How we do it is that we imagine the worst possible scenario and plan everything we can to avoid it. If the worst thing is that Lukie will run out into the street, then Lukie gets carried to the car. If the worst thing is that Gracie and Luke will spill their juice all over the living room, then they get water instead or we go outside. If the worst thing is that they will scream and cry and make our meal out a living nightmare, then we go to McDonald's or Panda Express where the food is handed out before we sit down and there is no waiting.
It's all a balancing act. It's a constant assessment and reassessment of our plans and the current landscape. At times, it means we curtail our plans and other times we forge ahead with the full knowledge that we will be reminded in a fantastic way of how stupid we were for that decision.
Case in point: The Los Angeles Zoo
We got our Los Angeles Zoo passes in July. The first time we used them was for Gracie and Luke's birthday on September 5th. Ever since that weekend, I've been itching to take them back. We only saw half of the Zoo for their birthday and they've been asking about the lion repeatedly.
Since Daddy has dialysis on Saturday mornings, I've been hesitant about taking Gracie and Luke to the Zoo by myself. I've asked Nana to go with us (she never called me back), but nothing seems to work out. I've worked through every worst case scenario I can think of prior to today. Here are some of them:
- Lukie and Gracie running in different directions and I don't know who to go after first.
- Lukie or Gracie climbing on a fence and falling into the bear or rhinoceros pit.
- Lukie or Gracie pitching a fit of epic proportions and me having to carry one or both of them out of the Zoo.
- Losing one of them.
- Lukie or Gracie running into an unlabelled door that turns out to be the entrance to the tiger exhibit.
- Leaving quickly because I can't handle this all on my own.
Here are some of the things working against me:
- The Zoo doesn't open until 10 am and we did not arrive until 10:45 am. This is 1 hour and 15 minutes before Gracie and Luke's nap.
- The weather was beautiful and there were triple the number of people there today as compared to their birthday trip to the Zoo.
- I made the fatal error of choosing not to take the stroller in with us.
- Despite their love of looking at trains, neither Gracie or Luke was happy with the tram.
When I saw the tram up ahead, I asked them if they wanted to ride the "Choo-choo." Lukie was so excited that he tried to jump on the wrong side of the tram. Gracie immediately balked. "No choo-choo, Mommy! No choo-choo!" I convinced her that she would be safe on my lap and away we went. In retrospect, we should have ridden the tram all the way around the Zoo to decide what we really wanted to see and then come back around to stop. Instead, Lukie got excited by the sound of the Howler Monkeys and I decided to get us all off.
Lukie and Gracie traipsed happily down the hill and we looked at the rhino, the Howler Monkeys, and the hippo. They were very happy to be free and would hold my hand when I asked them to. We walked to the giraffes, sat down and had some water and a few M&Ms. We talked to the giraffes and Gracie decided the tallest one was the Daddy Giraffe. When it was time to leave the giraffes, it became evident that our lovely trip was about to take a turn for the worse.
Lukie did not want to leave the giraffes and when I picked him up off of the steps he was trying to climb, he insisted that he wanted to be held. Instead, I worked a little Mommy Magic and said, "Who's ready? On your mark, get set, go!" Gracie and Luke took off running and Gracie took a header into the cement walkway. She was fine, but she wanted to be cuddled for a bit, so I carried her. This led to Lukie wanting to be held as well.
I managed to distract them by entering then Red Ape exhibit. There was an enormous orangutan sleeping against the glass. Gracie and Luke were able to walk right up to it and put their fingers "on" him. That occupied us for a few minutes and then Gracie discovered the telescope. She climbed up it by herself and proclaimed, "Mine!"
This did not go over well with Lukie and he immediately started to try to pull her off of the telescope perch. Thus ensued 5 minutes of me trying to distract one twin so that the other could climb and a certain twin taking off down the path while I tried to pry the former off of the telescope perch. I finally caught up with my little angelic girl child and we headed tried to continue our journey to find the lion.
Really. Is it so much to ask to see one lion? Really?
On our way down the hill, Lukie started running again and he took a header into the ground. We wiped off his scrapes, but he wanted to be held and Gracie was no longer willing to hold my hand. This is when things went horribly awry.
As we approached the gorilla exhibit, Lukie was playing wet noodle in an attempt to get me to hold him. Gracie was walking ahead of us. I remember asking them if they wanted to go see the gorillas and as we started to make the right turn into the gorilla maze, my worst fears were realized. Lukie took off in one direction and Gracie took one look at Lukie and me and made a beeline for the gorilla maze. For two seconds, I stood there trying to figure out which one to go after. Both of them are pretty darn cute and easily snatched by some evil doer. But my brain processed that Gracie had entered the gorilla maze and there really wasn't far for her to go. Lukie, on the other hand, had headed toward the side of a building and down a path. I had no idea where he was going and that scared me. So I took off after him.
As I rounded the corner, I realized he was no where in sight. He had completely disappeared. And that is when I noticed that a door was open on the building. As I ran toward it, I realized it was a bathroom. The Men's Bathroom. Lukie was standing right inside the door, the little punk, and after he saw me, he ran completely into the bathroom where I could not see him. Desperate, but not willing to surprise a bunch of men doing their business, I called out to him and then asked if someone could please bring the little boy out. A nice grandpa shooed Lukie out of the bathroom and into my vice-like grip. I thanked him and took off in the direction of where I had seen Gracie last. There she was, pulling herself up on the rail to try to see the gorillas more. I managed to snag her and get us up to the top of the gorilla exhibit.
I'll spare you the details of the next hour. Here's a very short recap:
- Crying, wet-noodling by both twins
- An attempt to buy a snack turns into "Wrestle one kid to stay by my legs while trying to pay while the other takes off and completely leaves my sight"
- Half a tub of popcorn is consumed and a fight begins over the one drink Mommy (stupidly buying one) purchased.
- It takes us 40 minutes to get to the shopping area of the Zoo (a walk which would normally take about 10 minutes)
- Gracie attempts to 1) assume the role of a Zoo employee by running behind the cashier's counter in a store and 2) get me arrested for child abuse when she begins screaming at the top of her lungs and pulling her arm away from me so hard I was afraid it would pull out of the socket.
- 5 blissful minutes are spent watching the seal again until we have to go and Lukie starts the Epic Tantrum of All Tantrums (just picture the absolute worst tantrum ever, add running away from me in a zigzag pattern and attempting to hide from me while running through 5 other families, then almost running into the street and you'll get a great picture in your head)
- I am forced to let them walk in the parking lot because my arms will no longer carry them.
- Lukie tries to run in front of a car.
- Gracie tries to lock me out of the car.
- They are both asleep before we get on the freeway.
If I weren't already exhausted from the day, I'd probably pass out from all of that!
Since my adrenaline is completely spent, I can tell you that after reflecting on the day, our next trip will be after their nap and involve the double stroller. That's right, the stroller with the five point harness. I'm not going to avoid the Zoo. That would be cowardly.
It's just that next time, I'm going to remember what I've learned from the past 2 years: Expect the worst and you can avoid the worst.