Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Elephants

It's amazing how as mother, you can experience the highest highs and the lowest lows just in the span of a few short hours.

Today started out beautifully. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, it is warm. The perfect day to spend outside.

We had to get up a little early this morning to make it downtown for Ladybug's ear tube check. I was actually showered. Kids were dressed and at least one of them was fed. Traffic was fairly light. No problems.

Even the appointment went well, which was a nice surpirse. Ladybug has had several health problems in her short life of 18 months and has a resulting strong aversion to doctor's offices. She has an even stronger aversion to having her ears checked. I can't blame her. She had an ear infection for 6 months continuously and of course she associates ear checks with pain. This time though, she only cried at half her usual volume and for about half as long. She didn't even kick the doctor while he looked at her. And Sweet Pea did a great job of helping me and entertaining Ladybug.

Since the weather was so wonderful and since we were downtown and thus already halfway there, I decided to take the kids to the zoo. Sweet Pea loves, loves, loves the zoo. Of course all kids love the zoo, but his love for it is a little above average. Ever since he was very young, he has been entranced by animals. His favorite books are animal encyclopedias and he has an amazing bank of animal knowledge for his 3 and a half years. He can identify animals I have never heard of, such as echnidas and aye ayes. He knows which animals live where and is quick to point out any discrepancies in puzzles and games, like when the puzzle pictures a black bear next to a lion. He knows what they eat and how they use camoflogue. It will not surprise me at all if this turns out to be a lifelong love and he becomes a zoologist or vet.

We haven't been to the zoo in several weeks because of winter, so Sweet Pea was thrilled to be going. We arrived a little early, but the kids entertained themselves while waiting. Once the gates opened, we headed in and began our usual route. I had forgotten the stroller so I alternated between carrying Ladybug and letting her walk and she did a surprisingly well job of staying with me.

Sweet Pea's favorite animal is the elephant and so we had to go see them first. He had brought one of his stuffed elephants along to show the real elephants and was excited to see their reaction. Some workers were doing clean-up in the elephant habitat and we had to go into the elephant house to see the animals.

Inside the elephant house is a glass wall that looks in on the large elephant holding area. It is a cement-floored space with huge metal barred walls and doors. There were two elephants in the enclosures. One was standing in the back swinging his trunk back and forth. The other was pacing and periodically rubbing his trunk against the wall. We stood there a good 10 minutes watching them. After a few minutes, Sweet Pea said in a very sad voice, "Mommy, those elephants want to go outside." Then he told me he thought they were bored. It was such a precious moment. It was so affirming and heartwarming to hear my son's empathy for these animals and his sweet yearning for them to be happy. I was so proud of him in that moment. My sensitive and loving boy.

Just as we were leaving, the zoo keepers let the elephants outside and we stopped to have a snack and watch. The two giants literally ran out of the building into the open air and one let out a huge bellow with his trunk held high in the air. You could see how excited and happy the creatures were to be outdoors. Sweet Pea felt better now that the elephants seemed pleased and he enjoyed his snack while watching them.

We continued on through the zoo and at each exhibit, Sweet Pea lingered much longer than usual. He has always sped through everything, wanting to see and acknowledge each animal, but not spend too much time with each one. This time though, he really wanted to study them. He noted to me where each animal lived (grassland, jungle, etc) and asked detailed questions about them. He was so intent on each one. What a difference a couple of months makes. The visit was so wonderful and I was reminded of how much I enjoy these moments with my children and how I will miss them when I go back to work next year.

Around 11:45, both kids started to crash and we headed home for lunch. Sweet Pea doesn't like to eat breakfast and he had had several snacks throughout the morning, but he was starving. When we got home, I made their lunches, but it was too late. He had already reached the point of no return. He got very upset because his pizza was different from his sister's and threw a huge screaming tantrum. He threw himself on the floor, wailing, and rolled around for a good 15 minutes. I tried to pick him up and show him that his pizza was the same as Ladybug's, but he was too far gone. He caterwauled for the next 30 minutes and it was all I could do to get him calmed down enough for nap time. What a different boy he was from just an hour earlier, though it really was my fault for not having packed more snacks or leaving earlier than we did.

So, this morning was a study in contrasts, but that's OK. You have to take the good with the bad and in this case, the good certainly won out.


jennifer h said...

Your boy reminds me of mine, with his love for animals. My son says he wants to be a zookeeper someday. Brace yourself, though--there's a computer game called Zoo Tycoon that lets you build your own zoo.

I agree with you, the tantrum was totally paid for with the happiness of the morning.

Molly said...

We have already discovered Zoo Tycon. Sweet Pea and his dad play it almost every night!