When I usually go to the zoo, I pretend that I’m on a tropical safari. (Don’t judge me!!) Anyway, I bring my strongest, longest, most impressive looking telephoto lens and I spend far too much time in my own little world, trying to snipe the most pristine, close up shots of the animals framed in such a way that they look like they are in their natural habitat and not stuck in the middle of California’s Central Valley.
Afterwards, my Facebook “Day at the Zoo” album looks like it’s a National Geographic or Animal Planet wanna-be spread, with picture after picture of animal after animal.
BUUUUT then I went and had a baby. Now, my photos from the zoo are about 99% Tessa’s reactions and facial expressions, and 1% half-hearted snapshots of the creature she was looking at. Because why take pictures of animals when BABY. Babies are just so FUN!
The other day my dad asked if I wanted to go to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo while he got his car worked on in the area. It was random, last minute and totally unplanned. So of course I said yes, hopped in the car, and Tessa ended up having her very first day at the zoo.
My husband had to work, so he missed out on the fun. (We’ve agreed from the start that baby and her exposure to unique and fun experiences always comes first, otherwise I would have opted to wait for my handsome husband to come as well.) I didn’t worry too much about leaving hubby behind at any rate, because I assumed that Tessa was too young to fully appreciate the zoo. But I assumed wrong.
I had no idea how Tessa would react to the animals in the zoo. She’s still so young (only 8 months), but being her precocious self, she had an absolute blast. She particularly enjoyed playing in the small pebbles at the Dino Dig park, and she loved loved LOVED the anteater, of all the animals. After telling my husband all about her fun day at the zoo, we decided we simply HAD TO bring Tessa back again as soon as we could and visit as a family. So guess what we did today!
That’s right, zoo time!
Tessa had just as much fun the second time around! In fact, she had more fun, because she was with her daddy! She stared wide eyed in wonder and infant curiosity at the animals. My fearless baby even tried grabbing the snakes through the glass in the reptile room.
With the exception of a couple of stealthy animals huddled in the corner, or just too far away to easily spot, she noticed every single animal and tracked them with her eyes as they moved about in their environments. Her expressions flitted between serious and smiley as we traveled from cage to cage. At this point, while I held the same doubts (is she old enough for the zoo?) I honestly do not understand what parents mean when they say they want to wait to take their kids on fun excursions. Because at eight months, Tessa was drinking in every sound, sight, smell and experience at the zoo!
While strolling around, we decided on the fly to feed the giraffes. As we walked up to the giraffe feeding station, I saw a little girl in her mothers arms, scared of the big animals so close to her, squirming to get away and on the verge of tears. The mom wasn’t being cruel, but her baby was NOT having fun. Afterwards, I asked how old she was explaining that I was thinking of taking Tessa in, and she said 12 months. So I thought, man, I want a picture of Tessa with the animals, but I don’t want to be “that mom” that intentionally makes my child uncomfortable or scared, just to get a picture.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If a mother doesn’t know her child might get scared, and they do get scared, they doesn’t make the mom a horrible person. It’s when a mom is pretty sure, or absolutely knows that her kid will get freaked out, and yet still intentionally puts them in a pointless situation for something shallow like a photo that I get all judgementally. So having just watched a 12 month old freaking out, I thought nope. My 8 month old won’t be able to handle this. And I don’t want to be “that mom”.
But then, as we spent time watching the feeding session, Tessa kept staring, and cooing, and bouncing TOWARD the huge creatures. So why the heck not TRY? I mean, she’s pretty much asking for it. When it came our turn to feed the giraffes, Tessa was so chill! Her body didn’t tense at all. She didn’t shrink back. She just watched with calm confidence and curious eyes. And I ended up getting my shots after all. I’ve got the most chill baby EVAR 😉
Tessa also had a blast in the Dino Dig. We’ve discovered that playing in and with tiny pebbles is one of her favorite things. From rolling around in pebbles in Kit Carson’s backyard in Taos, New Mexico, to spending close to an hour or so digging around in the Fresno Zoo’s Dino Dig, this girl is freakishly entertained by small stones.
This time Jonathan and I joined her in the playground, digging around, pulling shovels out of her mouth, and keeping her from climbing on the partially buried T-Rex replica fossils. This archaeological dig recreation play place is so freaking cool that Jonathan and I are pretty much plotting to come back during the off season so that WE can play in the dirt and uncover the hidden surprises for ourselves. 😉
For the grand finale, I was super curious to see if she would react the same way to the anteater the second time around. I had told my husband all about how she was infatuated with it the first trip. “Ooo”ing and bouncing, she wouldn’t let us walk away from the giant anteater pacing around his little home. Out of all the animals, it was her absolute favorite.
So as we approached the anteater today, we watched our little princess closely.
And lo and behold, her reaction was the exact same. We have no idea what, why or how this anteater excites our baby girl so much. Is it the nose? The poofy tail? Is it so fluffy she’s gonna die? I have no idea, but while watching the anteater, Tessa kept squealing, bouncing, swinging her arms, reaching towards it and doing her infant sign language for, “Want”. Isn’t a little girls first favorite animal supposed to be, I dunno, a pony or a teddy bear or something?!
After the excitement of the Dino Dig and her favorite anteater, she literally just passed out sitting up. Too much excitement for baby Tessa! Once our sole source of entertainment was unconscious, we decided to call it a day and head home.
After a quick stop into the zoo’s gift shop, we ended up getting Tessa a stuffed anteater (named “Kisses” after the zoo’s anteater) and we headed home with a very very VERY sleepy angel baby! We’re pretty sure there will be many, many, MANY more trips to the zoo in the near future!