When we arrived at the Zoo on Saturday, the parking lot was packed. Cars stalked pedestrians exiting the zoo like big cats starved for antelope. Families turned wary eyes to the cars skulking behind them; mothers clutched little ones closer, and fathers hunched protectively over strollers as multiple cars circled their herd.
We drove slowly up each row, Ten minutes passed. Fifteen minutes passed. We'd long ago lost my sister's minivan. It was every vehicle for himself.
"Go to the front rows," I told my husband, "The early arrivers will be leaving now."
He took my suggestion and drove to the very first row. We turned down the row just behind a family who was leaving. We followed them to their car. Another car came from the opposite direction. We both paused, waiting.
As the father loaded the toddler into the car seat, the driver of the other car rolled down her window and called the mother over. She slinked over to the window, stopping a couple of feet back. We saw only her back, broad and formless in loose overall shorts and big tee-shirt. The other driver leaned out the window, spoke and gestured a bit. The overall-clad mother turned back to look at us, looked again at the other driver who appeared to be pleading, looked back at us, smiled at the other driver and climbed in her car.
"Oh my God," I said to my husband, "That person just negotiated with that lady to take the spot we've been waiting on! And I think she's going to do it!"
"We're pointing the right direction," my husband said, "They know we followed them to this spot, they'll do the right thing and we'll get the spot."
But the overall-clad mother's husband, driving, backed out and froze, boxing us in, blocking us. The other driver zipped into the parking spot. Another exiting family had been walking up behind us and saw the whole thing. The mother gestured to me, and I rolled down the window.
"Geez!" she said, "We're leaving, that's our car, right next to the spot you just had stolen." She walked to her car, shaking her head.
I was doing the same thing. So was my husband. As the other car pulled out and we pulled in, Thief Mother couldn't look at us.
We parked and sat for a minute.
"I'm wiped out," I said.
"Me too," my husband said, "This day has had too much stress already and this parking lot..."
"Vicious," I said, "This is why I do my best to avoid places parents take their kids for fun."
"I know," he agreed, "Parents can be a vicious bunch."
We considered bailing. We'd already threatened to cancel the zoo trip for the kids, who'd spent the morning acting like they'd been bred from a maniac and a brat. In case you wondered, that would not make them our children.
"I don't know if I can handle the zoo," I said.
"Me either," said my husband.
The children wisely remained silent, knowing the precarious position they were in. They must have heard the truth of it in our tone.
"That lady was nice, though, telling us about her spot. And we did get to park in the front row, on such a busy day," I pointed out, "That's pretty good. And we're here to have fun. It could be the turning point, you know."
"Sure, true," my husband agreed.
"My sister and all are probably waiting," I said, after a minute.
"Yeah," said my husband. He unlocked the door and we both slowly climbed out of the car. The children exhaled in relief.
We crossed to the Zoo entrance, and my sister and I stood by the fence with the half a dozen kids while the dads bought the tickets. Suddenly, Persistence made a break for it. She raced through a slight opening in the gate and flew into a crowd of people in the zoo.
My heart stopped, but my feet moved rapidly. Luckily the lady at the entrance saw what happened so didn't even try to stop me as I ran into the zoo.
"Persistence," I yelled, unmindful of the attention I got, "Persistence, you STOP! Come BACK!" Gleeful in her game and power, she continued running. "PERSISTENCE!!" I yelled again, and something in my tone got her attention. She paused, turned back, and froze. I caught up with her, and picked her up. I babbled incoherently about scared and danger and in big trouble. We walked back to our group, my husband and brother-in-law now there, too.
I briefly explained what happened and the executives decided that Persistence got to see the zoo strapped into a stroller. This made for an extremely pleasant viewing experience. Each exhibit we went to erupted into a begging, pleading and tantrumming child insisting she needed to get out. We were unswayed by any misguided sympathy. On a few occasions one of us would pick her up and hold her so she could see, but back into the stroller she went.
She resorted to her favorite tactic: verbal abuse.
"Mommy, you RUDE and STUPID!" she yelled.
Had there been a bench or chance, I would have sunk onto it, defeated, and dropped my head into my hands.
