Monday, April 5, 2010

PSA: It's Not About Me

Shortly after Ben's first birthday I decided to take him on his first "real" trip to the zoo. Or, in other words, one where he was actually awake. My plan was to enter at the South Entrance. We'd start with the bears and work our way around clockwise. Penguins, apes, bird house, gazelles (why do we have so many of these at the St. Louis Zoo), lions, monkeys and rhinos. Topped off by a hands-on experience at the Children's Zoo. And then an overpriced ice cream cone to reward his hard work.

Surely this kind of trip would seal the deal on his admission to an Ivy.

It all changed the moment we entered. Down came the crossing gate making way for the train blowing it's plan-busting whistle.

Instead of spending the next two hours pointing out mammals and marsupials, we were riding the Zoo train. Round and round. When I finally convinced him to unload in Big Cat Country (without a complete meltdown) he was more interested in the penny smasher than the sunbathing lions. You know. That machine where you drop in a quarter to get a mis-shaped penny ... which isn't really even a penny.

But four years and one more child later I know the day was not loss.

Parenting got a lot easier (not to mention a lot more enjoyable) when I loosened up on the reigns a bit. And resolved that my kids' lack of interest or enthusiasm for my carefully charted itineraries (like the "Zoo odyssey") did not make me a failure as a parent. That I could just roll with it. Continue to give them opportunities to explore the world, knowing that sometimes cranking quarters into a carnival counterfeiter would be (to them) more exciting than Big (and Comatose) Cat Country.

And that's okay.

The same thing happened last week. My best laid plans were put to rest by a house full of sick kids. And a sick mom. Shabbat dinner was in jeopardy. I half considered going forward with the dinner determined not to break my streak. Potentially sending six innocent dinner guests home with their own front row seats to the vomit-palooza we had been experiencing.

But I didn't. Because right now, it's not about me. My plans. My streaks. It's about them.

And us.

And you.

To Nancy, Bill, Kaitlin, Mike, Julie and Elizabeth ... we will reschedule. May you all have a healthy, vomit-free week. Look for a post in a few days about what I would have written had you come.

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