Family, Life

Zoo, and loosely associated musings

02.08.09 | 4 Comments

Zoe and I ventured to the Houston Zoo again today. We got a family membership a couple of weeks ago, and we have already been three times. With the weather as nice as it is and the girl’s love of animals, it’s a good time for a few hours. I recommend NOT going on a weekend, however. The whole med center was abuzz with traffic, and the zoo itself was a madhouse. Usually, during the week, we have the place mostly to ourselves, so when Zoe darts or has a lie-in-the-path tantrum, it’s only mildly irritating. Among the crowd this is a safety issue, not to mention unbearably humiliating. I may or may not have sworn never to take her in public again.

There were good, small moments: reaffirmation that I am able to parallel park; holding hands briefly and walking with Zoe on a beautiful, windy day; seeing two rambunctious boys, strangers and unbeknownst to each other, jump from the jungle gym, knock heads mid-air, land groaning on the ground, then run crying to their respective parents… Wait, does that last one make me mean? Because it was hilarious and awesome. Once I was sure they were, you know, conscious.

Back to the girl. Her favorite animal right now is the tiger. When her Dad took her the other day, the big cat was out in full view and even growled a little bit. Now every cat is a tiger. Today when we arrived at his section, the tiger was sleeping behind a bush. I explained as much and tried to distract her to another area. She wouldn’t have it for very long and would run back to the viewing platform and yell, “Tiiiiiiiger! OH TIIIIIGER!!!!” in true Dennis the Menace fashion. Eventually we overcame tantrums with the help of a young girl who encouraged her to follow her to the lions. Who were sleeping. Zoe was impressed nonetheless, both with the girl and with the lions, whose paws are just barely bigger than Chief’s. (For completeness, the tiger awoke after a spell and sleepily made his way to the moat for a drink. It was great, and Zoe was thrilled to have seen him.)

In the eight or so minutes during which we were admiring the lions, I counted five individual statements – from adults – in the category of “they ain’t even doin’ nothin’.” I was appalled. First, this is a zoo. If you want animals to entertain you, go to the circus. Secondly, cats sleep for something like 18 hours a day, and it was sleepy time for cats; try to understand. Maybe they should read the info block. Isn’t it enough that they get stared at even while they’re sleeping? I know I have pets and attend zoos and the circus, but I tend to feel a little sad for any caged animal, which is one contributor to why I am banned from entering any animal shelter.

The carousel is near the west entrance to the zoo. I noted this on the way in and decided not to suggest it. If Zoe seemed interested at any point, we might look into it. On our way out, her eyes wandered to it, and her body followed. After watching one go-around, she was sold, and she could hardly wait for the ride to stop so we could have our turn. We found the tiger and got her situated. She wanted me to “sit! there!” on the dolphin, but it’s my job to hold her. Before it started up, she decided that to have a better view of the tiger, she should sit on the dolphin.

And we were off. The joy on her face was priceless. I took digital and mental images, and for an instant her joy was mine. Immediately I was stricken with panic that the ride would end shortly and oh lord have mercy what a tantrum she would throw.

In processing how badly I felt to have introduced this wonderful, short-lived pleasure to her world while carrying a sobbing, shrieking, flailing toddler down North MacGregor, I thought about roller coasters and carousels (if you haven’t seen the movie Parenthood, you really should), and whether it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

I have ALWAYS been a loved and lost kind of person. It seemed so incongruent, then, to have thought I might never take her anywhere again, and certainly never would attempt anything fun, if this is how she reacts.

Of late, I am given to deadness and why bother and what’s the point. But you can’t be like that with a kid. Life is hers, and I want her to experience all the ups and downs and enjoy the ride, even if it sucks when it’s over. Because there will be a next time. I have to remember that.


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