The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


July 10, 2014

Adventures in raising a toddler ….

Independence Day.  The holiday we’ve come to associate with cookouts, boating and fireworks takes on a whole new meaning when you have kids.

Those carefree days of sipping your favorite beverage on a pool float are gone. Instead, you’ll be cleaning up spilled watermelon while keeping curious little paws out of the fireworks bag.

On this particularly cool July 4, we took our 2-year-old, Dylan, to Zoo Atlanta. With a crowd of mostly foreign tourists, we celebrated America’s independence by feeding overpriced lettuce to giraffes and looking at a bunch of empty habitats where exotic animals were supposed to be.

This wasn’t Dylan’s first trip to Zoo Atlanta. He is all too familiar with how this works. Act like an angel while we visit the things he likes — cry, crawl and scream during everything else.

After trying to see every animal on Noah’s ark last time out, we had a plan this time. No more hoisting him above a crowd of sweaty people in the hopes of getting a glimpse of that sleeping lion.

No, not this time. We would visit the things he liked, spending just enough time not to lose his interest, before bolting to the next kid-friendly area.

This is an important lesson for those soon-to-be first-time parents: Whatever plans you think you had can be ripped to shreds in an instant. Because no matter how good they sound, your children have a way of influencing you to change those plans.

Walking in the zoo, we make a beeline for the playground — conveniently located next to the snack bars and souvenir shops — when we here, “MINGOS!”

Flamingos. I didn’t know there were flamingos as you enter the zoo, but my 2-year-old did. Remarkably, he remembered after visiting the zoo a few months earlier and was determined to get his hands on one.

I was happy to see him enjoying the flamingo exhibit as I remembered he wasn’t the least bit interested last time around. After a quick peek, his cousins are ready to move to what is next — not Dylan.

He is dug in, sitting in a crowd of Braves-clad tourists, determined not to leave those flamingos until he is good and ready. We pretend to walk off, keeping a close eye on our stubborn toddler, who has made his strategy crystal clear.

He doesn’t budge — only looks at us with those big eyes and pouting lower lip — knowing we have no intention of leaving him.

We went through this the day before in downtown Atlanta. Dylan refused to walk and when we would not carry him, he sat down outside the CNN Center, content to watch the world around him.

I’m convinced he would have sat there for hours if we had not picked him up. This time, we call his bluff and carry him to a nearby playground in the zoo.

I watch as Dylan’s face lights up. All thoughts of flamingos or anything else go out the window as he seesaws with his cousins before heading to the splash pad.

A fun afternoon ends with a sleepy-eyed Dylan looking up at the stars, watching the “fairyworks.”

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