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The Zoo Makes Me Tired: Adventures with Preschoolers

This one is for the moms of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, the ones trying to finish the summer strong, the ones who plan a day trip that gets out of control, the ones just trying to make it to naptime with an adventure or two in between.  I haven’t forgotten what it’s like, my friends.

I found this one in the archives, and today it’s for you.  Hold tight, little mommas.  You’re the heroes in the trenches.

* * *


Good morning, little boys. One delicious hour past the typical morning routine.


They are seated at the breakfast table. Both of them chose a green fruit bar (Apple Cinnamon, for those of you who label your food more by flavor than by color), but now the debate is over the cereal. Tucker wants Banana Cheerios (which we have), but Tyler wants Einstein Cheerios (which we do not have, nor have we ever, nor do they make them to my knowledge). Banana Cheerios it is. Or, Einstein Cheerios, if you want to call them that. Which he did.


Discussions of what to do today: the pool or the zoo? There is a resounding cheer for the zoo, and I really, really, really should have checked the weather forecast before I offered such a promise. Oh, sure. Offer them the zoo on what presumes to be the hottest day of the summer. Brilliant, Trish. Good work. Off to the zoo we go.


Finish cleaning up from breakfast. Usher the boys upstairs. Time to get dressed. Outfits on both. I ask them to merely choose what shoes they would like to wear. When I return from tossing Cheerio’d jammies in the laundry basket, both boys are suited up in snowboots. Nope. No dice, kiddos. “We need our boooooots!” Nope. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mommy wins, but only partly. Yes, the boots go in the closet, but the grumpies are here to stay. Awesome.

Oh, and Tucker chose a pair of sandals that should have long ago been tossed in the box of darling items for Tyler to grow into. The velcro straps dig into his toes, but the soles light up. A fair trade, in his mind. At least they’re not designed for the subarctic.


Turn on Disney Channel. Thank you, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, for occupying my zoo-minded children while I gather the things we need for our adventures. I love you, deeply.


I am now dressed. Lunches are packed (however scantily, since I have simultaneously acquired bare cupboards and a traveling husband, neither of which can be remedied soon enough). The backpack is stocked with drinks, sunscreen, diapers, pre-lunch snacks, post-lunch snacks, and stay-awake-on-the-drive-home snacks. All I need are two boys to get in the car. But they are in love with the Disney Channel, and they have decided they want to stay home. (But they do not use words to say this. They groan at me and heave their bodies around my living room floor.) Up. Out. Go. You. Now.


We are in the car, on our way. Good mom that I aspire to be, I turn on the boys’ playlist on my iPod. All their favorite in-the-car tunes. But only then do I realize they are shouting over their music, arguing over whether traffic lights are red or green. (They can be either, yes, I know. But, oh, how they love to argue. They sometimes just yell opposites to each other, for the sake of debate. It’s riveting. And so peaceful.)

“Hey. If you’re not going to listen, I’m going to turn on the songs I like.”



Fine. Mommy’s tunes win. And thereby does Mommy.


Shoot. I missed the exit. (Blame it on a great playlist. It’ll get me every time, and it often does.)



Back on track. Minimal time lost. Boys are still shouting about traffic signals.


We arrive at the zoo! Of all the highlights and things to see at the zoo, my boys dearly love the parking garage. So, even though parking may be accessible in other places, we MUST drive into the caverns of the parking garage. It’s part of the experience for them. And I choose my battles.


Parking spot found. Everyone remember: Zebra Level. I unload stroller, bags, water bottles, and boys. I spray children with sunscreen. They argue over who will walk and who will ride, and I argue about not arguing. We’re off to a great start.


We ride the elevator to the Zoo Entrance. We exit the elevator into the bright sunshine, and Tucker announces that he forgot his sunglasses. And no, he cannot go to the zoo without them. Yes, he knows where they are in the car. Yes, we must go back. Puhleez. And down we go. Zebra Level.


Sunglasses found. Back to the elevator. But not before Tucker, against his better judgment, found a displaced rock and launched it, right there inside the parking garage. Oh, dear. Not so much the best place to practice your overhand pitch. We bolted for the elevator before I could wait for the rock to land. There are some things better left unsaid. Or better soon escaped.


Off the elevator. Well on our way to the zoo entrance. Until, wait. Everything stopped. Tucker’s sandals are cutting into his toes. Oh, great. I don’t have more shoes, any band-aids, or a better option, but he cannot take one more step forward without his big toe surely falling off. Thankfully, the zoo entrance is conveniently located next to a basket of band-aids, and they allowed us a couple for the road.


We’re here! Where to go first? We take a vote: left or right. Left wins this time, so we make our way to the camels.


“Mommy, I’m huuuuunnngry.” Seriously? Didn’t we just get here? Yes, we did. You did not imagine this, Tired Mom Who Is Questioning Her Judgment. But they are hungry and ready to scout out a picnic spot. I hold them off with some Animal Crackers (so clever!) on-the-go.


We have seen camels, oxen, a handful of peacocks, a zebra, two ostrich, and an antelope. And the hungries hit. Fine. You win. Pick a spot. Picnic bench, here we come.


Done eating. Too tired to walk. (Are you kidding me? Whose idea was this?) I do not have a wagon. I do not have a double stroller. And yet I most definitely have two boys who are putzing their way along, too hot and tired to think about elephants or hippos. So, in a moment of genius, I recline the single stroller (our only option), and I squeeze them in to ride in tandem. And they love it.

(Had I known we could wing this, we wouldn’t have bought and used a double stroller for so long. But then again, Tyler’s once newborn, wobbly neck thanks me for the security of a seat of his own in those formative weeks.)


In line for the carousel. Tyler wants to ride the peacock, but I say no way. We don’t ride animals that offer a bench and don’t move, and that’s all there is to it. (Some battles are worth fighting.) In the end, Tuck chose an ostrich; Tyler chose a cheetah. And there was great victory in the race around the Conservation Carousel. (Please note: Tucker is not wearing his beloved sunglasses.)


I’m watching the clock, sensing the naptime meltdown encroaching closer by the minute. I’m ready to wrap it up, but they suddenly get their second wind. “Let’s see the lions! What about the monkeys?? Polar bears??” We do a whirlwind tour, all en route to the exit.


Back to the Zebra Level. Move on out, cowboys. During the drive home, I pull out my best tricks to keep them awake. We sing, dance, talk, say rhymes, list things we’re thankful for, review exhibits at the zoo, and ashamedly, I even pick fights with Tucker. (“No, you can’t watch TV when we get home,” knowing he’ll be nearly asleep anyway and won’t want to. But what can I say? At least if he’s arguing, he’s awake. And that is the ultimate goal.)


Boys in bed. We lost Tyler’s awake state shortly after I put on his seatbelt in the zoo parking lot, but I kept Tucker awake literally until we pulled into the driveway. Let me tell you, it is no small feat to put a sleeping almost-four-year-old in a top bunk, but I would not be defeated.

Done. Another wildly successful day at the zoo. Perhaps next time we’ll look more closely at some animals.

(Today, I’m thankful for the membership. We can go whenever we want… and tomorrow? I think I’ll not want.)

Tricia Lott Williford

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