1. Obtain a concussion in the manner of your choice and decide that a visit to the zoo with your darling babies (preferably all under 5 years of age, so that there is a great deal of autonomy that enables you to believe you don't need assistance in this undertaking, yet the children are still dependent enough upon you to make you feel as though you will be imparting great wisdom and benevolence upon them by granting them this outing) is, in fact, a good idea. Bonus points if you have no zoos within 100 miles of you and the trip will include at least two hours strapped into a moving vehicle together.
2. Prepare! Zoo food costs the GNP of a small European nation, so packing a lunch and some snacks is a great way to make sure you return home without having to sell yourself into prostitution. Of course, because you planned the trip in the first place, you are A Good Mom and pack healthy yet desirable foods which your children have eaten before 9,000 times and you're sure will be a hit. You even remember the cooler and ice pack for refreshing drinks and yogurt! Make sure, however, to forget to pack any food for yourself. This is important. It triples your martyrdom points and, also, low blood sugar is a fantastic thing when dealing with small children.
3. Pack it all up! Load the diaper bag (because, of course, this trip is best made if at least one of your children is not yet potty trained) with an extra set of clothes for each child, all food and drinks, diapers, wipes, toys for the car, some first aid necessities, bags for trash, wallet, keys, camera (DO NOT FORGET THE CAMERA FOR THE LOVE OF GOD; super bonus points if it's not a point-and-shoot, the heavier the better), tissues, and a couple pens and paper
4. Get in the car and go! Things to do in the car:
- Realize the stroller you have on hand is the one without any "holders" of any kind, so not only is your child extremely likely to drop anything of great importance he might be holding at any given time while sitting in it, but you cannot store the diaper bag in the undercarriage and will be carrying approximately 75 pounds of crap in a crippling manner for five hours. Make a mental note to stop at a big box store (because that's never a bad idea) to pick up a more ergonomically correct backpack.
- Give your children something to eat that creates an unholy mess. MAKE SURE you've left out the wipes if you make this decision. This helps you justify the watered down unsweetened tea you left in the cup holder from the day (or two) before, which makes a perfect rinsing agent.
- Allow the children to bring along devices that play loud, yet conflicting, music.
- Engage your children in bright, excited conversation that touches on their interests to let them know this day is about them! My personal choice this time was to try and relate a quote about road trips from one of my 5-year-old son's favorite movies (Blues Brothers), except I couldn't quite remember how it went.
Me: Hey, what is it that Elwood says about going to Chicago and having a tank of gas?
Him: Shit, we're out of gas?
(While that is a quote related to gas from the movie, no, that is not the one I was looking for.)
- Count how many times the children hit/poke/almostbutdon'tquite touch one another after you have given the "keep your hands to yourself" edict. Super bonus points if you then take this number and subtract the corresponding amount of dollars off their allowances. It is highly likely they will become your new source of income and you can quit working.
6. Make a second stop to buy wipes. Best if you can do this at another big box store because you cannot locate a gas station or small pharmacy, despite the fact that you typically can't go four steps without tripping on one. Also best if you enter the store with purpose and determination in the entirely wrong direction and have to circle the entire building.
7. Arrive three hours after your intended ETA. Bonus points if this means you miss out on the brief window of pleasant, happy behavior from the children and have now moved into "this is my usual nap time and I need to make sure the ENTIRE WORLD knows I'm missing it right now" territory.
8. See one exhibit.
9. Realize you left something crucial in the vehicle while transferring the diaper bag contents into your oh-so-smart new backpack.
10. Return to car to fetch said item. Bonus points if you make a questionable parenting decision like allowing your children to sit at the top of the hill (fully in your view and within 30 feet of your destination) because there is no paved path and getting the stroller up it once was a complete cardiovascular workout that you would prefer not to repeat. Race down and try to get your stuff out of the car before CPS arrives and removes them from your custody.
11. Reenter zoo. Immediately stop for lunch because one child is hungry. But only one. Do not concern yourself overly much with the nutritional well being of the other child, however, because he will demand food approximately 5-10 minutes after you've completed your lunch break and have neatly stored everything back into your bag. Don't worry about that, either, because he will not want one single thing you packed despite the fact that he has never before rejected these items and has, in fact, previously gone on a hunger strike until these items were obtained.
12. Plow through viewing all the animals like a semi truck on nitrous. Why? Child A would like to stop and read all the educational information, locate each animal in its habitat, play with the learning centers, and essentially experience the zoo as it was intended. Child B is incapable of remaining in one place for more than a microsecond without emitting a sound the military could utilize to directly pierce the enemy's brain and kill everyone within a 500 yard radius without expending a single bullet. Child B, sadly, wins. (Take lots of pictures to be viewed with Child A while Child B is comatose and locked behind a door somewhere later -- the actual reason for bringing the camera -- and plan to buy Child A a consolation milkshake.)
13. One item of significant emotional value must be lost and/or destroyed before exiting the park. The item of choice during our most recent trip was the 2-year-old's sippy cup, which he kicked into the fishing cats' habitat from the viewing platform above them. Both he and the 5-year-old lost their actual minds. So did the fishing cats. Bonus points if you can escape the situation without being tsked by another zoo patron. Super bonus points if you refrain from physical violence if you are tsked.
14. Make sure to run out of all food and drink before loading your children back into the car. Bonus points if the batteries are also dead in their extremely noisy toys. Don't worry; the noise your children will make up for this loss.
15. In the event that your commute home is clear and fast-moving, directly reroute yourself into the heaviest traffic you can locate. If all else fails, only visit the Smithsonian Zoo in D.C. and depart during rush hour when large sections of your return home have been closed for "emergency repaving" without any prior warning. This guarantees you will maximize your bonding time with your children. Be prepared for tears, but do not despair. They will help with the dehydration issue.
16. Whatever else happens, be sure your children DO NOT sleep on the drive home (which, with any luck, will have been extended by an hour due to traffic and construction). Bonus points if you continue to forget to feed yourself in your desperation to get the *&@% home. Think how much weight you're losing!
If you do not follow each of these steps (all of which can be easily personalized to fit any type of outing you plan to take as the sole adult chaperoning your children in a public place), you may never truly be able to appreciate things such as silence and food and the glory of your empty home after the last one has departed for the workforce or college or prison.
|We had only been there 5 minutes. Charlie had already tried to upturn the buggy twice. GOOD TIMES.|
|If you're really lucky and love your children enough, some day they will look at you like this.|
|"OI WITH THE PICTURES ALREADY"|
|The mama lion feels me. I love that she's feeding one cub to the other here. YOU GO, GIRL.|