We Don’t Go To the Zoo Anymore

I don’t know when it happened. It wasn’t like we said we’re not going to the zoo anymore. Or that we declared a moratorium on trips to the Children’s Museum or Conner Prairie or Holliday Park. It just stopped. Family field trips were soon replaced by soccer practices, baseball games and guitar lessons. I barely even noticed. Until I heard one of my friends planning a trip to the zoo with her small children. My heart cracked a little when I realized that we don’t frequent the zoo any longer.

Somewhere along the way, my boys grew up. Well, not all the way up. They’re still fairly young. My youngest only recently hit double digits. But when I heard my friend planning her zoo outing, I realized we had stopped doing the “little kid stuff.” It really wasn’t that long ago when we were taking advantage of all our city has to offer families. So, how then, did I find myself being that mom that talks in sentences that start with, “I remember when…” or “When my boys were little…”? When on earth did I become that woman who rushes to the young moms at the office who bring their babies into work for a visit so I can get a few minutes of coveted cuddle time with a newborn?

I should have recognized this shift when I no longer had to stay up half the night on Christmas Eve assembling toy train sets, race tracks or space ships. I should have seen it coming when my boys set up itunes accounts and wanted gift certificates to Best Buy, Dick’s and Guitar Center. But I really didn’t see it coming. One day it was just over. And so here I am in reminiscent mode. In this place called nostalgia.

Even with the longing for what was, I still relish what is now. It’s so easy to get caught up in these recent memories  that we forget to make new memories. We forget that we have the ability to create experiences that mean something, that impact our families, that draw us together.

We had our time at the zoo. We were awed by the lion’s roar, the elephant’s size and the lemur’s antics. Today I am awed by my sons’ abilities to play the guitar, build amazing structures, compete in competitive sports leagues and read entire books in one day.

We had our time at the park. We laughed as we chased each other on the jungle gyms and down the slides. We discovered treasures on hikes to the creeks and through the woods. Today we laugh as we play capture the flag at the neighborhood park, and I fall flat on my face while chasing one of my children (see last post). Now we travel out west and find long-lost mining towns and unearth amethysts in nearby rivers. Or we visit grandparents in Florida and giggle as we jump through waves and play paddleball on the beach.

A photo from yesteryear’s trip to a state park

We had our time at the Children’s Museum. We opened our minds as we tried experiments in Science Works or traveled to far away places in the Egyptian exhibit or excavated for dinosaur bones in Dinosphere. Today we open our minds as we ride bikes in our urban neighborhood and meet people we probably wouldn’t encounter if we still lived in the suburbs. We discover new art every First Friday when we frequent the Harrison Center for the Arts, and then we stretch ourselves as we try new food at one of favorite ethnic restaurants.

Thankfully, every December we still visit the Children’s Museum for an annual breakfast with Santa, as it’s been an extended family tradition for 15 years… and quite frankly we’re all still kids.  I’m sure we will go to the zoo again one day, too. But the regular visits have subsided. And that’s okay; but, I won’t lie. I miss holding my boys close as I lifted them up to see the sea lions diving off of rocks, into the water. I miss seeing their faces light up as they stand at the glass watching the toy train at the museum. I miss the simple days of running through the sprinkler and wrapping them in warm towels as their little lips quiver from the air conditioning when they come inside.

I miss a lot of things. Just as I will miss all of this one day. That’s why I must stay awake to each moment because this is all we have anyway. Right now. Right here. In this place. So right now, right here, I am going to create new memories in the form of milkshakes for all of us. May you cherish your memories and find ways to create new ones, too. Cheers.

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