At least some of the time, it turns out that Mommy really does know best. Little One learned this lesson on Friday when I took him to the zoo. It has been gorgeous here in the Pacific Northwest, sunny skies and warmish temperatures. And when the sun comes out in February, in this part of the country, we head outside to soak up as much vitamin D as we can. We know we need to store it up in our cheeks like a squirrel with nuts, because come April we will be in the midst of a depressingly long month of rain.
So on Thursday, when our morning plans fell through, I decided I would be Mommy of the Year and take Little One to the zoo while is brothers were at school. Seemed like a winner plan until I mentioned it to Little One, at which point I found out that he considered a trip to the zoo an act of the meanest Mommy in the world. He wanted nothing to do with it. He did not want to go to the zoo. I tried to talk him into it telling him about all the great animals we would see, lions and tigers and bears. "Oh my" thought Little One. It turns out he was scared. I know he gets scared around dogs and such but to be scared of the zoo? Well actually, I am not totally surprised by the zoo fear. When he was little, we were at the San Francisco zoo and I took him into the big family farm petting zoo area in his stroller. I thought I had gotten all the food secured, but I guess there was one cracker hiding behind Little One. Those goats are tenacious! I thought he had grown out of his fear because he went back to the San Francisco Zoo a few more times and had a great time. But I guess not. I let the idea go for Thursday because his reaction was so extreme, but I was not going to let this go.
I knew though that he would love the zoo, once I got him there. So the next day, I loaded him into the van and started driving. He kept asking where we were going and I told him a few pieces of information, the city name, that we would be walking around outside in the sun, that there would be lots of people having fun. But I never said the word zoo, or animals or anything that might give my deception away. He eventually figured it out after we bought our tickets and started to walk in and he saw the animals. Thankfully our zoo has a long entry way, that feels a bit, a very little bit, like a hike through the woods. So I was able to ease him into the main part of the zoo. Little One was pretty nervous at first, backing away from the animal enclosures. I picked him up to see the otters and he was a bit shaky. But then we found the big sea lions, swimming behind a huge sheet of glass and he fell in love with the place. Turns out he feels much more comfortable behind glass than with wire netting acting as a cage. May be from all those visits to the aquarium. But once he got comfortable, he really got into the visit, wanting to see the penguins swimming and the polar bears sleeping. He liked it best when there were two or more animals together, always pointing to the "friend". He was still a little scared at the lion exhibit and stayed pretty far back, though still making sure he could see the two "friends" sleeping together on the rocks. As we were walking out he said the lions had been quiet. I guess he had expected them to ROAR their terrible Roar and GNASH their terrible teeth.
As I was dragging Little One out of the zoo that he refused to visit the day before, he said, "I like the zoo." He is already planning what animals he wants to visit next time he goes. It may seem cruel to force a three year old to face his fears, but sometimes that's what we need to do. I am sure there is an important lesson in here for me as well. Sometimes I need to face my fears because the experience really will be fun.