27 June 2010

The Zoo Story

It's a momentous occasion in any kid's life. The first trip to the zoo. And recently, on my second Father's Day, we got to mark this major milestone in the Doozer's existence. (Side note: Father's Day takes some getting used to. When I was wished a "Happy Father's Day" by my sister, I was confused and unsure why she was saying this to me and not our dad. She then pointed across the yard at my son. Oh, right . . . )

Anyway, it was finally time for all the static, two-dimensional images of wildlife from the kid's various picture books to come to fully-realized, three-dimensional, and awe-inspiring life. A real spectacle to behold.

(My wife and I were pretty excited, at any rate.)

So, we asked the Doozer if he wanted to see wild animals. He did.

Upon arriving at the zoo, we are given a map and we're ready to explore. The first stop is the Penguinarium. Did they invent this word? It sounds pretty silly. Would penguins in the wild refer to their habitat this way? I wonder. Anyway, we enter the Penguinarium and there they are: big ones, little ones, waddling this way and that, diving, swimming, or just plain lounging around. I'm reminded of a childhood favorite, Mr. Popper's Penguins. We need to pick that one up for the Doozer. I'm thinking he'd enjoy it.

But then again, maybe not. Our son's reaction to this spectacle is . . . mild. To say the least. We're beginning to wonder if the zoo will really be to his liking or not. We scan the map and begin to tell him of all the other animals he'll get to see, that this is but the first stop on our journey. Why, there's lions, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, bears! Oh my!

After no more than thirty seconds of penguin viewing, the Doozer waves at the penguins from his stroller and says aloud, "Bye-bye, pen-gins! See . . . gold . . . fish!" This was not one of the selections we just read off the map. In fact, another quick scan of the zoo guide would seem to indicate that there are no goldfish, or fish of any kind, to be seen at the zoo. There is no aquarium, per se, but there are aquatic exhibits, so maybe we'll get lucky.

We begin to head for the exit of the Penguinarium. But it is a circle, with one entrance and one exit. You have to move through three or four rooms to reach the exit. And around each corner is another side of the tank, where the penguins frolic. So, every time we rounded a corner, my wife and I would say, "Look at those penguins. Look at that one, he's [insert random penguin activity here]." And still, our son's reaction remain unchanged.

Quick wave followed by, "Bye-bye, pen-gins! See . . . gold . . . fish!"

"Great," my wife says ruefully. "We could've just gone to Meijer."

And saved ourselves the thirty bucks we just dropped here, I think.

We move on to the birdhouse, full of colorful, exotic birds the likes of which we would never see in our backyard. And yet, again, the Doozer only wants to see the goldfish. What gives?

Following the bird house, we hit the reptile exhibit and finally, there's a goldfish! A giant one, swimming in a pond with some large turtles. Finally, the Doozer will be happy.

He doesn't care. I don't think he even notices the goldfish. But then again, he's out of his stroller now and there's a metal grate in the floor that makes a great noise when you stand on it and repeatedly stomp your feet to some imaginary drumbeat that only you are hearing.

Our kid is a serious weirdo.

After lunch, we head to the exhibit of polar bears to find . . . a seal. And not much else. The polar bears appear to be hiding. They must've known that our son expressed an interest in seeing bears and did not want to indulge him. Jerks.

Along the way, we pass a farm-type exhibit, with goats, donkeys, a horse. And a barn. "Get in . . . red barn," our son tells the horse. He'll go in there at night, to sleep, we tell our son. Right now, other people want to see him, he can stay out. "Get in . . . red barn," he repeats.

Moving on . . .

Finally, he gets excited about seeing an animal. It's a grizzly bear. And it's trying to eat a giant, metal trash bin. "Bear . . . eat . . . trash can?" Yes, Doozer, yes he does. The adjacent pen with the black bear, we don't have quite so much luck. The black bear is dozing in the recesses of a cave. "Wake up!" the Doozer says. The black bear ignores him. "Bear . . . take nap . . . in . . . bear cave!" While we're proud of this impressive string of words, we are saddened by the disappointment that they represent. We want to throw something at the bear.

But that would be unwise.

On the drive home, we asked our son his favorite part of the zoo. And he quickly told us, "See . . . wild . . . animals!"

Yeah, I liked that part too, kiddo.

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