To the dad behind us in line today at the zoo playground on the fancy lighthouse-shaped slide: Thank you for being cool and understanding as I hustled my angry, kicking nine-year-old off the stairs and away from the toddlers who apparently were taking way too long for my son’s liking.
To my sister: Thank you for trying to help us flee the zoo quickly when the epic meltdown happened, despite your pregnant belly and your two-year-old in your arms.
To the hordes of zoo patrons who stood in our path as we blazed a shrieking trail of tears up that excessively long hill that leads from the arctic animals exhibit to the main gate: I sensed your confusion at the woman plowing like a freight train up the crowded path with her screaming nine-year-old in her grip, and her baby in a little red wagon in her other grip. You were baffled folks, but you mostly just got out of the way.
To Jack: When you get frustrated and overwhelmed by a situation, perhaps we can think of alternative strategies of alerting me to your overwrought state other than sinking your teeth into my upper arm and clamping your jaw down like a vice. Twice.
To the well-coiffed woman in the Audi SUV who asked a woman (who was dragging her tantrumming special-needs son to the car while pulling a baby in a wagon) if she was parked nearby so you could wait for her parking spot: The fact that you rolled down your window and tapped your fingers on your steering wheel impatiently while my son threw his shoes and two cans of soda at my head and then had to be blocked from hitting his baby brother as I loaded the wagon in the car made my day just a tad crappier than it needed to be. You probably didn’t pick up on this, so I don’t fault you too much.
To myself: Prior to today, you didn’t realize that you could successfully navigate Saturday traffic on I15 with a bruised, scraped, and throbbing arm, and a wailing Jack in the front seat because he had to be kept away from attacking the toddler. You probably also never considered that even when you were gasping emotionally for breath so rapidly that it made your extremities go numb, you could still manage steering the car with your unresponsive and lifeless seal-flipper-hands on the wheel.
To Jack, again: I looked at you as I drove us home with my numb seal flippers, and I saw that like me, you were crying. I wished for the billionth time that you could tell me what was wrong so I could know what you need and figure out how to better help you. We were a hot mess today, buddy. But we both eventually calmed down, especially when I rolled down your window and you were in sensory heaven.
To the Classical 89 DJ with the soft, soothing voice: Bet you didn’t know that your dulcet tones calmed my PTSD today and turned my attention to a Richard Strauss symphony instead of the disaster behind us. You could put a hyperactive child to sleep, Ms. DJ, and I mean that in the best possible sense.
To the littlest brother: I’m sorry your brother assaulted you, and that we had to leave our outing before we saw the animals (except the elephants and a few monkeys). I’m grateful that you shook it off and slept peacefully the whole way home. Maybe we can try again on a weekday, without the teeming masses. Or the big brother.
To me, again: That sucked. But it’s over now. I declare us officially done with what happened back there on Sunnyside Ave. Ain’t nobody got time for that.