Today's Dubious Accomplishments
At Least It Wasn't Fruit Stickers

Return of the Petting Zoo

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.

Ike petting zoo

Fuck yeah. 



I've got to wonder why that guy insists on making his living running a mobile petting zoo, if he's that quick to snap at kids for being, well, KIDS.

There is a reptile zoo here that does birthday parties, and my middle son was invited to one when he was four. It was awesome. Never more than one animal out at a time, but since that one animal is always something very cool - a lizard or a giant toad or a python or something - everyone gets a turn, things never get out of hand, and the animals are never in danger.

An outdoor enclosure full of bunnies, ducks, and preschoolers just sounds like a nightmare.


This summer, at a birthday party, after cake and ice cream (hello, sugar!), my four-year-old was riding his bicycle with the birthday boy, who had received a brand-new bicycle from his mom for his birthday, through a mostly deserted park. And then the softball game that was happening at the field next to the park got over and maybe, like, 10 kids started playing on the playground, their parents and grandparents standing around and talking as they do. My son and his friend rode through the crowd a bit, a little fast and having a good time, but with excellent control! I mean, really, they didn't come close to anyone and were so loud with the shouting and the laughing that you could hear them coming a mile away. And then this guy, obviously a grandpa, but one of those men who has been "macho" their whole lives, grabbed my son's bicycle and YELLED AT HIM that he was going too fast and this was not a place for a bike! Then he started yelling to the crowd, "Who's kid is this?!" I meekly stepped forward and pulled my son away, wiping his tears and holding back my own. Hours later, I groused about how I should have said *something* to the asshole to let him know that it was NOT okay to yell at little kids, especially not kids he didn't know and that he didn't own the park anyway and Lord I'm glad my kids don't have nasty adults like him in their lives except on the periphery, like him. I'm still upset, but maybe I can use it later as a learning experience about how some people snap and yell and we shouldn't let it get to us. Riiiiight.


My heart aches for you. I hope perspective has had time to sink in and heal over your re-opened wound. I love your parenting stories and believe you to be a very good mom.


Aww. I am glad you cuddled the bunny. Good Star.


I'm with Hannah. The handler seems to have mishandled his calling. Eh. People get tired of kids. People get tired of kids not being better kids, more able kids, knowing kids. But then those people should probably stop doing things that make them have to be in the presence of unbetter, unable, unknowing kids who are just being kids.

God, that flashback. I remembered about the petting zoo but not the inset story about the teacher. I think I blocked it out. Damn. Isn't it amazing how shit stays with you? You're a grown ass woman, Amy. But. But. You remember that yell from a teacher so clearly. And this is the type of thing that sets me off: I am ruining my kids (not to mommyjack your post, sorry, but I need to finish this though) and wonder if the times I've flown off the handle are what they'll remember. Fuck, I hope not. And I think this even as I know Noah forgot all about the petting zoo incident from years ago. This shit is hard.

I'ma probably let Zoe get a bunny now. Damn you.


Is it just me or is it WICKED dusty in here? [cough].


I am with Arnebya and Hannah. This dude shouldn't be running/working for a freakin' petting zoo.


Fuck yeah! Good on you, Mom. Congratulations!


Went back and read the original petting zoo story! It made me so hurt for you in that moment. There's nothing worse than a stranger branding your child like that based on a quick interaction. I had a huge, very unlike me, argument with another mother at my gym daycare last week over her telling her daughter, very loudly, that some 2-3yo boys were bullies...for playing slightly rough with each other. It wasn't even my son, but the looks on the boys' faces were so sad and confused I immediately felt the need to attack her. There's just a way you talk to children, and a way that you don't.

Donna burns. Let it go. Breathe. It's a new day.

How I wish I could follow that advice...

Hugs, Amy.

Liz Tea Bee

Yeah, this guy should not be working with kids. I'm not a parent but I'm a teacher and an aunt to kids the ages of yours. Kids needs clear instructions and modeling. Shouting/snapping is never, ever effective it just makes them anxious and jumpy.

Ugh, I live in fear of snapping at one of my kids and being the teacher in that memory.

As a non-parent teacher I'd like to give Noah some credit for some awesome self-monitoring. He heard a shit-ton of confusing rules and decided that it wasn't for him.


You've grown. We're so proud of you!


Sometimes the example of little kids can help us get over things or be braver than we thought possible...funny how that works. :) Oh, and Fuck yeah! :)


GO IKE! (and props to you too, for sticking it to the man and revisiting the little petting zoo of horror)


All I kept thinking as I read this was HAS IT REALLY BEEN THREE YEARS SINCE THE PETTING ZOO INCIDENT?!? It seems like just a little while ago.

Glad to hear round two went better, and Liz Tea Bee's comment is spot on.


Thank you thank you thank you. As a mama with a boy needing special help - I get this so hard. These are the moments we need to hold on to, that we never thought would come - when our kids bounce through the crap that weighs *us* down. They are such little teachers.

jill (mrschaos)

Seriously...this petting zoo guy. Is he for real?


I remember the original petting zoo story, and got a lump in my throat as soon as you used the phrase "petting zoo" here.

Like an earlier commenter, I'm a non-mom who works with kids. And I try soooo hard never to be snappy, but I'm sure there have been moments. Anyway, seeing those things from a mom/kid perspective is good for me, and it's one of the things I love about your blog.

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