I remember life when I was 6. The things that concerned me, at the time, seemed monumental.
Things like: Were there enough grape popsicles in the fridge?How can I make sure Barbie does NOT wear the same outfit the entire week?
Am I going to the zoo?.....again.
I was obsessed with the zoo.
Obsessed with the animals. Obsessed with the experience.
Maybe that explains why today I'm not afraid of snakes, or lizards, or scorpions, or tarantulas. (A possum will make me run up a tree but that's another story)
A few weekends ago, I could think of no better place to take my 3- year old nephew on a perfect summer day, than the San Antonio Zoo. But at his tender young age, I wondered if he'd appreciate it.
Would he be afraid of some things ?
Would his little legs gets tired of walking?
Would he even understand why the animals at the zoo are way cooler than the cartoon kind?
As we approached the front gate , he was relatively quiet. Unusually quiet.
This worried me.
In the car on the ride over, I told him where we were going so the anticipation would build. He smiled, but not much else.I thought for sure by the time we got to our destination the excitement would be peaking.
I stood in the line thinking maybe Sea World would have been better.
Soon after making our way through the line, we entered the front gate and it was like someone turned on a light switch in
his brain. Quicker than I could turn around to see where he had gone, this little boy let go of my hand and took off yelling, "The Zoo, the Zoo!!!"
Kids were startled.
Here was a child behaving as if this was the first time he'd been out of the house….. IN LIFE.
My mouth was open in disbelief. Little did I know that was just the beginning. Over the next two hours, from the snake exhibit, to the bird quarry, to the hippo’s feeding,
My nephew was super excited. Super excited, and EVERYBODY knew it.
He was yelling…at every animal, every movement and he was extra loud.
I have to admit: I was embarrassed.
I've seen "that kind of kid” in the grocery store before and thought: THAT parent should really do something.
This was different.
I had no control, and I wasn't getting any.
At one point, somewhat frustrated, I pulled my nephew close to me and knelt down to his level. Looking directly into his eye and holding his arm I said: "SHHHHHH...You don't have to be so loud!"
The guy who had come to the zoo with us, witnessed the whole thing. He saw my nephews over-the-top zest for every animal in sight, and my little disciplinary action, that went nowhere. He thought the whole thing was hilarious.
He saw Bridget out of control, and out of her element.
My nephew was running wild and even one or two animals were scared.
Soon it became very apparent that my "threats", or my talk, didn't work. There was no calming him down. Each exhibit, his reaction was the same:
After a while, I just let him go and do his thing.
On the way home in the car, I laughed and said to the guy, "Can you believe that? How over the top and out of control he was?"
And he said to me, "Bridget, your nephew is a sweet little boy. It's not a behavior issue. He's a good kid, with good energy who was having a good time."
In that moment, I got it, and I felt bad at the same time.
In an instant I realized, that his overzealous moments became more about me not wanting to draw attention.
More about me being concerned with what other people were thinking.
More about me thinking it was my job to tame him.
How dare I try to squash his sheer joy of being at the zoo?
Because that's what it was. Sheer, pure joy.
Isn’t it true that as we get older, we tend to lose that kind of enthusiasm for life and things outside ourselves?
Maybe it’s because by the time we're adults we've seen to much, become too bitter, and forget that seeing a bird from an African desert is not only rare, it's actually a pretty cool thing.
Through my nephews eyes, I saw the zoo in a whole new way that day. It was the most exciting thing in the world to him. And yes, now I remember, it brought out the same kind of reaction in me.
Once upon a time, my happiest place on earth was the zoo, the only place I ever wanted to go.