Lions, tigers and rocks, oh my!

Thing 1 and I went to the zoo today. It was hot. It was crowded. It was a zoo.Taking your kids to the zoo always comes with expectations. Expectations you’ll see the animals. Expectations your kid will be interested in seeing the animals. But let’s face it; the animals are smarter than us. When it’s nearly 90 degrees out, they are hiding in the shade, while we idiot humans are lugging our diaper bags and pushing our strollers (which our kids aren’t riding in) in the hot sun. And our kids may not be in the shade, but they’re at least smart enough to not care if they strain their necks looking through the fence to see an animal who’s hiding in the shade.Today, I tried to be smarter, too. It’s not always easy, especially when you don’t want your child to miss out on the full zoo experience. But I tried. I sat on benches while Thing 1 looked at leaves and rocks instead of turtles and orangutans. I tried to point out animals that were easy to see and possibly would interest her, even if it was just the birds on the path in front of us, but I tried to not force her to look. I tried to take it easy and just let my daughter enjoy the zoo her way. Until we got to the tigers.

The tigers were out near the front of their pen, pacing. It’s a rare sight at our zoo. We were right across from them at the playground. Every adult, of course, rushed over to stand in the sun and watch.

“Thing 1,” I asked enthusiastically (Actually, I said her name. She doesn’t answer to Thing 1. Yet.), “do you want to see the tigers?” “No,” she replied, without even looking over at them, “Bridge.” She wanted me to help her walk across the wobbly bridge.

I hesitated. They were right there! Would she end up being excited if I took her over to see them? I looked at the growing crowd, full of parents arms out pointing to the tigers. Was she missing out on a rare childhood experience? If I forced her to go over, would she tell her grandma about seeing the tigers and talk about it for days or weeks to come?

I looked at the empty bridge, my daughter on its brink. She had been eyeing it since our arrival. This was the first time it was relatively still, without at least two kids jumping up and down on it.

I looked at T1. She held out her hand for mine. “Bridge?”

“Yea!” came her cry from the other side. She always cheers her own accomplishments. Inside, I cheered a little for myself too. Then I sat alone on a shaded bench with my back to the tigers and looked at some rocks in the grass. What a zoo!

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