I got to take a day off from work this past week to attend one of Leah’s school field trips. I was excited to get to spend some time with her and “be involved”. Being a working parent, I don’t often have the ability to volunteer or be around for many of the day-to-day happenings at school. I am sure that my husband is more recognizable in the hallways of their elementary school than I am, but I do what I can.
So, I was ready. Second graders. The zoo. A sunny, beautiful day, 70 degrees with a cloudless sky. Couldn’t be better. Leah tried to guilt-trip me into taking the bus from the school to the zoo with the kids, but I am no fool. This is not my first rodeo. I didn’t even like riding the bus with a bunch of elementary school kids when I was a kid, so no way I was going to subject my fragile nerves to that kind of chaos. I took a nice peaceful ride in my mom-van with Taylor Swift, and it was lovely, thank you very much.
I was assigned a group of four adorable girls, one of whom was my daughter, and we were told we could go explore the zoo at our leisure, eat lunch whenever we wanted, and be back to get the bus home at 12:45. No problem. We broke from the rest of the group and off we went.
“I WANT TO SEE THE BABOONS!!!!”
“CAN WE GO SEE THE ELEPHANTS???
“ARE THERE ZEBRAS HERE?”
“I’M HUNGRY–WHEN IS LUNCH?”
They all screamed these things at me. Simultaneously. I didn’t even have time to answer. The questions kept coming rapid-fire, over and over, at 90 decibels, 3 inches from my face. It was like those early contractions you get in labor. They are uncomfortable, but you have been bracing yourself for them. You feel like you can handle them. You’ve been preparing for this, even looking forward to it in a twisted way.
“Yes, we can see the baboons, they are all the way at the far side, so we will have to make our way over.”
“Yes, we can see the elephants, they are at the very end after the lions.”
“Sorry, this zoo doesn’t have any zebras.”
“Seriously? You want to eat lunch at 10:30?”
We made our way over to the rhinoceros and watched him at play. Then, the most exciting thing EVER happened. HE WENT PEE.
“DID YOU SEE THAT?? (90 decibels) HE WENT PEE! HE WENT PEE RIGHT OUT OF HIS BUTT!!! I DIDN’T KNOW RHINOS PEE’D FROM THEIR BUTTS!!
“HE DIDN’T PEE FROM HIS BUTT, HE PEE’D FROM HIS WIENER!”
Oh man. The contractions were getting stronger now. I wasn’t expecting it to get like this until at least an hour in. I already want an epidural. Oh look, there go the teachers, strolling along on their own with no kids. How lovely for them.
We went to see some snakes and birds, and by then it was 10:45. We had made it a whole 30 minutes into our field trip, and now everyone was officially whining for lunch. Who eats lunch at 10:45? Don’t these kids eat breakfast? I decided to let go of my control issues and just let them eat lunch at 10:45. What did I care anyhow? Also, I couldn’t listen to them whining about how hungry they were in stereo for one more second. They were quiet for about 15 minutes while they ate, everyone content. Kind of like that dose of IV Nubain your labor nurse gives you to hold you off, because the anesthesiologist is busy doing someone else’s epidural, so you have to wait. It is a welcome reprieve, but it wears off really fast.
We made rounds to all the little pavilions, took silly pictures, and experienced some disappointment about many of the animals being inside napping rather than out in the open where we could see them. Honestly, I think the animals burrowed into their dens because word got out that it was school field trip day. I kind of don’t blame them.
The girls did a pretty good job staying in my sights and sticking together, after our initial “if you can’t see me I can’t see you” talk. No one got lost, and there was only one skinned knee. The sea lions were swimming in the underwater tank, which was a big thrill, but the polar bears were MIA, as usual. We got down to the business of seeing all the things to see. One kid kept declaring how “bored” she was. Repeatedly. Another one was still hungry. The one with the skinned knee was limping. Contractions 3-5 minutes apart now. Painful, but we were getting stuff done.
“Mrs. Wright, will you take our picture with this lion statue?”
Right before the lion exhibit, there is a beautiful statue of a mama lion with her 4 cubs. The mama is stretched out on the ground and her 4 cubs are snuggled up beside her, some in a playful stance with their little paws in the air. The girls all took a seat on and around the statue, and I had a misty moment. I was just like that mama lion, these were my 4 little playful cubs for the day. Just look at them! How cute were they? I focused my camera lens.
“Hey–girls, stop poking the baby lion statue in the crotch! That is rude!” This is the part of the labor where you start throwing up over the side of the bed and you want to scream at your husband for getting you into this situation in the first place. Please God, make it stop. How much longer? HOW MUCH LONGER??
The only way I was going to get to the end of this was to put my head down and push through the pain. We were almost there. Think about the end. Focus on the goal. When I get out of here I can sit in my air-conditioned car and eat my turkey sandwich that I didn’t want to eat at 10:45 am. I can do this. Go see the lions. Go see the elephants. Bribe them with the playground. Sit on playground bench like all the other overstimulated parents for 10 minutes until the bus comes. The end is in sight.
When we got to the entrance, the kids lined up to get on the bus, much more mellow now than when we arrived. I gave Leah a big hug, and she threw her arms around me. “I’m so glad you came! It was so fun!”
“It was very fun”, I said back.
This time next year, I know I will sign up for another field trip. Because even though it is so painful, it is one of those things in life you just don’t want to miss out on. Sort of like childbirth.