Zoo Lights, Team Stimey, and the Sacrifices of Motherhood

Every year the National Zoo holds Zoo Lights, when they open the zoo at night and put up all kinds of Christmas light displays and over the course of the month before Christmas, everyone in the DC area goes to see it. Everyone except us, that is.

It has always seemed logistically difficult to go to Zoo Lights, so this year, we surprised ourselves into going by waking up on Friday and saying, “Let’s go to Zoo Lights tonight!” and nothing we did or said could convince us otherwise.

(Surprising myself into things is one of my most effective techniques for getting shit done.)

We always go to a smaller light show in December, so we had an idea of what to expect. The difference between the two light shows is that the one at the zoo is all in the shapes of animals and you have to walk two miles to see it instead of less than a mile.

Regardless, we busted out our hats, gloves, and winter coats and headed down to the zoo.

Jack, Stimey, Sam & Quinn in front of polar-bear shaped lights.

I know it looks as if Jack and Quinn have been rolling around in coal in their coats. I swear that I wash those things and they look exactly the same.

Things started out well. There was a slide set up right at the entrance for kids to ride down on tubes, so that put my kids is a good mood right off the bat.

Giant slide.

That’s Jack on his way down.

I decided to capitalize on slide happiness and ask my kids to stand together and smile for one photo right at the beginning, with a promise that I would not ask them to do it again for the rest of the night.

Sam, Quinn & Jack standing in front of a tree with multicolored lights wrapped around it.

And it actually WORKED.

Zoo Lights is cool, but don’t go for the wildlife. Animals were scarce. Evidently they sleep at night. We saw a duck and a miniature horse and some big apes. The only animal visible in the small mammal house was a disgruntled-looking hyrax who was frozen in one position looking as if he were trying to blend in with the rocks. I imagine that it is confusing to the animals to have the night be dark per usual, but filled with loud people aiming brightly-lit cell phones at them.

I would say that things started going downhill after the small mammal house when Quinn became aware that it was extremely cold out. At the same time, Alex became disgruntled after he stood in line for five whole minutes for kettle corn and not a single person was actually served. Then Sam initiated a game of predator with Jack, claiming to be a leopard seal or some such and implying that Jack was a tiny fish.

The result of all these situations were as follows: I, per fucking usual, gave Quinn my coat. MY COAT. In late November. At night. In DC. I am thinking about carrying an extra coat with me at all times to prevent frostbite on occasions such as these. Fortunately, I warmed up a little when I chased Jack down during his full-speed sprint away from Sam. Uphill. In heeled fucking boots.

These children are going to kill me.

Oh, also Alex remained disgruntled until I bought soft pretzels for everyone.

I remained true to my not asking the children to pose for any photos right up until I saw the tiger lights and I was all, “There are three of them and I have three kids! They are tigers and Quinn is wearing a tiger hat!” Then I said, “Hey guys, will you stand in front of the tigers?” and this happened:

Jack, Sam & Quinn in front of a display of lighted tigers.

Then I gave up and stopped taking photos.

See, that is why you take the posed photo first.

At this point, we turned around and started heading back toward the entrance. Sam was all, “You mean the zoo isn’t built in a circle? That’s stupid.” And I was all, “Yeah, you’re right.

There was a little train ride near the entrance (by the petting zoo, for you locals) that we had already bought tickets for, so we stopped there on our way out. While we waited in line, my kids played on the giant, pretend pizza that was just down the path.

Quinn, Sam, and Jack standing on a large pretend pizza.

I know. It’s fucking weird.

A side effect of carting ridiculously huge pretend mushrooms around was that Sam’s hands got cold and he started shouting about how he was dying or something.

So I gave him my mittens to put on over his gloves.

If we’d been there much longer, I would have walked out of that place barefoot.

Some of us enjoyed the train ride more than others.

Quinn and Alex on the train. Quinn looks concerned. Alex looks happy and slightly deranged.

Honestly, it was as if Alex had never been on a tiny train before.

After the train ride (which was actually kind of really super fun), Jack wanted to go look at the barn animals, so everyone who was wearing a coat and gloves went to the car immediately and Jack and I went to walk through the barn, where there were actually more animals on display at night than in the entire rest of the zoo.


Such as this adorable donkey.

We definitely had our ups and downs on this trip, but overall, I am super proud of my kiddos. Other than running away from us, Jack was a total rock star. Sam was great, with the exception that he seems to think he is allowed to parent and guide his brothers, forcing me to impose a strict NO TOUCHING rule onto him. Even Quinn, who got pretty whiny, was trying really, really hard. He asked me super nicely a couple times after I gave him my coat if I was cold. I really think he didn’t want his actions to hurt me. It was really sweet.

I did what any mom on the face of the planet would do—I put my blue fingers in my jeans pockets and told him I wasn’t.

Plus, if you are really, really cold, getting into a warm car is the happiest thing you can do. I think all of us agreed on that.

10 thoughts on “Zoo Lights, Team Stimey, and the Sacrifices of Motherhood

  1. Why is Alex not giving you HIS coat when you give yours away to your children? (I love the photos, especially because I had to look really hard to see that the donkey had a body and wasn’t just a demonic looking floating donkey head.)

  2. To be fair I think disgruntled is how a hyrax always looks. For all you know that little guy could have been having the time of his life.

  3. I applaud you
    and I now know enough about zoo lights to keep with the merriweather post drive through display plan. Lights AND a warm van.
    Bless you.

  4. Ha! My FIL gifted us a Living Social deal to go to ZooLights with him, and then he backed out, so now I need to take a disgruntled 13yo and a hyperactive 3yo to look at lights in the dark on the monster hill. Yay.

    For locals – When did the zoo remove the cover over the giant pizza? I was there last week and the pizza was all nasty and wet, with chunks of semi-melted ice. The tent over it used to protect it from all that.

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