One of my favorite places to spend lazy summer mornings with my daughter is the National Zoo. It is small, friendly, and offers many shady spots to escape the sun on oppressively hot and humid days. Before leaving for a recent visit I asked her to tell me what animals and exhibits she was most excited to see. I listened carefully and immediately began plotting the most efficient route to check every box she mentioned. She, of course, had ideas of her own...
Upon arriving, she spied the carousel: Mama, let's ride the carousel! This was NOT on her list, and quite outside the path I had mentally mapped out. I suggested we keep moving and instead ride it on our way back down. But Mama - it's moving. Can we please ride it now?
Sighing inwardly, I agreed, and when we finished, I attempted to usher her on to the next thing on the agenda. En route, however, she spotted a bear statue. Mama, can I climb it? Again I tried to dissuade her. I explained that it didn't appear to have been designed with climbing in mind - it was slippery (not to mention dirty), and there were no visible foot or hand holds. But can I please try?
Sighing again - this time not completely inwardly - I assented, and she began giggling as she scrambled to the top.
When we FINALLY made it to the first designated destination, she watched the elephants for a bit, then began climbing a nearby fence. After indulging her for a few minutes, I asked whether she was ready to see some more animals. No Mama - I want to stay here and play all day!!
These exchanges repeated themselves for the balance of our visit. By the fourth statue, I found myself downright frustrated. Here we are at the zoo, full of LIVE animals and interesting things to see and experience and all she wants to do is climb fences and statues?!
And then, just as quickly, it occurred to me: why shouldn't she? These experiences are as unique for my urban babe as observing lions, tigers, and bears. It isn't often she can (safely) stroll along curbs, climb fences, and meander about the city streets. When else can she linger and explore without being encouraged to keep moving toward whatever (arbitrary) destination I have chosen for the day? What is to say her experience of the zoo needs to be what I think it should be?
Next time you want to share something special with someone in your life, can you simply point the way, step aside, and let them have their own experience? What might you be able to learn by seeing things through someone else's eyes?