my favorites being the elephants, the gorillas, the orangutans, and the brown bears -- in that exact order). I can barely contain myself once we're parked and approaching the entrance. I have actually been known to skip through the gate, greatly ahead of my husband and sons. Sons? What sons? Oh, I have sons? They'll be fine...I'm off to see the elephants! OK, it's not that bad, but it's not far from it. I do strive to share and nurture zoo excitement with my little guys, but they're just not at my level. Their favorite things are the butterflies (yawn), the bug house (gross), the Family Farm (OK, I admit I like to pet the goats and the bunnies, too), and the habitat playground (which doesn't even have animals in it!). The other issue is that I am the type of zoo visitor who likes to race to the animals of my choice, and then spend ages just watching every little thing they do. (Seriously, my husband has to pretty much physically DRAG me away from the elephants and gorillas. It's not pretty. If I was two, I'd be kicking and screaming the entire time.) But, when you have boys who are just-turned-five and about-to-be-four, that particular zoo-visiting style couldn't be less successful. When I want to race to a location to see one of my favorites -- my boys want to meander, stopping to view every rock, twig, squirrel, or bug on the way. When I get to my destination and want to take my time observing the animals and marveling over their wonderfulness (I know it's not a word, but it should be, don't you think? Did you know an elephant's trunk has 100,000 muscles, and it can use it to pick up a single blade of grass?!!! Now, that is "wonderfulness"!), my boys are ready to move on to the next thing within about 2 minutes. So, when I was enthralled by the huge brown bears who were at eye level RIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLEXIGLASS (OMIGOD!) fishing for trout in their pool, I didn't even notice my littlest guy wandering out of the viewing area and heading for the bald eagles. All alone. With no adult. Just wandering away in his little "Groovy" shirt and bright green baseball hat. With my eyes glued to those magnificent beasts, my nose practically flattened against the glass, my heart thumping, and a huge grin on my face, I had no idea my child had decided to move on to the next thing. (In my defense, my husband, who is not nearly as easily enthralled as myself, didn't see him walk away either. But he was the first parent to notice that he was missing. Just one more big, fat, steaming helping of Mommy Guilt to deal with....) Anyway, one adrenaline-fueled race down the pathway later, the entire family was once more reunited and on to the next fascinating zoo exhibit. And, I have to admit, once my heart had stopped racing from the fright of losing my little guy for a minute, I reverted to childhood and was just as excited as ever to go see the orangutans. But, this time, I raced down the path with my youngest son on my shoulders. Now, THAT'S the way to do it! Cheers!

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