Several weeks ago, we visited the Atlanta Zoo with my sister-in-law and nephew, Justin. Here is a silly photo - one of the few times they stood still that day! (Yes, I know this is totally out of chronological order, but it's my blog, after all, and I can mix it all up if I want to!)
As expected, Cullen's absolute favorite exhibit area was the Reptile House. Frogs, snakes, lizards, and the like definitely rank at the top of his interest list when it comes to wild creatures.
Every visit, I am captivated by the gorillas.
One mother in particular made a significant impression on me, and if I'm honest with you here, she has been an encouragement and inspiration when I remember her these past few weeks. Seriously!
We watched her seated at the foot of a large boulder with her two very active little ones. I immediately identified with her because as we walked through the zoo that day, it had required tremendous effort and patience to keep up with two bouncing and chattering little boys! One of the young gorillas kept clambering up the boulder behind the mother. She would again and again reach back and grab his little ankle tight. She didn't pull him down; she didn't scold; she didn't even look toward him. With absolute serenity, she just spoiled any chance of fun the little one might have had by immobilizing him. Eventually, he would back down to the area he was allowed to play in. The second little one would sometimes, but not as often, begin to move away from the mother toward another group. She just as calmly would grab its ankle and hold on until it decided to just play where mom allowed.
I have read from several sources the importance of not engaging in emotional battles when enforcing the rules and boundaries with children, and I agree completely that it is the best way to handle a strong-willed little one. But I never in my life expected this to be modeled so perfectly by a primate mother!! She took great care to keep her children safe and was very persistent and consistent in enforcing the boundaries, and she never once let their antics ruffle her enjoyment of the afternoon sun. The gorilla children were doing exactly what children will do - test the limits. This didn't upset her in any way.
I want to be more like this mother!!!