Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to Zoo

At the beginning of this week my Facebook wall was flooded with photos of all these kids posing for their first day of Back to School. Many of my mom friends rejoice about this time of year with exasperated relief. Finally! I hear them shout, because once again they get to be rid of their children for several hours a day, five days a week.

I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon. On the one hand, I am super envious. I wish I could be free of my children for several hours a day, five days a week. I would love to have more than a couple minutes a day to myself in which I can just sit down to think and don't have to meet the needs of my demanding little monsters, only one of which can form actual sentences and talk to me, whereas the other just points and squeals urgently to get my attention for the things she wants. More aggravatingly often than not, she wants to sit on my lap and keep me from doing anything at all but being her chair.

Don't get me wrong. I love my children. I wish them only the best. I want to do right by them. I want them to have the best education possible. I want to see them succeed in their futures and not be delegated to just another fast food drive-thru attendant. I also super hope that by the time they are adults all this misogyny and gender stereotyping that goes on these days is obliterated from the world entirely.

While I would love to be rid of them for just a little while, to have a vacation to myself, I still find myself frowning at all these bright and smiling faces of children dressed up in the nicest thing they're likely to put on all year in an effort to make a good first impression. I remember those days with a certain sort of eye-rolling bitterness. What you wore the first day of school sealed your fate for the entire year. Either you'd be that kid with the brand new designer jeans that will instantly make you everybody's best friend, or you'd be the kid in your Great Aunt Lucy's hand-me-downs taken in at the waist to better fit you and ridiculed the rest of your life.

These are things I don't have to worry about with my children, yet, and desperately hope I never will. I think the only guarantee that I won't have to put them through that sort of exhausting social ringer is if I stick with my plan to home school. But that also means sacrificing my sanity and me time, and as an introvert this is an extremely difficult need for me to give up.

On the other hand, however, I've noticed that with so many other kids going back to school, everywhere else becomes virtually abandoned for several hours a day, five days a week. This is a bonus for us, with my husband's new work schedule. On the first of September he'll have switched up his week to having Sundays and Mondays off. This is nice because most of the nation goes to church (which we do not) on Sundays and kids are in school most Mondays (except those pesky holidays that always seem to fall on one; I'm looking at you, Labor Day). Therefore, the world is our family outing oyster! Free of crowds! An introvert's dream come true!

Last week was a primary example of the wonders of not being bound to society's expected nine to five grind. We took the opportunity of most of Cleveland going back to school last week and decided to have one last final end of Summer hurrah by visiting the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, just the four of us. The place was wonderfully deserted. Though we were a little sad to see the dinosaur exhibit was no longer operating, it was nice to be able to walk the park (even the Usurper) without having to dodge around the self-important and rude we encounter just about everywhere else.

The girls loved it. My husband and I loved the fact that we could actually enjoy ourselves and not get super cranky from having to deal with so many people. The last time we were at the Cleveland Zoo, we went with his sister and family, and the littlest monster pictured above left was so tiny that she slept in her car seat in the stroller the entire time. The place was packed with people then. We missed out on some of the exhibits both times, but it was nice to sit in the picnic patio and eat overpriced McDonald's for dinner without another living soul around us this time around. We actually got to hear the lions roar when they came out of their cave to bask on the sun rock. 

This time we got to see the timber wolves, too, unlike last time, but neither me nor my husband could get a good picture of them. However, the littlest Usurper was immediately drawn to these statues, so she and her sister stopped to ride on them a little bit. I think, perhaps, she was remembering our temporary dog Lucky who went back to live with his original family before she was even crawling. 

Sadly, the tiger was napping in his cave by the time we got to him. This was more disappointing to me, I think, because I was the only one who knew what we had hoped to see. The Usurper's favorite animal in the world is a tiger. She absolutely loves them. Probably in part thanks to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Had she seen the tiger, though, I think she would have tried to climb into the exhibit, like she kept trying to do when we walked through Kangaroo Land and saw the grizzly bears. Regardless of constantly having to battle her with her insistence on walking everywhere (I'm shocked she didn't pass out in the car on the way home), we had a good time. Admittedly, it was nice to be able to unleash her without fear of losing her in a crowd. Though having to pull her down off of everything and keep her from trying to squeeze herself through the bars of certain enclosures was an adventure, let me tell you.

We'll be going back to the zoo in a little over a month, but not the one in Cleveland. Ever since the Overlord was born, we've tried to continue carrying on a tradition with our friends to attend the Akron Zoo's Boo at the Zoo event. Of course, Cleveland does this too, but Akron is much closer for everyone involved. I'm hoping this year to get a bigger group of us together, now that more of my friends are having kids too. So look forward to October when I'll talk all about it!

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