Last Friday was my husband’s birthday, and being the nice father that he is, he suggested a day at the Atlanta Zoo.
My three-year-old has been there twice. He calls it “the big zoo.” (Bear Hollow in Athens is known as “the little zoo.”) Since it was my husband’s birthday, however, we didn’t really think about how crowded it might be because of the holiday. We had to park and walk a very long way.
Despite the crowds, however, we all seemed to stay in a good mood, which is rare when the four of us try to go on a daylong journey like this. We don’t go on many of them. It’s tough with young children, especially a baby.
For example, it takes at least an hour to get everybody into the car. This is after having prepared our bags the night before too.
Now that our son is potty trained, it is time to train mama and dada that some adjustments need to be made. After piling everyone into the car, I realized my son had not visited the bathroom all morning. And anyone with a child’s car seat knows how long it takes to buckle and unbuckle a child. Let alone the time spent in the bathroom. No, you definitely cannot move fast with children. It’s as if you are steering the wheel, but the little ones are down there pedaling the accelerator and brake. And let me tell you, they pump the brakes way too much.
It was pretty easy to let our son control the speed at the zoo, however. You might expect the walk around the zoo to be long and tiresome, but at three years old, he was content to take a two-second glimpse at each animal and then move on to the next. More specifically, he was trying to get to the merry-go-round. I suppose for a three-year-old, riding a fake animal trumps viewing real animals from a distance.
Anyway, with the crowd at the zoo last Friday, this worked out well. We walked through the zoo fairly quickly, and we didn’t have any meltdowns from either child, and more importantly, from either adult. By the time we left we were definitely tired, and the three-year-old was beginning to whine, but it wasn’t progressing to an unmanageable state. The baby, remarkably, was kept happy by all the sights and sounds and plenty of food.
We never go to restaurants anymore. We used to when our first son was a baby because he was pretty easy, but our second baby doesn’t want to sit still for very long, and now the eldest is at that wiggle age. That is, he is wiggly, chatty and prone to saying things like “I have to poop!” very loudly.
On our journey home last Friday, however, we were all very hungry, and it was my husband’s birthday, so we wanted to treat ourselves. Of course, my husband had promised him french fries and lemonade early in the day, so we had to make a stop at McDonald’s first.
The three-year-old’s whining got louder in the car, and he must have asked us 20 times if we had found a restaurant so that he could eat his french fries. The baby was pretty good, but I knew he would be getting hungry soon too.
Once inside the restaurant, we settled into a booth only to discover that we can no longer “relax” at a restaurant with two children. The baby, though in a good mood, was only willing to stay that way if we kept shoveling pureed baby food into his mouth. Once his stomach was full, he needed constant entertainment, and by the time we left, we had given him every toy and safe utensil on the table to play with.
The three-year-old had to go to the bathroom, and once we got there, he told me he didn’t need to go anymore. Then, after he finished his fries (and refused any nutritious food), he was ready to go home, though we had barely started to eat. My husband and I constantly shifted our attention from one child to the next, shushing and appeasing and just trying to get through the meal.
After eating hastily and taking one more trip to the bathroom, we made it out of there in one piece. It was much more exhausting than the whole trip to the zoo, and we remembered why we never go to restaurants anymore. This, you might recall, was on a good day when everyone was feeling good and fairly cheerful. I don’t think we’ll be trying to find out what it would be like on any other day very soon.
Winder resident Shelli Bond Pabis is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.