Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The kiddo and i did a "compromise" yesterday. It's a handy technique my mom passed down to us, where the kiddo tags along on my adult errands, and in exchange she gets to do something that she really likes to do. I've been promising to take her to see
Samudra the baby elephant ever since he was born on August 23rd at the Oregon Zoo, so we finally compromised yesterday and went and saw him. As a newsie i got to see unreleased video of his terrifying birth -- where his mama kicked his lifeless body around the enclosure to get him to take his first breath. It was unbelievable -- but somehow he survived and is thriving.

Besides my usual depression at seeing animals kept in pitifully small enclosures, i also made some other anthropological observations about kids and parents yesterday. I don't get out into the kid-world too often -- to places where kids are the focus of the scene. But the zoo is definitely one of those places where kids are more or less in charge. Like most parents i had the energy and the good attitude to roll along and see whatever she wanted to see for the first hour or so, before her feet started dragging and i felt like i was reducing my walking-pace to about a tenth of its usual speed. By the time we were walking the path toward the exit, i could see that i was not the only one feeling a little exasperated. Kids were jumping on the statue of the goats at the exit, clinging for dear life to those golden sets of horns because they knew it would be one of the their last acts for the day at their beloved zoo. Meanwhile parents were dutifully pulling out the camera for the last shot, wearily extracting their children off the statue with a sigh, and pulling reluctant hands toward the car.

"Bobby, come on! We said it was time to go a half hour ago."
"Sage, that's enough. No, we're not going to the gift shop."
"Alexis, we're not getting popcorn. No, we're not getting ice cream."

Near the very last steps there are a couple boulders that kids like to climb up and jump off. It takes every last shred of parental patience to let them do this. At that point i asked myself why it is that we take our children to these spots designed especially for their delight, and then pitifully beg them to let it end. The answer i came up with was not especially encouraging. I think it's because we really wish to be the ones who get to leisurely paw our way to the top of a boulder, or to climb on top of the mountain goat statue. We want to be the ones who get to determine the path we'll take at the Oregon Zoo, or the Forest Park trail, or the grocery store aisle. Even though we're the parents, we really aren't in charge. Our love for our little ones compels us to give them experiences we wish we could have on our own. We are all the little kids on the inside, but now we have jobs and rent payments and worries about health insurance that keep us from being able to fully realize our leisure. So we let the little ones do it -- and we temper our jealousy at the fact that they get to. It's not that i don't love giving my child enriching experiences, it's just that i want the chance to run and scream and beat a trail toward the ice cream stand too. But who's going to carry me to the car, when i'm exhausted from a day of fun?

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