The Yes Mom goes to the Little Rock Zoo

May 28th, 2012

Do you give end-of-school-year gifts? Though our classes aren’t officially over for the year until May 30, each of our kids got a special treat this weekend to celebrate the completion of another grade. The thirteen-year-old got some scouting equipment. The eleven-year-old got an iPod Touch as an extra-special elementary school graduation gift. And the eight-year-old got a new Xbox game and a day at the Little Rock Zoo.

The Little Rock Zoo and I go way back, to when I sent Patrick a mixtape from Newfoundland a month or two after we met online in 1995, and he wrote back to say he listened to it on his lunch break, parked outside the zoo. When I came here, a year later, I made him bring me there. I had actually never been to a zoo before.

I had mixed feelings about it then. A few of the exhibits were naturalistic, but many of the animals–the lion, for one–were still in old-fashioned cages — jail cells of iron and cement. The elephant was all by herself in her pen. The monkeys were behind glass or bars. It was pretty depressing.

I didn’t go back until I had a toddler. By that time, things were changing at the zoo. They began moving the big cats into beautiful new habitats. They introduced a petting farm. A companion was found for the lonely elephant. The county Master Gardener program began doing landscape improvements. A fabulous turn-of-the-century carousel was restored to working order. Poetry became part of the exhibit. One magical morning, we arrived early, and came upon the the elephants out on their walk. The boys still talk about it.

Through most of the elementary school years, we’ve had an annual family membership, but we let it lapse as the kids got older, and the competition for our limited recreational budget got more fierce. Saturday was our first visit in a well over a year. There were a few worrisome signs of decline in housekeeping (litter in the streams, the carousel canvas in desperate need of dusting), but there were improvements in other areas, like bountiful shrub growth in the ape habitats. If the apes preferred to stay hidden under it  in the heat of the late afternoon sun, we didn’t mind.

We had a lovely visit, and since it was just me and the Littlest Who, I got to be the Yes Mom for a change.

Yes, you can hold the map and decide everything.

Yes, you can have a quarter to feed the koi.

Yes, you can have another quarter to feed all the koi.

Yes, we can go straight to Penguin Point (No, we are not spelling point with an “e”, no matter what the sign says).

Yes, you can consult the penguins about what to do next.

Yes, you can have a corn dog.

Yes, we can ride the train.

Yes, you can have shaved ice.

Yes, you can ride the carousel…

on the horse you choose…

as long as I can ride the one beside you.

The Yes Mom is a new post category to capture fun things I do with my kids. From time to time, our fun may be sponsored. When it is, I’ll let you know.

7 Responses to “The Yes Mom goes to the Little Rock Zoo”

  1. I LOVE this. The idea of reframing your words into “YES, you can” is so wise. I hate that I say No so often.

    • Teaching limits and compromise is all part of the job, but every now and then, it’s a YES day. And I bet I enjoy it even more than the kids do. 🙂

  2. marilee pittman says:

    Such a beautiful essay. Love the photo, but must tell you we did visit a Zoo in Port Au Spain, it was pretty tragic, which may be why you don’t remember…

    • Wow, you know, I don’t remember. It must have been traumatic. Or exceedingly boring. I remember the botanical gardens, the public green, and the Kapok hotel, but not the zoo at all!

  3. Pat Hammond says:

    Just a beautiful day that he’ll always remember with a smile. Good for you!!

  4. Wilson Diehl says:

    Oh, how apt the concept of the “Yes Mom.” As a mother of a 2-year-old and a one-month-old, I’ve been complaining recently (to my husband–the only adult I’ve seen in, oh, a month) that I feel like a warden-slash-naggy-taskmaster most of the time. I’m demoralized by myself, even on the days I TRY to be a “Yes mom.” Yes, you can lick the beater. Yes, you can lick the spatula. Yes, you can lick the bowl. Yes, you can lick the baby… No, you cannot lick the knife! No!

    (I, too, am wary of zoos. As evidenced by my own zoo-poem .)

    Thanks for sharing. (And P.S.–I *LOVE* your book!)

  5. Jen says:

    I only have one child and she’s 11. I’ve never thought of it in terms of a ‘yes day,’ but I’ve ended days with the feeling that all I’ve done is say no. Her last day of Fifth Grade is Thursday and I am taking off work on Friday already. We don’t do end of the year presents, as such. But she (and us) will have officially reached the end of elementary school, mostly unscathed. I think a Friday yes day will be a gift for both of us.

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