My son is in a stuffed animal phase. He carries them around the house as he completes his daily activities: knocking the books off shelves and splashing in the dogs’ water bowl. He hoards them in bed at night, sings to them and gives them sweet kisses.

So, you can forgive my husband and I when we envisioned the parenting coup we would achieve in transporting him into the presence of the real-life versions of his furry friends. We quickly made plans for our first family trip to the zoo.

I had taken him once when he was an infant, during the blissful days of early parenthood, when all I had to do was alternate between bottles and pacifiers to keep the peace. That trip went so well, and we couldn’t wait for the toddler version of our son to make his zoo debut.

The big day arrived on his second birthday. It was a typical Texas summer day—sweaty and sunny—which meant that 30 minutes into our trip, my melatonin-challenged child looked one shade away from a tomato. But we had hats for that, and extra water, except he wailed every time he even laid eyes on the hat. And when his lips touched the lukewarm water? Howls of lamentation.

He cried when we got too close to the birds. He cried when we got too close to the elephants. He cried when a giraffe sneezed while we were taking a family picture. (Seriously, kid? I get your snot on me every day and you don’t see me shedding any tears.)

There’s nothing like a public outing—where you are surrounded by hundreds of normal, happy families with normal, happy children—to test your fortitude as a parent.  af


Carrie Taylor is a native Texan and mother of one.

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