I thought it’d be fun to take the kids to the zoo one day during their winter break from school. I invited my mom along to share in the day, and she brought my little nephew (7 mos) who she watches once a week. It was a beautiful day, overcast but not chilly, almost ideal for a day spent outdoors.
I think this visit was the best I’ve had as far as animal interaction goes. It’s like we hit some cosmic marvel because most of the animals were not only out in the open where you could see them but they were highly active as well. Sometimes when we visit the zoo half the animals are hidden in some secret part of their area completely non-visible to humans. Other times we go we can see the animals all right, they just refuse to move or wake up. This time however a great majority of them were visible, moving about and giving the viewers lots of entertainment. It was marvelous.
We watched the giraffes glide along with their beautiful gate, we admired the tiger’s powerful yet stealth-like walk, we laughed at the teeny tiny monkeys that leaped and played in the trees around us, we applauded the mighty elephant who did tricks before receiving his meal, we gawked at the lion who showed us much more of himself than necessary and empathized with the lioness who had her back turned to him in what appeared to be nothing less than scorn, we giggled at the bright baboon butts, and we marveled at the very apparent family bonds and interaction amongst the orangutans. We saw much, walked for hours and spent a truly enjoyable morning together.
My 7 month old nephew is very social and observant. He takes in his surroundings with curiosity combined with seriousness. He often displays a face deep in thought, as though contemplating the existence of humankind. As babies do, he can instantaneously transform his features to radiate with extreme joy and happiness, as though bubbling over from within. He spent most of the morning switching back and forth between these two moods.
He also was not about to sit alone in his comfy stroller while all the other kids roamed about freely and at such a greater height than he. I quickly realized the futility of keeping him in the stroller and decided to hold him up high (ok, higher) with freer movement. He remained in my arms for a good two hours. I often say he is the easiest baby in the world to hold. He just rests effortlessly in your arms. But after two hours, even he got heavy. So we stashed him back in the dreaded stroller and quickly popped a teething cookie into his hands. Best move ever! This little cookie (or cracker…? Not exactly sure what it was) kept him thoroughly entertained and occupied for another hour! He chewed on that sucker nonstop, in sheer bliss. At the end of our outing he was covered, literally from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet in mushy, smeared, caked on cookie crumbs. He was quite a sight! All we could identify of his former self were his two little round eyes shining out from behind cookie mush.
My kids were running around the place like chickens with their heads cut off. We could have easily caged them and placed them on exhibit as well with the way they were running to and fro like little wild bambinos. Even my daughter took part in the mayhem. She doesn’t technically run yet, it’s more of an animated, brisk walk accompanied by squeaks and squawks with her arms stretching straight up and out. Now it’s not like we’ve never been to the zoo before, or even out in public for that matter. They are well acquainted with the zoo (and with social norms). They know how to behave. I’ve spent much, much, much, much time educating in this area. But something was in the air this day, something that made them feel it was all right to throw caution to the wind and be free. I don’t know, maybe it was the same something that affected all the zoo animals too. I finally gave up the broken record commands and decided as long as they were safe, in sight, and not harming others, I would let them explore their wildness. We were, after all, at a zoo, surrounded by wild animals. What were three more?
The morning ended with my nephew and my daughter in tears, exhausted beyond comprehension, ready for some real food and some real sleep, whichever happened to come first. My nephew ended up falling asleep in my arms on our way to the car, completely worn out. He didn’t awake until much later when his mother (I’m sure slightly horrified at his appearance) picked him up. My daughter somehow managed to keep her little eyes open till she ate, but we did have to listen to her sad whimpers all the way home. The boys were elated, having enjoyed exotic animals, the petting zoo, and hours of (mostly) unhindered freedom to be wild little boys.
All in all, a fantastic day!
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