The boy and I had a field trip to the zoo today.
Understand, this is not the type of field trip where all the kids get on a bus with like 4 mommies and daddies and go to the zoo. We are part of a public preschool and the only kids who can ride the bus are in special ed. And they have to have a special waiver signed. Now my son DOES ride the bus to school. And they have 5 point harnesses in every single seat – it’s like a fold down car seat. So I don’t really understand the rule against field trips. But whatev. I get to get out of the house a while. My kid gets to go to the zoo with some friends. Should be a win/win.
So we get there and we are all waiting out front for the teachers and staff and other kids. We were told to be there at 9:30 and we would go in at 10. I should have gotten there at like 9:55 because I have a membership and don’t need to wait for a wrist band anyway. But I’m kind of a sucker for the rules, so there we stood in the sun waiting for the zoo staff to bring out the wrist bands.
I see the girl my boy wants to walk with and her dad headed for the membership window and since I had told the boy we could hang out with her, we run to catch up. Her dad was like “I’m not standing in the sun anymore, we are just going in.” So we did. (I should have caught on to his crankiness at this time)
The plan is this: enter at 10, walk around for 2 hrs, meet up at the girrafe house “park” area for a picnic lunch. WELL, I didn’t bring a picnic, because my shoulders/neck has been killing me for months and there is no way I’m carrying anything I don’t have to. SO, I already know we are going to have to stop at the cafe’ to get fries and drinks before meeting the other kids. I’ve already screwed myself.
My kid convinces his friend that we must go to the penguins first. Which are way in the back right area of the zoo. Opposite the giraffes. Her dad and I try to point out the kangaroos and cheetas and hippo and rhino on the way, but they are set on seeing the penguin. (this is my life, by the way, my kid gets something stuck in his head and just can’t get it out). After the penguins the kids want to ride the carousel. We ARE right there. But for some reason the dad says we have to wait for later….. So we look at some bald eagles and some flamingos and some monkeys with big red butts, and some gorrillas, and the kids are holding their noses because the monkeys stink. And then his kid is crying about the carousel. And he gives in.
So we walk all the way BACK to the carousel (after stopping at the potty where my son asks why he is going in the girls and she is going in the boys and gets all verklempt about THAT).
The carousel ride of course lasts like 2 minutes and then the girl is afraid to jump off. She thinks it’s still moving because she is dizzy. And instead of stopping to help the kid, he just walks away until she starts whining and wailing and he has to go back anyway. He wanted her to suck it up, I guess.
THEN he decides the kid is too hungry to wait for lunch (which, if we just went and got food, and went to the giraffe park, it would have been time for the picnic anyway). Of course, she has a stroller (which we haven’t used in like 3 years) and my son starts whining that HE is hot and tired and that she won’t talk to him and after what seems like an eternity (but is really only a few minutes) we get to the cafe’.
We get our meals and I decide there is no way I am carrying all this crap and dragging a whiny kid to the giraffes, and ask if he just wants to eat there in the air conditioning. And thankfully he says yes.
I don’t want to make it sound like we didn’t have fun. We did. The day was mostly pleasant.
We missed the picnic. My son and I left after lunch because we were tired. We agreed to exchange phone #s before the summer, so the kids can play – they are going to the same kindergarten next year. And he told his kid that they still had a lot of animals to see, which she started whining about because she was tired.
And all the way home I think about how differently I parent than most parents I meet. I admit, I have my days where I catch myself making my son do something “just because I said”, or “because that’s how we do it”. But for the most part I have learned to kind of go with the flow.
If we go to the zoo alone (which we do all the time – we have a membership), my son gets a map and I follow where he wants to go. If all he wants to do one day is beeline to the penguins, ride the train and carousel, and go to the sandbox, that’s ok with me. I am not at the zoo to see the animals I want to see, I am at the zoo to spend a day outside enjoying my son.
(OK, once I DID make him go see the new baby orangutan with me even though he didn’t want to – but the big apes are my favorite, and they only have baby big apes once in a great while!!!! Sue me.)
I thought about how when we go to the store I see moms screaming and dragging and kicking at their kids to go the right way. Honestly, I’ve been there. Sometimes a kid doesn’t want to shop. But most of the time I try to make it interesting. I have him put the food in the basket, have him help me pick out the produce, have him help me “choose” things, or at least “find” what we need. Talk about what a good team we make. It makes it so much more enjoyable.
Why should parenting have to be so “hard”? Yes, there have to be rules. Our rule at the zoo is “you stay by mom”. If I say “what’s the zoo rule?” which I did today, my son says “stay by mom”. If he doesn’t stay by mom, we leave. That’s our one rule.
Why do we have to make a big deal out of when to ride a ride or when to see an animal, or even try to see every single animal there? Yes, I told him no when he asked for cotton candy. That stuff is dangerous. Mostly because it ramps him up so high he can’t come down for hours and I might go crazy and leave him with a band of gypsies. But we got an ice cream after lunch and we had a great day.
Maybe being sick has taught me to pick my battles and make my moments count more. Maybe I just have had to learn that you can’t control every aspect of every day with a kid. Hell, you can’t control most of them. I control even less than most parents because of my physical limitations.
Maybe I have just found that part of me that parents from the heart most of the time.
We have bedtimes, we have routines. We have rules, we pick up our toys. We also make messes and paint and lay in the grass and look at clouds. Sometimes we even get muddy and dirty, although my kid hates it more than I. (If I am honest, I need to be more like my brother, who has what we call “free range children” – they play with bricks and sticks and they get dirty as heck every single day – and they spend all summer long in the back yard riding a zip line and eating popsicles. And they are happy.)
The zoo (like life) should be a journey. Not a check list.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” — Ferris Bueller
I don’t want to miss the fun and good times before my son is grown up and gone.