Return of the Petting Zoo
September 09, 2013
We attended a birthday party yesterday.
The invitation said the party would include a petting zoo. I saw that and had a moment of hesitation, then thought, nah, what are the odds?
Three and a half years later, that fucking petting zoo incident still burns a quiet, burny burn in my chest. I don't like thinking about it. I can't even bring myself to re-read the entry about it. Hell, just typing "petting zoo" into the search bar over there gave me a weird, shaky feeling.
Sort of like the feeling I got yesterday, seeing that very same petting zoo handler pull into the driveway.
I wanted to leave. No, I wanted to flee. I heard some ducks frantically flapping their wings from inside their carrier and felt exactly the same way.
"Should we go? I want go. How do we just...go?" I whispered frantically to Jason, who of course was like, duh, we leave after the cake, calm down, it'll be fine.
Birthday party PTSD. Apparently it's a thing.
He didn't remember or recoginize me or Noah, this stranger whom I've let loom so large in my mind for all these years, whose one cantankerous sentence sent me spiraling down the rabbit hole of all my worst fears for and about Noah for days and weeks afterwards. It was probably just another typical day on the job for him, full of impulsive kids and indulgent parents. He had no way to know that my overly emotional and thin-skinned reaction to the situation would then make me question my own ability to be the mother of a special needs child, to handle the pressures and landmines ahead — I couldn't fall apart or leave or flee every time Noah had a bad experience or every time his issues got him into trouble.
He obviously had no idea what a low point our brief interaction was for me, and how suddenly terrified I was that now, three and a half years later, I'd be presented with evidence that we hadn't really climbed much higher.
Noah didn't remember him either. In fact, Noah decided that the petting zoo and the accompanying rules and animal introductions seemed "too much like learning" and wandered off to play on the host's swingset. Ezra followed soon after — he liked seeing the animals but was not at all interested in holding any of them.
Ike, on the other hand, begged for a turn inside the enclosure. "Want go inside!" he pleaded. "Ducks! Hops! Inside!"
I told him no way, sorry. You're too little. Hell, just standing in the vicinity of the petting zoo was testing my nerves and giving me flashbacks. Going inside and giving another child the chance to drop another fucking rabbit on its head? Fuck no.
The other children cycled through and took turns holding the animals. Nobody dropped any of them, but that didn't stop the handler from yelling at a couple kids for...well, being excitable little kids hopped up on Doritos and bunnies. I saw a look flash across one girl's face as he scolded her for some confusing hand-placement infraction — a look of shocked embarrassment, a look that suggested that she was not a little girl accustomed to getting in even the mildest of trouble. For a second I worried she was going to burst into tears, but she didn't. She didn't leave, she didn't flee. She stayed on that stool and cuddled with that fucking rabbit, and no random cranky adult having a bad day was going to stop her.