Without including various expletives, the title is as accurate as my attitude was today.
Countless times, I plan for family fun outings envisioning this magical experience filled with laughs, smiles and so much happiness it hurts. Oh, it hurts all right, but not in a warm fuzzy feeling kind of way. Time and time again, the outcome never matches my unrealistic expectations and I’m starting to realize this won’t ever be the case – at least not in the foreseeable future.
To save me from disappointment, my husband repeatedly warns me to not get my hopes up. We will never be that picture perfect family. There are going to be tears. So. Many. Tears.
Our most recent adventure led us to the zoo, but before arriving there, I already lived a whole other life. At 5 a.m. I was in route to the nearest Starbucks, counting down the minutes until a strong cup of caffeine would trick my body into thinking it was awake. Why such a quest so early? Because my son decided that 4:30 a.m. was a suitable time to start our day and I obviously lost that battle.
The time between wake up and departure kills us. My kids are always early risers – maybe not this early – but regardless, it’s a struggle to keep the positive morning momentum going. Kids get tired, bored, and stir-crazy turning them into irritable little monsters.
Just as it’s time to leave, the kids are on a progressive downhill spiral. In hopes of keeping their meltdowns at bay, I continue to remind them that soon we will be seeing animals. I Just have to get them there and everything will be A-OK, right?
I tell myself this lie every time. And every time I want to believe it so badly.
Upon arrival, moods lighten up for a short period of time, but that never lasts long.
The first exhibit goes great. A minor bump in the road is quickly forgotten and overlooked due to our initial excitement.
Onto the second.
Tiredness starts to set in with their normal nap time on the horizon. As usual, in situations like this, we will either push if off until later or forego it altogether. I hate either of these options. Thank you zoo for opening at 10 a.m.
My husband has the brilliant idea of feeding them junk to help push them through. As usual, the carefully packed lunch goes to waste. How stupid of me to try and save money while giving our children healthy options.
French fries and popcorn do the trick for a short time. They help get us to another exhibit or two, maybe a handful more animals until we really start melting.
Before all hell breaks loose, my husband snags some cotton candy as a last-ditch effort. On a side note, I have somehow managed to limit sugar in my children’s diet, so sugar in any form can make them pretty much do anything and manages to induce some quick energy. But, when it is introduced to them, they turn into unrecognizable beasts devouring it quicker than you can hand it to them. The sight is both impressive and disgusting.
The cotton candy helps us to visit a couple more animals, until it happens.
Everything falls apart.
My 3-year-old is mad the zebra has stripes. My 2-year-old is upset because he can’t give the hippo a hug. Both kids are now fighting with one another with some whining and crying sprinkled in there.
My husband at some point secretly bought a couple of overpriced animal swirly straws in the event we needed an immediate emergency distraction. Well this seemed like as good a time as any, except he made a substantial amateur mistake when purchasing them.
They weren’t the same! Different Colors with a different animal on each.
If you aren’t a parent, you may not realize the seriousness of the situation. I envy your naivety.
Upon presented them with their shiny new straws, you could narrate the play-by-play according to their dramatic reactions.
Tot 1: Ohhhh what’s that!?! That’s new!
Tot 2: I love animals! I love straws! Gimme. Gimme.
Tot 1: Woah. Woah. Woah. Something’s off here.
Tot 2: Why do I have a monkey straw and he gets the elephant. You know I love elephants more than monkeys!?!
Tot 1: How come he gets the blue one and I get red? I just decided I hate the color red.
Tot 1 & Tot 2: I want both.
Excitement displayed with their bulging eyes and grins from ear-to-ear are quickly replaced with shouts and fits of pouting. Their displeasure results in them using the straws as swords against each other and even against unassuming patrons that drew the unlucky hand of walking past us. I apologize if you fell victim to my children’s violent fencing practice.
Throughout it all, my poor husband has been such a trooper. He’s been pulling a wagon filled with 70 plus pounds of toddler while carrying an oversized backpack throughout the entire trip. Somehow, he’s managed to juggle a beer along with everything else. God I love that man.
Time to go.
Of course, at the moment we decide this, we are the farthest from the exit and somehow lost in what seems like the biggest zoo in the world. How do you get lost in a zoo?
The mad dash to the exit is beyond torturous.
Our disheveled appearances are in a sprinting panic similar to the animals as they scatter in an attempt to find refuge from the screams and cries of my tiny tots.
On top of it all, there isn’t an exciting animal to be seen that could possibly help to add a small distraction. After every turn, I hope for a gorilla, elephant or giraffe. What do I find? Antelope after antelope after antelope. As we hustled passed one of the signs posted on this pathway, I notice a reference about being endangered. No shit. The majority of the world’s antelope population lives right here in this zoo.
To bring humor to the situation, at one point I asked my eldest if he wanted to be an animal at the zoo. He replied with, “Yes.” It took all my energy not to respond with, “It’s too late.”
On the way out, I also find myself saying, “I’m so sorry mommy made you come to the zoo and force you to have fun. What a mean mommy.”
This only results in my son repeating, “Mean mommy!” out loud for everyone to hear. FML.
After finally making it out of there and to our car, I prayed the nightmare would end – I should be so lucky.
A car nap for my 2-year-old destroys any hope of a good solid sleep in his own bed. Everyone is filled up on junk ruining any appetite for a decent meal.
The capstone to the night is me reasoning with my toddlers for hours on why they can’t have candy for dinner while screaming and crying on the floor.
Although my husband and I know how these adventures are going to end, we still continue to put ourselves through it. Weekends and time together are too short and we attempt to squeeze as much as we can in the small amount of time we have. We fall into this trap even more as we realize just how quick time is passing us by and our kids are growing up faster than we are prepared for.
As much as I’m regretting it all and threatening to never return to the zoo or do anything ever again, everyone knows next weekend you’ll see me and my circus back at it just to repeat this whole painful experience all over again.
After the tears dry and emotional wounds are healed, reflections on the day aren’t filled with the frustrations and struggles, but rather the all-too-brief moments of excitement – whether it be when my boys saw one of their many favorite animals or the looks on their faces after tasting cotton candy for the first time.
Their smiles are worth it. Their laughs are worth it. The stories I hear them tell for days and weeks to come about that day at the zoo is more than worth it.