After a deluge of back and forth, excuses, postponements and just plain bad weather, we finally made that trip to the zoo. I was, as usual, the initiator of this very rare and totally necessary family outing, which was completely for my niece Joya’s benefit – I wouldn’t have cared otherwise – the zoo being one of the last places I’d think of hanging out on a glorious Saturday morning I can spend cooped up indoors.
It was fun. Even though we’d been here countless times before, we all shared in a renewed sense of enthusiasm because this was Joya’s first visit. I couldn’t wait to show her all those animals she’d only known through the pages of a book or on TV. Her reaction? Disinterested and whiney, only showing some enthusiasm at the big open area where they housed the elephants, at the monkey section, and at all our ice cream stops. The heat, and the fact that most of the animals were looking equally parched and sorry themselves probably contributed to her disinterest. But it was fun, because everyone was relaxed and we were all together; commenting at every stop, trying to get the best angle for photographs (all our batteries ran out towards the middle), helping out sun-stroked alligators and stuffing our faces with ice cream and bottled milk (yes milk).
And at some point during the day – probably when gazing at the gently bobbing head of the African elephant with Joya on my lap or while watching geese waddle down into the water with her dribbling ice cream all over me – I sort of started thinking, that when it comes to children, we make a lot of exceptions, no matter how infuriating they may sometimes get or no matter how unloveable they may sometimes be. Because maybe we understand that as children, they cannot help being who they are, and we love them anyway, regardless. A five year old can say hurtful things, but he’s still forgiven. Maybe because he doesn’t know better? And maybe because we know that no matter what they say or do, it does not mean that they are not loving us back with all they have. And yet here we are expecting things of people. I know I do. It is known now, that though we strive for perfection in everything, our flaws are what makes us human. And who’s to judge that when the people close to you say they love you, they are not doing it in their entirety?