We went to the zoo today. My family loves the sea lion exhibit! In addition to lots of above-ground opportunities to see them swim, there is a great underwater viewing area complete with floor-to-ceiling windows where we can get an up-close view of the animals.
Last time we visited, my one-year-old son fell asleep in our double stroller, so we used the lift to get down to the viewing area. He slept soundly through our sea-lion spotting and when it was time to go back upstairs, the lift stopped working. I waited for someone to come by who could assist me, but on rainy days in late fall, the zoo is empty. Finally, I sent my daughter up the stairs and followed her with my now-awake son in one arm, my giant stroller thunk-thunk-thunking against the stairs as I lugged it behind us.
(And yes, it seems like these things do happen more to me than the average person.)
Today, because my son was awake (and also because I’m no dummy), we left the stroller at the top of the stairs and walked down. The kids ran to the window and stared out, palms pressed against the glass, their bodies silhouetted against the blue tank. I sat on a bench a few feet from the window, and we waited. My daughter wandered over to look at a sign, and my son turned around to watch her with his back to the glass.
Suddenly, one of the sea lions swam into view at the top of the window. When we pointed and shouted, my son looked up and the color drained from his face. He ran to me and stood in between my legs, hands on my knees. I put my arm around him and rested my chin on the top of his head, his heart thumping wildly beneath my palm. We watched the sea lion circle at the far end of the windows and glide past us again, its mottled, thick body cutting gracefully through the water. When it was out of view, we were silent for a moment. Then my son brought the fingertips of his two hands together in his favorite baby sign and said, “Mo’.”
We stood like that for at least five more minutes – an eternity in the world of a one-year-old – watching the sea lions repeat their lazy loop, cutting in and out of our windowed view. I led him to the glass, and he stood entranced as they passed by, inches from his face.
Sometimes, I feel discouraged and powerless as a parent. It is easy to feel like I’m getting nowhere, whether it’s the endless potty training or the millionth time that I’ve had to ask “Who had it first?” But then moments like this happen. My kisses cure booboos when my kids tumble. My lap is a haven when things get scary. And my hand gets to feel the pulse of a boy who is just beginning to discover how vast and beautiful and amazing this world is.
And like him, all I can say is, “More.”