One of the drawbacks of my job is the weird work schedule. I love what I do and the time I get to spend with the kids that come through my program is extremely valuable. But evening and weekend hours are tough; they should almost count double because to be at work not only means you're, you know, having to work but also means you're probably missing out on something. I miss the stuff my friends schedule, the opportunities for the occasional weekend getaway, weddings (okay, I wouldn't say I miss those), and other life events but most importantly, I miss a lot of quality time with my kiddo. Moments in which both Lindsey and I are home with the boy are, at times, in short supply and those valuable weekends slip away so quickly when half of them involve me working all day. That weighs on me at times. My parents, and especially my dad, were always great about making weekends and holidays count with my siblings and me. Breakfasts, random excursions, etc. were a regular part of my childhood and even in my teen years when I pitched a fit about not being able to hang out with my friends in the name of familial unity, these small adventures continued. Often times, I think these events started with the simple concept of, "Let's go do something." The funny thing is, I can scarcely remember the details of just about any of these weekend events but I remember the sentiment and the impact they had on me. And these memories impressed upon me the importance of creating similar moments with my own kiddo and to make the most of whatever time we do get together on those random Saturday mornings when I'm not working and can embark upon a small adventure.
So last Saturday, Lindsey and I had plans for pretty much the entire day. They fell through, however, and our babysitter called in sick and thus, it was 9 o'clock in the morning and our plates were empty. Now I'll be honest, if this had happened in, say, October when I could've sat around the house all day watching college football, I'm not so sure I wouldn't have seized that opportunity. But since college football is over for me (rest in peace, ghost of Texas Tech football 2014), a new plan was required. My phone informed me that the weather was incredible, Cooper was in a fantastic mood having just come off of another ridiculous little illness that he so loves to bring home like a mangy alley cat, and it was clear we needed to get out of the house. I turned to Lindsey and suggested we throw on clothes and hats, get donuts, and head to the zoo. Lindsey agreed with my suggestion wholeheartedly and 20 minutes later our little polar bear was shoveling sugar into his mouth like a champ.
(Small aside: If I was granted the ability to suddenly make any food good for me and therefore consumable on a daily if not hourly basis, the first choice would be pizza, the second choice would be fries, and the third choice would be donuts. Apparently there are people out there who don't understand the simple brilliance of a donut and I believe we should probably put those people on a government watch list and revoke their rights to vote.)
After ingesting all of the world's sugar, we headed to the Fort Worth Zoo. We've hit up the zoo a couple of times over the course of Cooper's life but this was the first time that he was fully aware of what was happening. We headed down to the Texas section of the zoo (my favorite part and the part that usually gets skipped over due to a tired child who's had enough of crowds and animals and being alive, etc.) and he ran the whole way. Well, he did his version of running which involves him pumping his little arms like he's setting the pace in an Olympic race but actually moving only a fraction of a second faster. And every so often he stopped to point out whatever caught his attention, like a tree or an empty cup but never, ever an actual animal. Apparently we were the only ones who got the memo about the amazing weather because there were places in the zoo where we were literally the only people and thus, Cooper had free reign to play with all of the exhibits and say, "Hi bear" over and over again to pretty much every animal we saw. He likes bears and can you blame him? Bears are awesome.
Of course, in true Cooper fashion, the most excited he got during the entire trip was when he discovered a set of stairs that he could go up and down without any interference. He had a blast for as long as we would let him then grew irritable when I had the gall to sweep him away to pet a goat or get up close to a duck. Dads are the worst, I think we can all agree.
Our last stop of the day was the MOLA exhibit (for the uninitiated, that's the snake house but like, the coolest, least creepy snake house ever). Here he had the time of his life until he climbed up on to a step, fell backward and had to be swung to safety by his still-gimpy dad. That's when our amenable, fun loving kiddo suddenly realized he was tired and hungry and angry that his dad had embarrassed him by not letting him fall on his head and with that, our day at the zoo was done. I tried to get a picture with my smiley, happy son outside the exhibit but as you can see, those sunshiny days were over and the child literally wailed the entire way out of the park.
We made it home in time for Cooper to crash and take a three hour nap, giving his parents time to revel in the success of family outing. We spent a little money and we gave up a lot of energy but much more importantly, we turned a rare free morning into a little memory that our son will probably forget but that will hopefully serve to lay the groundwork for the activities and events that are to come for us. And maybe in 30 years he'll be able to look back on his childhood and recognize the value of those random Saturday mornings when his dad didn't go to work or watch football all morning and instead said, "Let's go do something."
Why haven't we domesticated bears yet? Brian