Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eleven Children at the Zoo

My elder brother has been a manager, on and off, for many years now. I assume he's good at his job since he's smart and capable and always in demand by employers. However, I've never really had the chance to see him in the midst of his actual job (have you ever had the chance to watch your brother at work?). Recently had the opportunity to see his managerial skills in action. Only this time, it wasn't a bunch of engineers he was organizing, but a group of small children.

The occasion was Younger Niece's eighth birthday party. She picked Red Robin for her celebratory lunch, and then the whole crowd of us (nine little kids and two big ones) were off to the zoo. The car logistics alone were quite something, but we eventually arrived at the gates with tickets in hand. When you have a group of kids that size, and you don't really know all of them that well, the danger is that a kid could get left behind somewhere, and you wouldn't event notice. Thus some early cave teacher must have invented the first buddy system.

Standing in the mock African village (which looks disappointingly unlike M's childhood home), each kid chose a buddy, and then each pair of buddies chose a grown-up "keeper." This way, every grown-up only had to keep track of two kids. Luckily, Elder Niece and her buddy were willing to partner with M because it turned out that a strange man is too scary for most of the younger girls. I congratulated/kidded Elder Niece on being very brave, and she told me that Uncle M. is "NOT scary AT ALL!" And so we set off.

Each grown-up kept a general eye on his or her pair of kids, but it was my brother who was in the lead. He was also the one who gave general reminders such as "Please don't climb into the pig enclosure!" or "No running in front of strollers!" or perhaps "No petting that part of the bunny!" We stayed until it was almost closing time, and we saw some "really cool stuff." The highlights, as far as the kids were concerned, were a tiny snake eating an even tinier fish, the hippos moving ponderously around, and the lions calling out their sunset "song."

At last, my brother counted up the children one final time before piling them back into cars. He asked Younger Niece what she thought of the trip, and she said that "It would have been the best birthday ever except the one problem. You're the strictest dad EVER! But it was still fun." Nothing like the old mixed message from the budding tween. Grandma gave Younger Niece a lecture about gratitude, but I told me brother he should wear "Strictest Dad Ever" as a serious mark of pride. If that birthday event was the work of the strictest parent ever, then I hope to be one of those myself one day.

1 comment:

Raymond said...

"Strictest Dad Ever" is definitely a badge of honor. I hope someday to challenge your brother for that title.