The Fear of “What If?”

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.

Inconvenient? Yes.

Fine? Absolutely.

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… JaneIt 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.taiper

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.

Well…Jane Clara and a lion

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.Me and Jane (Clara too)

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.

Zoo Signs

I love going to the zoo.cheetahs

The child in my heart loves the pure fun of seeing the animals.

The parent in me loves to see the wonder in my own children’s eyes.Ivy and Jane at the zoo

The former raptor educator in me firmly believes that people have to see and experience an animal to care enough to really learn about it.

And the eavesdropping busybody in me loves to be appalled at the misinformation other parents bestow on their children.

It baffles me that people guess at the name of the animal before them when the enclosures are covered with signage. I cringe to hear a mother shout to her son that the caribou are moose.caribou

But the biggest overheard misnomer was at the iguana enclosure.

A mother standing next to me was trying very hard to point out a snake that was in with the iguana. Her kids were looking but they couldn’t see it. I looked and didn’t see it. Then I looked at the signs (because that’s what I do at a zoo – read the signs) and didn’t see anything that said there was a snake in there.  So I moved on, following my own kids. John however had a hunch. He stayed. He looked. He peered. He read signs. He listened to her describe the snake’s position in detail. It was confirmed. The mother was trying hard to show her children “snakes” of iguana poop.camel

Go to the zoo, bring a child, look at the wonder in their eyes, teach them something new.

It’s OK, you don’t need to worry about me, I’ll still love the zoo for all it’s fun, and wonder and education.  It’ll be fine if you read the signs first.

Going To The Zoo, Zoo, Zoo…

Clara, Jane and I took advantage of the weather and headed to the zoo.zoo, clara & JaneWe weren’t the only ones happy to finally have warm weather, most all of the animals were also out soaking up the rays, including Ivy’s favorite lion Henry.Henry the lion

Jane was not only happy to be running outside but very excited to be at the zoo.

She looked for animals through all the fences she saw (even when they just contained flower gardens) and added a new word to her vocabulary: “See!”DSCN2628-(sm)

Otherwise known as “See, see, SEE, SEEEE!”

Otherwise known as a very slow trip through the zoo.

Fortunately I had my camera and, despite the look on her face, Clara was just as happy to hang around and watch prairie dogs for days  for hours  for a while as Jane was.

Clara zoo

Watching Jane’s excitement over everything today reminded me of one of the first trips Ivy took to the zoo when she was fully mobile and newly chatty.

Ivy was frantically running from animal to animal. Excited to the point of mania she had already seen the “LION!”, the “SEAL!” and we had just moved on from her current favorite the “GIRAFFE!” when she turned, stopped dead and shouted, “DINOSAUR!” rhinosaurI gently corrected her that while it did certainly look like a dinosaur it was actually a rhinoceros.  Ivy promptly called it a “rhinosaur” and continued to do so for at least the next two years.

A pronunciation I never corrected, because really, just look at it…

Ivy was right they should be called rhinosaurs!

Ivy and the Zoo

Usually I like to put pictures with my posts. You know the whole picture is worth a thousand word thing.

Tonight I thought I’d be different.

So here we have pictures of our trip to the zoo, and random things Ivy said after we got home.

When Clara and Ivy were emptying the dishwasher together:

“Clara is so nice to her big sister and she helps with the housework.”

About an hour after Clara and Ivy gave Piper a shower, from which they emerged just as hairy as the dog:

“Do you know why my butt is kinda itchin’? ”Cause of the hair. Pipers hair is on my butt makin’ it itch.”

Ivy’s irrefutable logic in my attempt to eradicate the word potty from our language:

Ivy: “I’m going potty right now!”
Me: “Oh, OK.  You could say I’m going to the bathroom right now – it’s more grown up.”
Ivy: “But I’m not grown up.”