Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The zoo is good to the last drop [of sweat]

For a child, there are few places more exciting than a zoo. Perhaps it’s the idea that an animal that you’ve only seen in books is right there, behind the glass. Or maybe it’s the enchantment of seeing these animals up close, to see the texture in their fur, to hear their sounds in first person, or to look one square in the eye and have it look back.
Or maybe it’s just the anticipation of waiting to see if one will actually go to the bathroom while you’re there watching it.
Whatever it is, the zoo is pure magic for children.
And unfortunately, it’s pure sweat for parents.
When my children first caught wind of our potential zoo trip, I was constantly barraged with questions. “How many more days to the zoo?” “When are we going to the zoo?” “Is the zoo today?” And, as usual, when dealing with small people with no concept of time, every answer you give is a real waste of breath.
But finally, after a few agonizing days, it was time to go to the zoo. I knew it was the perfect day because the temperature was going to top 85 and the air was so humid, just looking out the window made you start to perspire. I could almost smell monkey exhibit…
After a lengthy “arewethereyet” car ride that might as well been to Africa itself, we arrived. While still in the parking lot, over the screams of enthusiasm, I did my best to hurry through the preparatory procedures. Because as all parents know, going to the zoo isn’t as easy as say, going to the store (even though that’s not all that simple either.) You have to pack and prepare like you’re going on an actual safari.
So while herding my children away from moving vehicles, I managed to slather sun block over three children and outfit them in hats and sunglasses. Then in between my yelling and herding, I packed the backpack full of the necessary items for the day. These items include: more sun block, baby food and toys, water bottles because surely the sun would dehydrate us all in a matter of minutes, and fruit snacks for bribing the children to keep walking. Oh yes, and the camera just in case something exciting happens. (I learned my lesson a few years ago when we saw an otter eat a duck. Sadly, I have no photographic evidence.)
At this point I’ve already started sweating through my clothes and have used my loud-angry-voice quota for the day. The sweat has deactivated all of the product in my hair and as I hoist the baby in the backpack and the backpack on my back, I am really starting to resemble the mule that I feel like.
And if you’re keeping track, we haven’t even entered the zoo yet.
Eventually, after a bathroom break and me shelling out the big bucks for our tickets to this arena of animal wonderment, we were off and running.
Well, walking. Actually, more like dragging, as in the kids dragging their mother from penguin to fish to crane to lion. Not wanting to miss one attraction, we hiked the entire zoo. By the time we reached the bears, I was glad to be carrying the baby on my back – the backpack did a fabulous job covering up the fact that I could now seriously wring out my shirt.
But through my sweat-stinging eyes, I watched my daughter, a kindergarten graduate, read the signs to my preschool-aged son for the first time. I saw them learn and laugh, and not once did I have to bribe them with fruit snacks to keep walking, which was a good thing because I ended up eating them all myself, just to make it back to the car.

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