I Say “Toucan”, You Say “Pecan”, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

We live in a very small condo in Boston with barely any natural light. And during the week, I work in a cube farm, and the kids are usually inside for school. So why wouldn’t we want to spend a gorgeous Saturday at the zoo where we could stare at wild animals in their small enclosures?

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Behold: the wild preschooler in her daily habitat!

The little one loves everything lions, so I thought this would be a great chance to show her a real live one. But Squirrel was not convinced. She wanted to play in a bouncy house and the indoor playground had one. She also wanted new toys, which the indoor playground had in abundance. Every time we leave a friend’s house, she cries because she wants a bigger home with more toys. I want a bigger home with a wine fridge. And a house cleaner. I cry a little, too.

So we commiserated, Squirrel and I, over our mutual wants. And then, because I’m the parent, I forced her to accept that we were going to the zoo. Goose, of course, fell asleep five minutes before we arrived, the weather was 15 degrees warmer than when we left so we were drastically overdressed, and I forgot sunscreen (Bingo!) Everything was awesome!

At least the kids were excited about the idea of seeing animals. Until we got inside and Squirrel was fascinated by the donation station with all the coins in it. PENNIES!

The zebras swishing their tails? Just just boring striped horses, but will you look at ALL THOSE PENNIES MAMA!!!!

Squirrel also got excited about a really huge boulder, but was promptly disappointed when it turned out to be a long-horned steer. And there were some goats. Meh.

I could sense things were going downhill, and we had only just arrived. Rather than go through my precious stash of snacks so early on, I bargained for lunch. They were interested. I upped the ante with juice boxes. All in!

After ordering the various meat-like goods for the children, it only took us five minutes to find the ketchup. Then we changed tables twice based on the wind direction from the petting zoo — all that fresh air. By that time, Goose had already eaten her hot dog, sans bun, and was drinking ketchup from the little paper cup like a tiny tomato-loving vampire. Squirrel ate three bites of her hamburger but downed her juice the way I drink my evening glass of wine. We all have our own ways of coping.

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Still life with hamburger and ketchup.

Then, lulled into complacency by juice and tomato paste, we went through the petting zoo — but didn’t pet anything — and then on to the lions! Look at their big paws! See their huge manes? The kids weren’t having it. I clearly hadn’t sold them on the main attraction.

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We do not like these lions. The lions on YouTube are more exciting.

Maybe it was because the lions were taking a nap on a huge rock, and my kids realized how weird it is to stare at someone when they sleep. (Um, I’m just checking to see if you’re breathing!) Maybe they felt bad about the small space for such majestic creatures, or the hot sun and the overdressed lions. Maybe it was simply because I had promised lions, and so my kids’ natural instincts were to demand something completely different and on the other side of the zoo. Like giraffes.

But first, there was the gorilla enclosure, where my kids were practically trampled by adults angling to see the baby gorilla. Squirrel saw a toucan and proudly shouted “Look Mom, a pecan!” and was crushed when I corrected her.  Finally, the smell was too much, and we made our way out to find the giraffes. Except screw the giraffes with their long necks and motionless bodies. Now the kids were straining to go to the playground that was right across from the giraffes.

Let the record show that we live within a mile radius of at least 6 playgrounds. Extend that circle to a mile and a half and you have at least 18. We do not want for playgrounds. Except a playground is what they wanted.

So we went to the playground with its multi-storied slides and pipes like gopher holes where I lost both of them several times. I panicked. They had a blast. And when we had all had enough, we tried to find the exit, and in some forgotten corner of the zoo came across a large shouldered dog that was muscling its way across its enclosure to its swimming hole. “Look” the little one said excitedly “A kangaroo!” And they both, for the first time that day, pressed their noses up against the glass and just stared and stared. Maybe they saw something of themselves in the wild hyena that didn’t care if anyone was watching him. Or that he was supposed to be a kangaroo.  He was just hanging in his swimming hole in the middle of the city, and all was good with the world.

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