Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Be the Giraffe; Not the Ostrich

The day before school started, I took my kids to the zoo. At 12 & 14 they’re maybe a bit old for a trip to the zoo, but it’s tradition and they still enjoy it.

Side note: there was a lot—and I mean a lot—of complaining about how hot it was and how walky it was—yes, mostly from me—but overall, it was a win.

I need to remember that although big kids are fairly self-sufficient but it’s still a good idea to bring a bag with snacks and water in it when you plan to spend the day outside. In Oklahoma. In August.

So, on our zoo outing, we remembered all the things we used to do when they were littler—spend hours at the children's area in the petting zoo, play on the playground, ride the little train. But with big kids, we tackle it differently. Get lunch and plan our route according to the animals we want to see that day.

So, we went to visit the Galapagos tortoises and learned about a volunteer program for teens to work with animals. We chatted with the zookeepers and learned all about the tortoises and the 3-year-old baby tortoises in the Herpetarium (aka, the building with all the snakes). This picture was snapped right before an awkward overture from the male turtle (on the right) to the female.

We made up stories for the flamingos and their strange interactions (Which I’m guessing everybody does because they are just so dramatic. I usually give them the personalities of Robin Williams & Nathan Lane from The Birdcage). We found a flamingo feather outside of the fence of their enclosure and almost lost a toe when the bird tried to snatch it back (drama!).

We hung out with the meerkats while I told the kids about the show Meerkat Manor, which they never wanted to watch when they were little (note to self: check Netflix). What's not to love about a meerkat? But, I mean, it's hard to tell who was watching whom.

But, the highlight of our day at the zoo was by far the side trip we made to see the giraffes (sorry, other animals), which we refer to as bah-giant bah-gaffes because that's how the littler one said it when she was a toddler. Due to renovations at the zoo, they’re kind of tucked back in the corner where you can overlook them easily (sorry, giraffes!). After a few minutes of watching the giraffes and the ostrich in the enclosure stand around like they do, the ostrich started to chase the juvenile giraffe, who proceeded to gallop/harrumph/lope/awkwardly gambol around the enclosure for a good 20 minutes.

It was amazing. So much awesome and awkward wrapped up in one. AND I don’t think the giraffe was scared, I think it was a game. I think the ostrich was like a parent at the end of summer break—over it!—and the juvenile giraffe was just working his last nerve… feather… whatever. You know what I mean.

The point is, we got to watch this glorious beast is his majestic, awkward glory.

Now the kids have been in school for about a week, and they’ve forgotten that during the summer they thought I was cool and I’m back to being the mom who doesn’t know all the things. I hear batches of new facts every day—things they learned in school, on the bus, at lunch, wherever.

“Mom, did you know that ostriches don’t really bury their heads in the sand when they’re scared?” The littler one said to me.

“Can I have a snack?” The bigger one said.

“Yes,” I replied to both.

The littler one continued, “they put their heads in the sand to check their nest when there’s a threat, but they don’t really hide.”

And then we got distracted with all the things… snacks and work and school and dinner and sleep and the dog and that sort of thing. But I couldn’t get what she said out of my head. And I couldn’t get the giraffe from the zoo out of my head, either.

Because I’ve been feeling… less than. Hiding my head in the sand because I’ve been overwhelmed by all the things (those stated above and so many more left unstated). Then I’ll peek into social media and see everybody’s perfect and it makes my happy seem less so. And it makes me want to hide my head in the sand some more.

And while it's easy for me to turn ostrich and hide my head, I prefer to run like that giraffe. Awkward as hell but with every bit of myself engaged in the doing and the being. But, when you get out of practice being the giraffe, it an seem easier to just be the damn ostrich.

Years ago, when the littler one was still the little one, we had a long talk about being happy. I told her, happiness is a choice; every morning when she wakes up, she gets to choose. Does she want to be happy or not? Does she want to be grumpy or not? Ostrich or Giraffe? Every little moment, every interaction, there’s a choice there. Choose happy. Aggressively. Until you don’t have to choose it anymore and it just is.

Of course, it’s not always that simple. But sometimes it is.

So I’m not going to bury my head; I’m going to engage myself 100% in being my awkward self.

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