Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lion Moms

Yesterday, we took our Pre-3 class to the Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle. We don't normally take our 2-year-olds on field trips, but circumstances made it make sense for us, and the zoo, after all, is just up the hill. In fact, most of these kids are quite familiar with the zoo given that it's right in their own backyards. 

We'd been tipped off that the new lion cubs would be "out" for a bit in the morning, so we made our way to the lion exhibit as quickly as 22 very young children and 22 adults can move (yes, between our regular contingent of parent-teachers and extra volunteers we mustered a 1:1 ratio for this venture out into the big world) which isn't terribly fast.

It's impossible not to watch mammal babies of any kind without reflecting on our own babies. These cubs were pouncing and bouncing, lunging and leaping, attacking and sprinting -- in other words, playing. One of them struggled repeatedly to climb upon the branch of a log, falling each time and picking itself back up to try again before finally being distracted by a passing sibling and the temptation of those haunches. We admire the sleek grace of adult cats, but here before us, enchanting, was the lurching, unashamed, unjudged and unjudging clumsiness of the play from which it is all learned. 

Meanwhile, the lioness paced, agitated, alert, focused not on correcting or "teaching" her babies, but rather fixed like a laser on the greatest threat in this environment: us. There was a rope line behind which we had to stand. Apparently, mom had on previous days attacked the glass, looking to drive the human visitors away, snarling and clawing. She was magnificent in her maternal instinct.

The babies, always playing, were naturally curious about these strange creatures they saw through the window, but their mother was fierce in her love for them and her devotion to their safety, an entity not to be crossed. Just like those 21 mothers and 1 father who came along with us yesterday to keep an eye on their babies as they played at the zoo.

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The Knitty Gritty Homestead said...

Great post! My daughters loved the pictures. I loved the writing, as always.

tirzahdawn said...

Sometimes I read your posts and am jealous...Your line "These cubs were pouncing and bouncing, lunging and leaping, attacking and sprinting -- in other words, playing." Hit a cord with me today. I struggle to find the balance of letting kids "play" like they should. Keeping them safe and yet keeping those "momma lions" off my back b/c their baby just got pounced on, bounced into, lunged at, leaped over, attacked... I get so frustrated that we have taken childhood and play away from kids in the name of "protecting" them and yet we don't see that kids have to be allowed to climb monkey bars, run in races, ride bikes, scrap their knees, and even play with friends who might be "mean". All of these things help us learn how to fall down and get back up, how to get our feelings hurt and ask for help, how to tell others that calling others names and saying mean things is NOT okay. Some days I wish I could just go back to being a kid so that I could tussel like the lion cubs you described.