Put Me In the Zoo

20140627-113226-41546941.jpgI’m friends with a lot of hippie types who love the earth and animals and kale and stuff. I love all of those things too. But something that puts me at odds with some of those folks is: I take my kid to the zoo on a weekly basis. And it’s actually become one of my favorite things to do.

I love the zoo because it’s a great place to take my toddlers and also get some social time in myself. It’s outside, so Etta in particular is happy right off the bat. There are animals all over the place for practicing our words and animal sounds. It feels free, because we bought a membership, for what I thought was a very reasonable price. There’s a really great, fairly accessible playground where I can literally just sit on a bench and my kiddos can get themselves up and down the slides, even Claire. The entire place is stroller/handicap accessible. The food prices are reasonable, and they give members a discount. There’s a train and a carousel. And, most importantly, I can meet up with a posse of other moms, and we actually get to chat and hang out as we push our caravan of strollers around the zoo. 

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We keep an eye on each other’s kids. We hold doors and snag dropped sippies and help hold down squirmy babies during particularly heinous diaper changes. You forgot to pack snacks and your kid is getting hangry? One of the others will have you covered.

And the best part? It fills up a whole morning. Etta and I can drop Claire off at preschool, hit the zoo at opening at 9:00, and I can push her right past her usual 10:30 nap time, get her home around 11 or 11:30, put her down, and have her nap until 2ish, when it’s almost time to pick up her sister around 3:00 or 3:30. It’s glorious. No other activity makes our day go so smoothly. I struggle to fill a morning at home with any sort of activity that doesn’t involve resorting to TV after an hour because Etta doesn’t know what to do with herself without her twin around, and without fail, when I spend a ton of time prepping for some Pinterest Inspired enrichment activity, it will crash and burn mightily.  I can think of no other place in town that would provide that much semi-educational fun while also allowing me some precious grown-up time, unless some bar adds a playground.

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Etta enjoys the playground with one of our good friends.

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So sure, share posts on Facebook about how sad you think zoos are. Pre-kids, I might have agreed with you. Now? I’m going to be posting pics at the zoo until I hear something heinous about my local zoo. Instead, I see a zoo that’s growing and expanding and getting better all the time. They just had 4 tiger cubs. There’s an awesome and fairly new penguin exhibit, where we watch feedings at 9:30. There’s a baby gorilla and a baby camel, too. Many of the elephants were rescued from circuses. There are actual bunnies hanging out in the gorilla enclosure in some sort of weird interspecies friendship like I’ve never seen. And just this week, I saw some of the cutest baby tortoises ever, the size of eggs, whose parents are about as big as my dogs.

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On the newly refurbished train. They gave her a whistle and she quickly figured out how to use it!

The zoo: hottest toddler fun in town, and pretty big fun for moms too. If you can get over the shade thrown by your tree-hugging friends.

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*Note: I will always advocate for the better treatment of animals, but I remain a person who occasionally eats meat, and a person who visits the zoo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Put Me In the Zoo

  1. We also go to zoo almost once a week with our membership! Nothing speaks exercise, fun times, and great naps afterwords like a few hours there! :-)

  2. I’m one of those anti-zoo people, but you know what, I’m also a vegan who totally goes vegetarian when I travel because sometimes you have to do what makes your life easier and makes you able to enjoy time with people you love (for me- being able to go out to dinner with friends on vacation, for you- having those lovely mornings with your kids). I think it’s okay to live your life with more than just the highest moral principles in mind, it’s a balance or we’d all be stressed out martyrs. Anyway, sorry for such a long comment, just saying I agree with your right to those zoo mornings, even if I don’t agree with zoos :)

    • Thank you, windwife! I often joke that I’m on a very long, slow train to veggie town. We eat veggie a lot, and every so often we go all the way. You’re right, we’re all constantly juggling moral goods, and we make trade-offs in terms of pleasure and time with folks.

  3. Good or bad, zoos are here to stay. I think supporting our local, non-profit zoo, through annual membership, using our disposable income to eat there instead of McDonald’s, and allowing my kids to slow down / wait / watch is healthy. If enough parents begin supporting the zoo, their voice and ability to influence the zoo grows (especially in municipal zoos like Little Rock). Additionally, in urban areas, zoos give concrete-bound kids and opportunity to imagine beyond themselves and “travel” in ways their families may not be able to. Two cheers for the zoo and for parents who get involved at their zoo. :)

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