A day at the zoo for most people means exactly what it sounds like, a day at the zoo. For my family, a day at the zoo means: let’s see if we can get there in one piece and then figure out how quickly we can get it all done.
My kids are hooked on all things electronic. The Nintendo Wii has taken over our home. The theme song to Super Mario Brothers is embedded in my brain and I’m certain I hear it in my sleep at night. Every outlet has a white cord attached to it with a different Apple product charging at all times.
I’m convinced my household was partially responsible for why the price of one share of Apple stock was over $700.00 last fall. For months, the toys in the playroom which were once “must haves” are now collecting dust and it’s an utter embarrassment to mention when the last time one of those poor things on the shelves were cracked open. You know, books?
Book: A written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.
There’s no denying that these devices have become the greatest built-in babysitters of all time and have also come in handy at seven o’clock in the morning when we just aren’t quite ready to punch in for the day. But the addiction has gotten out of control and turning a blind eye is unfortunately no longer an option. It’s time to take an active stand and start broadening the kids’ horizons past World Yoshi Levels. ( I can’t believe I know what a Yoshi is.) At this point ignoring the problem would definitely tip the scales of responsible parenting toward some kind of negligence.
My husband and I looked at the calendar to find a day free of plans. Having zero obligations on Sunday, we had no choice but to commit to doing something outside the realm of what we normally do, like hang out at home while the kids play video games. The criteria for our adventure wasn’t much, it just had to be an activity that didn’t fall under the “electronics” category and/or having to do with batteries, uploads, downloads, apps, chargers, videos, movies, phones, texting, emailing, FaceTime or Siri.
Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, and admittedly not wanting to be too ambitious, we settled on a day at the zoo. Or rather, a day at the zoo… Unpolished style.
Only pausing their games for something to eat from the fridge, Sunday morning began like it always had for our kids. Miracles don’t happen overnight and cutting the cord cold turkey is just evil. Not to mention my previous evening included Tequila so I’d be cutting off my nose to spite my face if I hadn’t let the boys get their fix.
Three hours later, I had a bag packed with the essentials: sunblock, snacks, baseball hats, extra clothes, bottled water and Purell. Lots of Purell. We were ready to roll!
I can’t say for sure, though I would assume most families on their way to the zoo have a conversation that goes something like this:
Enthused Parent #1: “Hey kids, what animals do you want to see first when we get to the zoo?”
Excited Kid # 1: “I want to see the tigers. Will there be tigers at the zoo?”
Excited Kid #2: ” Tigers! I love tigers! I wanna see tigers too! Can we also look around for monkeys?”
Enthused Parent #2: “Of course there are tigers. And we’ll see the monkeys. Don’t worry kids, we’ll cover everything. We’re gonna have a great day.”
THE CONVERSATION IN OUR CAR WENT A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY:
Parent #1: “What do you guys want to eat for lunch when we get to the zoo?”
Sorta Excited Kid #1: “Do they have Wi-Fi at the zoo?”
Now Slightly Less Excited Kid #1: “Mahhmm? Why aren’t you answering me? And do you have any snacks? I’m hungry.”
Never Really Excited Kid #2: “I’m hungry too. Are we there yet? When we get home can I play the Wii?”
Grateful for Xanax Parent #2: “Chill out guys. You both ate before we left. You won’t starve without a snack in the car. We’re not using electronics today. Let’s play the Quiet Game. That means there’s no talking. Ready? Okay…GO!”
Parent #1: “When we get home I’m taking a nap.”
We made it to the zoo unhinged and I was determined to stick to the plan. Hitting the cafe first was pre-mediated because I knew it would help reduce the number of times we’d hear complaints about starvation. Since the task at hand was to ban all gadgets, the four of us agreed on a game of I’m Going On A Picnic while we waited for our meal.
Starting to Feel the Effects of Video Game Withdrawal Child #1 lost interest by the time we got to the letter D and Already Feeling the Effects of Video Game Withdrawal Child # 2 picked the word Electronics when the letter E came up. Worried that we weren’t off to the greatest start, I hoped my husband would agree that at the very least we were deserving of a two thumbs up for getting to the zoo in the first place but to be safe, I figured we better lower our expectations for how the remainder of the day would unfold!
We got through lunch fairly unscathed so it was time to check out the animals. No need to recap every last detail. The list I’ve put together should sum up the highlights and cover a few of the most commonly spoken phrases of our day:
1. “Ewwww, don’t touch that. It’s filthy.”
2. “Guys, we said WAIT!”
3. “Hey you two, knock it off. The sign says DO NOT CLIMB.”
4. “I said… DON’T touch that!”
5. “Didn’t we go this way already? I think we missed an entire section.”
6. “Uh-oh. Where’d the kids go”
7. “Do they serve alcohol here?”
8. “If you won’t let us get a dog, can we get that bird instead?”
9. “You’re hungry? How can you be hungry? We JUST ate!”
10. “What time is the sitter coming tonight?”
11. “No, seriously… Where are the kids?”
12. “Look at what time it is. I can’t believe we’ve been here for two hours already! We should really think about leaving now.”
If you know my crew, it’s pretty easy to decipher who said what. To some, reading this list may render the conclusion that the zoo sucked. To me, it’s the contrary. Maintaining attention isn’t one of our stronger suits, so sticking it out in one place for two and a half hours is a major coup! There may have been some whining, but none of it had to do with playing video games or making phone calls or downloading another unnecessary app from iTunes. We zipped through the four corners of the joint in record time and finished up with two happy boys on the merry-go-round. The kids then snarfed down the rest of the snack bag on a bench in the parking lot while my guy went to pull up our ride.
Knowing full well there wasn’t a shot in hell of stepping foot into the car without first letting me douse them in sanitizer, the kids cooperatively held out their palms awaiting a generous dose of Purell to rub all over. As we approached the freeway, not only did we get one, but we got two unsolicited and sincere thank you’s for the cool day. I was shocked! Feeling like we were on a lucky streak, I decided to go for the gold and opened the floor up for a discussion on who liked which animal the most and why.
To our utter surprise, we accomplished our goal. I think my husband and I may have been more impressed with ourselves for the actual follow through than we were with the boys for not driving us crazy.
AND JUST TO LET YOU KNOW… Regardless of the fact that the kids made a mad dash for the remote controls the second we got home, I’m still chalking the zoo up as a triumphant success! It’s all about the small victories and Rome wasn’t built in a day… especially when you are as unpolished as we are!