A Trip to the Zoo

There’s nothing like taking your child somewhere that theoretically should be enjoyable. I mean what child doesn’t enjoy looking at animals? My child. Now it’s not that she wouldn’t or didn’t have a nice time. But it wasn’t the conventional time you would expect to have as a parent. it wasn’t the experience I’d hoped for when she was born. But we knew so little about her back then.

We took her and her sister to the zoo for our friend’s little girl’s 3rd birthday. We knew before we booked it that she wouldn’t be interested in any animals and that she’d just want to run. And that was very much the case, but it came with new challenges. 

Poppy doesn’t do well with restrictions. No child really does. But she has no comprehension or understanding. We cannot reason with her or explain why she can’t run off out of sight, or why we need to walk with everyone else and not in the opposite direction. She is quite literally more interested in being the opposite. 

Poppy has no diagnosis, and I’m sure reading this it will sound like she’s autistic. She may be. She does things that are classed as very autistic and some things that are really not. That is something we are trying to figure out. 

But how do you have a trip to the zoo with another family? With great difficulty. Poppy can’t go at her own pace, we have a group of children wanting to move on and see other animals. While poppy is interested in standing on benches. 

It’s taken me some time, and it’s something I’ve still not fully got used to. But there comes a time where I need to let her be her. After a few hours of fighting restriction, I saw a giant sandpit. That girl loves sand. Does she build with it? No. Does she use a spade to dig a hole? No. She simply loves the feel of it running through her hands.

My initial reaction to the sandpit was that it would have been nice for her to play in there but no one else wanted to, so we moved on. After walking past it again, I questioned why I’d decided to not take her to play in the sand. Why should she not have fun just because it’s not other people’s fun? Fun is the whole reason why we went to the zoo.

I called my husband over and told him to move on with our youngest daughter and the rest of the group and I’d watch Poppy while she played. She had earned her time. It was the only time she enjoyed herself truly the whole day. I was not about to get her out for the ease of other people. 

Now do not be under the impression that anyone else was hurrying her along because they weren’t. But she could have spent hours in that sandpit. Other people didn’t need to wait on her for that. And she dug and screamed (with happiness) and I watched in this state of content. I knew that’s where she needed to be, and I wanted her to be there. 

It may sound like a simple thing, but when you’re the parent of “that child” it’s hard to find the balance. It’s hard to know when you’re causing them too much discomfort. Because that’s honestly how it feels. And it’s hard to know when to give them that break. Out of a group of five children, Poppy was the most challenging, I always feel the need to apologise or explain her actions and that is something that I will continue to work on not doing.

What I do know it that Poppy had more patience that day. She sat in her pushchair for a while with minimal complaints which are rare. And I applaud her for that. I thank her. I thank her because I truly don’t know how that feels for her, or how hard she had to try to be content. Or if she even was. She is a mind field for me, at moments throughout the day I’ll be in deep thought about her, wishing I could figure her out for her sake as well as mine.

But I’m trying to celebrate the small achievements instead of being too negative or I am at risk of my faith wandering. That is a risk I’m not willing to take.

Danielle Swan x