Jonas climbed into an exhibit at the zoo last week. No kidding. I was giving Cora grapes and Jody was re-positioning Charlie’s wheelchair so that he would be out of the sun and could see the giraffes better. Here’s the best part. We did not even notice. I look up from the yellow plastic bowl I was handing Cora when a woman approaches me saying, “Excuse me, ma’am, is that your son?” The worst words a mom can hear because it never precedes “he’s helping that little boy with his ice cream” or “he’s such a gentleman.” It usually involves injury, dirt, and/or disrespect.
Both Jody and I looked over to see Jonas on the wrong side of the fence facing a ditch that surrounded the exhibit. He had found the one spot where the ground dipped low enough for him to scrabble under. My heart dropped somewhere near my knees. We dragged him back over the fence while he stared at us and the crowd like, “What, ma? What’d I do?” I know giraffes are gentle creatures but we’ve all seen the footage of the child being dragged by the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. Everybody always looks around for the mother. How could she let this happen?
On that same zoo outing Cora managed to almost fall down a gully with rocks at the bottom because she thought it was funny to slowly back up while I grabbed at air in her vicinity with one hand and steered Charlie’s wheelchair with another. We had an audience for that one too because she screamed like the world was on fire as I finally grabbed her when she tottered, arms flailing cartoon-style on the brink. And then both the twins ran away from Jody in the parking area while he was unlocking the van and I had Charlie in the bathroom.
Sometimes I feel like animals in an exhibit when we go anywhere. Toddler twins are always good entertainment. Add a wheelchair to that and we are the carnival come to town. I’ve grown used to it and can laugh now with the best of them. But on the long ride home from the zoo while everyone cried for a “special treat” (I’ve got to stop bribing them with fruit snacks), I thought about the fact that everyone has eyes on us but us. How am I ever going to make sure they are all safe and happy when I can’t even keep them on the right side of the animal exhibits? There’s not enough of me or Jody. They don’t get enough individual attention. It’s a fact. I can’t speak to Jonas without Charlie grabbing at me for hugs or throwing something on the floor to swing my radar in his direction. I can’t discipline Cora without inciting Jonas to do the same. I have yet to go on an outing with one of the twins alone.
It’s a puzzle I’m going to have to pray through to work out. It’s going to take mad planning skills and lots of caffeine or simply time until the twins turn rational. I do not expect to have this figured out tomorrow or the next. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on the immediate: don’t let go of hands in the parking lot, don’t breach the perimeters of the zoo or our home without my consent, and for the love of all that is good, don’t SCREAM IN MOMMY’S EAR.
Thanks again Amanda for letting me Think Out Loud.