It’s possible that the longer that John and I go on being parents, the worse we get. Now, I can hear you all protesting already, but hear me out. In the beginning, when you bring a new baby home and are suddenly faced with, you know, keeping it alive you try really hard to make sure you don’t mess it up. And as the kids grow and hit new milestones you continue to try really hard not to mess it up because, “WHAT IF?” Those are the two scariest words ever when you are a new parent.
But life happened and John and I went back to doing what John and I do (mainly activities that involve an avoidance of early mornings executed with spontaneous but poor planning) and we discovered that most of the “WHAT IF?”s are actually not so bad. I’m pretty sure my kid ate part of a dead shrew once… she was fine. Another of my girls wore the same dress for a week, child protective services did not take her away from me. I have experienced forgotten water bottles, snacks, diapers, wipes, wallet, shoes and underwear not to mention winter jackets on a Northern Wisconsin trip in December.
And you know what? It was all fine.
Does this make us look like stellar parents? Probably not. Are our kids learning to take extra responsibilities for themselves because their mom is never going to actually remember to pack anyone a snack? I sure hope so.
This brings us to John’s company sponsored trip to the zoo this last weekend. Parents still in the “WHAT IF?” stage would have done a fabulous job of planning the day. Free zoo pass, multiple free animal shows to watch, free food over the lunch hours, free face painting… It was going to be awesome!
-John and I let all our kids have sleepovers the night before.
-Which of course had us leaving much later than we should have in the morning (and yes all the kids were tired and grumpy).
-Which meant that we had to feed them on the way to the zoo.
-Which of course we didn’t plan for because of the free food at the zoo.
-Which meant that when we got to the zoo they weren’t hungry and because patience has never been my strong suit, I encouraged us to go see animals and come back later.
-Of course we lost track of time and missed the food.
-Of course we lost track of time and missed the animal shows.
-Of course we ended up having to feed the kids on the way home because they were starving.
-And, of course, at one point we looked wistfully at a family with coolers and snacks and water bottles and a child being pulled in a wagon and wondered why we didn’t do that.
But I know why we didn’t, we’ve lost our fear of the “WHAT IF?”
And now I can tell you, What if you go to the zoo completely unprepared over tired and miss almost all the “good” stuff.
You’ll still get to be eyeball to eyeball with the big cats. Watching the giraffe run will still amaze everyone. There will still be contests to see who can find the animal in each exhibit first and the kids will still have to pull the two of us away from the octopus. You will spend too much on a snack, or two, it’s true. And there will be whining kids. (But isn’t there always?) You will discover that everyone would actually rather see the velvet peeling off the caribou’s antlers than watch the sea lion show anyway and you’ll teach your child that tapirs are not the same as armadillos. Your lack of handy wheeled device to carry all your nonexistent snacks will have you zipping in and out of all the exhibits and when a tired little girl says she can’t walk anymore, you can sympathize with her tired legs and skip to the next animal house together.
Yes, we’ve lost most of our fear of those two words, for certain we would be better prepared parents if we carried a bit of that fear with us still but I think we are doing just fine without it.