Just before we left for Disney a few summers ago, I took the kids to a special program at the local Library. It was something about big and small critters. The programs have a decent reputation and considering how much my daughter loves animals, I thought it would be a good break before the long car ride to Florida. I was picturing live animals brought in for the kids to admire and maybe even touch. I had to pre-register months in advance.
Expectations were high. I met up with a friend and her two boys there. We settled in to our seats. Our kids got great ones, right up front. I looked at my friend with eyebrows raised. In the front of the room there were no happy cages, no safari dressed bubbly animal wrangler. There was a woman who was blasted out of 1972 and plopped in front of a number of taxidermyed animals. Really old dead animals.
Oh no! Will my daughter have nightmares? Will she figure out that they are dead? Front row seats mind you. We had two little foxes, faces arranged in snarls, baring teeth. A large bird, talons exposed, A black bear, ferocious glare in place. And the saddest piece of all, a momma raccoon with her small dead baby raccoon in her mouth. Holy Guacamole, who thought this one was great show for kids?
The refugee from 1972 began her presentation in the most monotone, boring tone of voice she could fester up. I think listening to an insurance salesman discuss the virtues of looseleaf paper would pack more of a punch. The kids ranged in ages from 2 to about 12. They were like angels listening as 1972 picked up one dead animal after another pointing to various dead parts and moving them slowly in a macabre horror show. She got to the raccoon family. She holds them up. All of the mothers in the audience look horrified. 1972 points out that these dead animals are so old, the mama raccoon’s “fingers” have worn off to nubs.
Why did I let my kids sit through this?
Well, the reward was getting to “pet” the animals.
1972 pulls my son out of his chair. He always gets picked for stuff, but usually it’s good stuff. She hands him the two stiff, dead foxes. He dutifully stuffs one under each arm and holds them at the right height for the other kids to “pet” them. My daughter gets on line and waits for her turn. Her reward. All of us mothers stand around waiting for our kids to do the exact opposite of what we would tell them in the wild.
“Don’t touch the dead animal!!” is echoing through all our heads. I guess you can put anything in a library, label it a “kids show” and we will all put up with it. I'm thinking of all the road kill I try and prevent the kids from seeing in our hours on the road. But I brought them out special for this nightmare. I look at my friend and say “I really hope the kids won’t be too disappointed when we get to Disney and the characters move around. Dead animals are so electrifying.”
We get in the van. I turn to look at their confused faces. My boy sums it up with a, “Well Mom, that was weird”
Sorry Kids. Oops. Let’s rub some Disney on that weirdness until it goes away.