Today, Kim and I both decided to devote some one-on-one time to our older son. I watched Isaac while Kim and Robbie did a bit of cooking first thing this morning. (They tried out a new recipe and made some fantastic waffles) Shortly after breakfast, I told Robbie I was going to take him somewhere, and that that somewhere would be a surprise. For some reason, Robbie has equated "surprise" with "I'm getting a new toy." I don't know how that happened. Nevertheless, he didn't seem disappointed at all when our surprise was a Daddy/Robbie day at the zoo instead of a new plastic digger.
I know the transition from "only child" to "older brother" has been a bit rough so far on Robbie, and on the whole he's done a great job with it, but I wanted to give him a day to remind him that he is very special and unique. Plus, we had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon that expired on Monday and I'd been planning to take him "sometime after the baby was born." Just in the nick, I'd say.
We had a blast. He loved everything, and I loved him loving everything. This was the first time we've taken a zoo trip where he's really been excited about seeing all of the animals. He had a long list of everything he wanted to see, and he could just stand and watch particular animals all day if I'd let him. (Particularly: any type of turtle, the two black bears, the two--yes, two--baby elephants, and the miniature ground squirrels) He also willingly went into the petting zoo and didn't shy away from anything. Even brushed a goat from head to toe. He was also excited about the carousel, excited about the hot dog, excited about carrying his own ticket around all day, and (of course) excited about the playground. What can I say, my kid loves playgrounds.
At first, he was a little hesitant to run up and play. He tends to be shy when there are lots of kids around, especially ones he doesn't know. He wanted me to go with him. I said no. I knew he could have more fun climbing and sliding and whatnot without trying to hold my hand the whole time. He hesitantly climbed the first few steps and then cautiously crossed the bridge (he had a bad experience with one of those bridges once and has been extra careful on them ever since). When he got to the other side, his eyes swept the crowd around the playground. Looking for me, I knew. When he spotted me, his face lit up. "I did it!" he shouted. I smiled and called back a "Good job!" or something, and then he ran across the bridge several times.
Eventually, he climbed a few more levels. He wanted to go down a slide, but you know what the slides are like at busy playgrounds. Kids aren't all very good at waiting or following rules, so groups of older children would sort of push him aside and dive into the slide, or he'd try to come down and see another child coming up the slide, and he got scared. He kind of cowered to one corner of the platform. I should mention that, at this point, there was no direct line of sight from where he was to where I'd been standing. So I came to where he could see me and encouraged him to be brave and go down when he had a chance. "I'll be waiting right at the bottom for you," I promised. Eventually he went for it, and of course there I was, right where I'd said I'd be. Again, the smile on his face could have lit up a city block.
I watched him climbing and playing and exploring, and every few moments I'd see a worried look suddenly flash across his face and his head would go on a swivel, trying to find me. Making sure I was watching. Making sure I was paying attention. Maybe even making sure I was still there. And obviously I always was. As if I'd be anywhere else, I thought. As if I have eyes for any other child out here by you.
If you could only realize how much I love you...
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"