My sister stood by me in sympathy, "Bad case of the threes."
"Yeah," I agreed.
"You're doing the right thing, though. They test and you just have to hold firm. It's ugly for a while but worth it in the end."
That didn't feel like much of a light at the end of the tunnel, at the time. Three is a terrible time in so many ways---wonderful, too---but I've been through a typical case of the threes, before. You'd think I'd be better the second time, but nothing about Persistence seems quite typical right now.
By the time we'd finished the children's zoo area, and decided it was time to leave, Persistence had worked herself up to Super Special.
"I want a ride a carousel!" she shrieked, over and over and over and over. By the time we got to the Wonderful World of Primates, I looked at the others and said, "I think we ought to just go." But the group wanted desperately to see the monkeys and knowing Persistence's love of them, I reluctantly agreed. I carried her through the exhibit.
"Look," I joked, "It's your people! Do you feel the love, Pers? You want to call out to them in monkey language?"
"Ooooh ooohh aaaaah aaaahhhh!" she yodeled.
We paused and looked. The primates stared at us. I think we bored them. Another big furless one and small furless one chortling at them. How original.
But it delighted Persistence, who showed a small ray of her normally pleasant and charming personality for the first time that day.
"It's a zoo day for you, it's a zoo day for you, you look like a monkey and you act like one too!" I sang to her, mangling the mangle of the happy birthday song.
"You want to live here at the zoo with the monkeys?" I joked.
She shook her head.
"No? You want to live at home with mom and dad?" I asked.
She nodded her head.
I hugged her and we finished walking through the exhibit singing our monkeys in the zoo song. But my head and heart wondered and worried, was I doing it right? enough? okay? Other three year olds do this too. I'm not a bad parent. I'm not mangling anything other than the song. I tried to reassure myself.
But Persistence, and Patience too, have been testing this feeling of self-assuredness, to the point that my tank is practically on E. Since my main job is mom, and that is having a challenge period right now, I've been feeling a bit low.
That's why I am so grateful for the 5 pieces of "You Don't Suck" and "Hey Maybe I Can Do Something All Right, After All" that some kind people passed my way just when I needed it.
Thank you, Emily, so very much for this:
I have to pass this on to some BBBs (best blogging buddies) who are also in my "fur" real life (yuk yuk yuk):
Jenny, who's been a buddy for me even though she's got her own pet health issues and her own three year old
Kyla, who's been a buddy for me even though she's in school and got her own three year old issues
Melissa, who's been a buddy with reassurance from down the mom road, offers of lunch and debate chats.
And the real Gwen and Mrs. Chicky, who have been such buddies, with emails and check-ins and offers of ears and nice words. Thanks...this is for you, too.
But I owe this prop to so many people, every one who comes here and comments with insight, warmth, humor, wisdom and well, uses their words. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Maddy from Whitterer on Autism, for this:
Just a few of the many awesome bloggers who should get this are:
Leslie at Minivan Diaries
Karen at needs new batteries
De at Sober Briquette
Mary Alice on the Frontlines
Thank you so much Slouching Mom for this:
I'd give it right back, LOL, but she's already got it, so instead just a few of the long list of blogs I look forward to daily:
Emily at Wheels on the Bus
Thank you so much, Ewe, for the mwah:
I am passing this along to people who are regularly there for me in comments. That means you, Sci-Fi Dad, Robert, Ellie, Dharmamama, Heidi, Kathryn, Flutter, Jeff, Suki, Painted Maypole, Mayberry, Magpie, Thordora, Angela (mommybytes), Anne (Nahm), We Be Toys, Liv, Yolanda, SpaceMom, Jen (one plus two Jen), Christine, Karen, and Andrea. I am so, so sorry if I left off a name (and for lack of links). I'm down to the wire on time here. Send me an email and I'll correct, with apologies. I do look forward to what you have to say, each day. Thanks.
Then De at Sober Briquette awarded me this:
for this post: If I could just recall how to float. . .
and even complimented my art (that's a ranuculus flower, up close and personal, FTR). That was so touching, De. Thanks. That post was hard, and to know it somehow meant something...well...I'm humbled and grateful.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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