July 7, 2009
The Dead and Dying Meet the Whining
Last week, my kids' preschool went on an end of the year field trip to a local zoo. When we arrived at the front gates, we were met by the rest of my kids' preschool class, along with the collective populations of every preschool and elementary school in the greater Philadelphia area. It was a zoo, no pun intended.
I made a number of critical errors that day, the most significant being my failure to insist that my kids wear the same color shirts. My husband despises matching outfits, and I'm not wild about them either, unless, of course, they include hand-stitched lace collars and come from a Laura Ashley catalog. While I don't usually make a point of dressing my kids alike, I've learned that sometimes it's necessary to ensure that you exit the premises with the same number of children with which you entered.
I was uneasy about crowd situation from the get-go and my nervousness only increased when I couldn't instill upon my children the importance of staying close to me. The other moms in our group looked at me like I was a drill sergeant and, in truth, I felt like one too.
"Stay off the ropes!"
"Get your leg out of there!"
"That fence is not for climbing!"
Despite being filled with animals, the zoo had a difficult time holding my kids' attention. The particular zoo that we visited is significantly smaller in size than the Philadelphia zoo and is much more likely to be the target of a PETA protest. The cages are small and most of the animals housed inside them appear to be physically or mentally ill. Although this zoo is perfect for toddlers who can only track slow moving objects, the condition of its occupants raises some troubling questions for a pack of hyper-observant preschoolers:
"Why is that fox chasing its tail?" Kellen wanted to know.
"What happened to the other half of the skunk's nose?" asked Cortlen.
"Why does that deer have a sore on its leg?" inquired Camber.
We arrived at the zoo at 10:05am and by 10:11am the requests for food and beverages began. By 10:30am I was threatening to throw the whole cooler in the nearest trash can if I heard "When are we going to eat?" one more time. At 10:35am, I opened the cooler. Camber promptly dropped her sandwich on the ground (swearing it was an accident). Kellen spilled his drink and then cried for 10 minutes because he was thirsty. Cortlen got a sandwich with tomatoes and he hates tomatoes. Because the tomatoes touched the bread on one side and the turkey on the other, the whole sandwich was contaminated and deemed inedible. When I gave Kellen the tainted sandwich and refused Cortlen's request for a package of fruit snacks, Cortlen started to cry and made a futile attempt to overturn the picnic table.
Immediately after lunch (10:40am) I announced that we were leaving, even though we hadn't visited the reptile house or the "exotic" bird exhibit. On the way out, I realized that most of the animals that we had seen that day are ones that also regularly hang out in our backyard: deer, skunks, turkey vultures, and a lone raccoon. The kind of animals that the zoo is allowed to house may be dictated in part by the zoo's location--the deer enclosure butts up to a middle school and the DMV--but it also made me wonder: where does this zoo get its animals? I may never know for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the dead possum that I found curled up on the curb the other day may be part of the zoo's catch and release program.
Originally published 5/5/08
Woo Hoo! Thanks to you, I wiggled my way into the top five! I'm thrilled and super honored.