Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Animal Harm

My kids hate animals.

Not hate in that they wish kitties ill will. They just want nothing to do with creatures that are not capable of playing Barbies or Xbox.

I blame myself. I remember reading a picture book to my son when he was an infant and unduly stressing because I was not able to identify what sound most farm animals made. I don't think I ever felt the pressure I did when confronted with an illustration of a zebra. I know technically zebras are not farm animals, unless one is farming in the nether regions of Africa, but surely zebras expel some sort of utterance. My child seemed to have a talent for mimicking the baas and neighs I burped out for sheep and horses, so if I were to botch the zebra (always a kid favorite: It's black! It's white! It has stripes!) my child would surely be mocked for life when this deficiency were to be revealed at a preschool trip to the zoo.

Speaking of which, when he was two, I did indeed go on a playdate with a more animal-aware mother-son duo. Biggest mistake of my life. As I huffed and puffed pushing a stroller through the winding (but, thankfully, concrete) trails of the LA Zoo, my allergies activated by all that damned nature, my mom counterpart eagerly informed me that she and her wunderkind toddler were excited to find the Godforsaken Lemurs. Now, the descriptor of Godforsaken was not hers. She had taught her little bundle of brilliance the Latin name of a very particular breed of lemur, and they were in search of just this species. Thankfully, I was vaguely aware of what a lemur was from an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa uses flashcards to quiz baby Maggie on different species of animals. This was in the days before Dora's jungle do-gooder cousin Diego exposed a wider audience of children to the Ring-Tailed Lemur.  

Neither my son nor child #2 ever had the slightest interest in the inevitable petting zoos and--living in a fairly posh area of Los Angeles--ponies that seemed to appear at every civic event. Nothing makes a semi-urban community gathering more memorable than a subsequent bout of e coli or taxoplasmosis. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I was once bitten by either a goat or mini zebra at a 4H event in the 1970s. So dragging my children into a chain-link fenced area to mingle with animals (are lambs and sheep the same thing? How about goats?) is doubly stressful for me and, I might add, not at all cathartic. And I have to say those damned creatures never make any sound that anywhere near resembles the noises I grunted while sharing a farm animal tome with my kid. Get it? Isn't a "kid" also a baby animal of some kind? 

Recently my daughter's school had a field trip to some kind of wild animal farm up an unpopular freeway in the sticks of Los Angeles County. In a remote town that also houses a Juvenile Detention Hall.  I'll give you all a moment to pause to let the irony soak in. Anyway, neither my husband nor I checked the website in advance, so we could not get a consensus on whether the animals she would be seeing were more the "farm" or "safari" or even the "house pet" variety. So our attempts to excite her prior to the trip ran the gamut from conjuring up images of puppies to elephants. I think between the two of us, our knowledge of animals is limited to puppies and elephants. 

On the day of the field trip itself, my daughter was not a happy camper because she knows that field trips mean her mommy has to pack her a sack lunch that will undoubtedly include some form of crushed granola bar and juice box with no straw. There is no humiliation greater for a young child than a mother who does a bad sack lunch. My poor child's sub-par upbringing is exposed to all as other children gleefully open their PBA-free tupperware containers containing brown rice and bok choy, while my girl chomps on Pirate Booty as her main course. And things did not improve as I whisked her into the classroom (mommy had a meeting to get to) and gave her a quick goodbye, punctuated with a "Say hello to the zebras!" 

At the end of the day, as I wracked my brain to remember what field trip she had been on, I picked her up at her school and asked her how her day was. She seemed perky and was coloring a picture of a dolphin. Oh yeah, animals! Were there dolphins at the animal farm? I probably should have done a quick Google search at work to be more prepared for the end-of-the-day small talk on the way home. Luckily, we only live two minutes away. "What a lovely pink dolphin," I exclaimed in my best let's-get-this-show-on-the-road voice of efficiency. "What was your favorite part of the farm?" My daughter, ever the Mini Me, looked at me with a face that was in the process of changing from contentment to something else: "The bus ride."    


  1. Oh, GREAT post! You're a good writer. Very funny! ANd what the heck is wrong with Pirate Booty?? I feed my boys that stuff all the time. I thought it was supposed to be healthy!

  2. Hi, Sandra! The only downside to feeding my child Pirate Booty for three meals a day :) is that she recently learned the other meaning of booty, so now she has added incentive to ask for these cheesy styrofoam snacks. Kids, they grow up so fast..... Thanks for reading :). Best, Karen .

  3. Don't worry, we'll probably find out that PBA is necessary for a balanced diet, and all those other moms will feel guilty. Won't that make you feel better?

  4. Hi, Doug: Yes, it will. :) Thanks for reading. Take care! Karen