A relative hosted a wonderful party at the zoo this month, complete with VIP passes (which the kids thought were very cool) and crowd-free after-hours access to animals.
Clearly this bear knows the right way to handle hot weather. We were jealous.
We arrived early to look at the rhinos, primates, and bears with family, then headed over to the party for up-close encounters with an anteater, giant tortoise, hawk, and parakeets.
You can just spot some reindeer antlers in the upper left corner of the picture. They were terrified of the tortoise and stared in bug-eyed horror as the Attack Rock crept toward them before bolting to safety.
Everyone loved feeding the parakeets. The zoo provides feed sticks and the birds swoop down in flocks for dinner. We were especially proud of Annie who had to leave with Grandma because she found the noise overwhelming, but pushed through her fear and came back in to try again while I carried her. By the end she’d relaxed enough to enjoy it and stand on her own.
After interacting with the animals everyone rode the zoo tram over to dinner, then headed to the dessert tables and took a couple of rides on the carousel.
As we left The Man and I talked about how far our family has come. We tried to attend this event two years ago but a quadruple meltdown sent us home before the party even started. Special needs don’t just disappear. However, the kids’ overall maturity and our ability to equip them for stressful situations is so much greater now! With preparation we can do a big multi-step event like this as a family. We can stay out past the kids’ bedtimes once in a while. We’ve also learned a lot more about special needs and supporting our kids. Little things like reviewing the schedule, bringing a stroller as a quiet retreat (even when a child is “too big”), carrying a kid to encounter something new and unnerving, choosing to skip some available activities, or stepping away from the loud dining table to eat alone near white noise can head off meltdowns or sensory overload before they even start.
We came home exhausted, but are already looking forward to next year!