On How “Challenging” Doesn’t Even Begin To Cover It

(aka Monday is still Monday and even slapping a public holiday on it won’t stop her from being a bitch.)

Being a parent. Having a family. Family Day. Time together. Quality time. Yeah, Family Day –  isn’t that what day we celebrated today with that public holiday? Oh, the pseudo-irony.

What do families choose to do, in this part of the world? Well, it seemed like every single family within a 100km radius decided to go to the Pretoria Zoo. Why? Because (and I have no doubt about this, because it’s my own personal experience) they undoubtedly began the day with visions of picnics on blankets and laughing children and sheer delight at being able to view the wondrous creatures that Mother Nature is capable of producing.

Lizard on a stick. Tasty.

Either that, or they went there on the off-chance that one of the crocs was hungry and might be persuaded to snack on a whining, never-satisfied three-year-old. And if not that – then it can only be because they sell liquor at the Zoo.

Anyway. Visions of an enthralled Kid, a relaxed Boyfriend and any carefree strolling/wandering around aimlessly looking at whatever caught our fancy lasted about 15 minutes into the 45 minute car journey. There was an argument, and it may or may not have been related to directions and/or the GPS.

Relaxation took a leap out the back window when we (read: he) couldn’t find the entrance to the parking and we circled the block about 9.4 times. Discovered all parking lots were full. Got directed to a sort of a drive-through entrance, only to discover that there were no ATMs in the Zoo. Whatsoever. Apparently. So we had to then back out of a queue that was about 20 cars deep behind us, at this stage. Try to find an ATM. More block-circling. Fucking one-way streets. WHAT’S THE GEE-DAMN POINT? Locate ATM. Get harassed by cops for stopping IN THE WRONG DIRECTION on the street. Because that’s a serious crime, right?

Get to Zoo. Kid is whining. Pay entrance fee. Go to penguin enclosure. Smelly. Penguins are cute, so it’s worth holding your nose for those. Kid is whining about the smell. Get to tunnel where they have the snakes and shuffle behind a queue of people all cramming around glass enclosures exclaiming over the snakes and merrily snapping pictures on their cell phones.

Penguins. Much like babies – smelly, but like fish.

Kid is whining about being thirsty. Kid is whining about his legs being sore. Kid falls in a hole. Kid cries. Kid wants to go on Ferris wheel (small one) but doesn’t want to go on the train. Doesn’t want to eat lunch. In fact, this picture pretty much sums up his entire experience of the whole day.

So not interested.

And I could see that we weren’t the only parents exasperated with their children. The more children the parents were towing behind them, the greater the look of harassment on their faces. Tantrums, toddlers wheedling to be carried, nagging for money for a balloon or getting told off (somewhat half-heartedly) for leaning over too far into the crocodile enclosure – all around us parents were enduring the same set of challenges.

“The fish are making me boring, mom.”

All of this making me wonder – why do we put ourselves through this – arranging (what we hope will be) fun family outings, when The Kid would probably have been happier at the playplace at the McDonalds down the road and mommy and daddy could sit in peace and have a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

So why do we, as parents, put ourselves through this torture?

It’s because of this: for 5/10 minutes out of the entire experience – you do get that moment that you envisioned. That picture-perfect moment. That peaceful moment.

And you realise that despite the frustration and the not-seeming-to-get-any-of-it-right you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else. That despite parenting being on the wtf-side of challenging – there are not enough tantrums in the world to ever make you love that little terrorist any less.

And also the “LOOK MOMMY & DADDY. WOWEEEEEE. A SHARK!!!!” moment kinda helped too.

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14 Responses to On How “Challenging” Doesn’t Even Begin To Cover It

  1. LOL sounds familiar… and here I am planning a trip to the zoo tomorrow!
    Jeanette Verster´s last blog post ..Cousins are friends too!!

  2. Tania says:

    Loved this, so very true!
    I’m considering investing in a hip flask filled with emergency vodka. Shall I see if we can buy in bulk?

  3. Gina says:

    OMG! you just described my day minus the zoo!!!
    Its worth it though when Aaron turned around and told me he loves me the mostest and Im his bestest best friend 🙂
    Gina´s last blog post ..Holiday Say it with me!

  4. blackhuff says:

    I got the precise same experience out of our family day on Friday at the Monte Casino Bird Gardens and yes, it sucks because we as parents go out of our way to make it an awesome day for our little ones and then to just get reactions like these. That suck!
    But you do have a point though. Just that one moment, where the kids find something awesome or a perfect moment, that is what we are searching for and why we do what we do.
    blackhuff´s last blog post ..Remembering how it felt to be overweight

  5. Sometimes, I think we have too much expectation with ‘a day out’ and forget that the little one is 3 or 4 and their idea of fun is a whole lot different to ours… but for those brief moments, it is def worth it:-)

  6. TC says:

    I love the boring fish photo!

  7. Marcel says:

    Substitute “the aquarium” for us Capetonian parents & you’ve written the experience we had yesterday with our two-year-old daughter. What fun!!!!

    (I tried ordering tequilas at the coffee shop near the kiddy play-area, and the attendant kinda laughed)

  8. Angel says:

    We do live for those moments, don’t we…
    Angel´s last blog post ..Who Do You Tell About Your Child’s ADHD

  9. natashia says:

    Wow, that was pretty much our day exactly, except in Cape Town, where the weather was crap, we, and about 10 000 other parents, decided to take our little ‘darling’ to the aquarium.

  10. Rookie error, lady. You’ve got to get to Pretoria Zoo AS IT OPENS, hire a golf cart (never, EVER walk – it’s HUGE), zoot around, leave by lunchtime and be playing in McDonalds (while Mommy and Daddy have a smoke and a coffee) by the time the afternoon hoards arrive.

    I have learnt not to go anywhere with Jackson unless I’m there when it opens. And then it’s miles of smiles all day…
    The Jackson Files´s last blog post ..Three cheers- high five- a million gold stars and an accident

  11. SheBee says:

    Ah I LOVED this post. “Fish make me boring, mommy” yeah, me too, Troy. Me too.

    Love you slorebag xoxo
    SheBee´s last blog post ..My other half has left me…

  12. Pingback: An outing to the Johannesburg Zoo | Johannesburg Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer | Jeanette Verster

  13. Megan says:

    The PTA Zoo isn’t nearly as much fun as the JHB zoo. And it isn’t as steep either, so no getting tired!

  14. Chantelle says:

    We (parents) have ALL experienced outings like this. Often. There should be a 5 year age limit for kiddies going to the zoo. You are 100% right. We visualise the picture perfect outcome all to often. Not limited to the zoo or going somewhere as a couple or as a family.
    Un-planned, spur-of-the-moment (no time to envision a happy time) outings are the way I like to operate.
    We looked forward to the U2 concert in 2010 and I now refer to it as one of my worst outings. Ever.

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