Yesterday was one of those magical days with the kid.
When he crawled into bed with me as the sun broke through our bedroom windows, my wife was already out the door for a field trip with her class, so it would be a Saturday of just me and my son. I thoroughly enjoy these days with him, when it's just the two of us -- two boys out to have fun and conquer the world -- and when we both are both of one mind about what needs to be conquered.
It doesn't always happen this way. If he's of the mood to just hang out at home and play video games, we tend to both hole up in our own electronic shells and let the day escape us. I don't like letting these opportunities pass uneventfully, but as most parents will attest, forcing a kid to have fun ends up being no fun for anyone involved.
As we lay in bed yesterday, I suggested that we go to the Decatur Zoo, a local zoo that's about a thirty minute drive from our house. It's not the most spectacular attraction in the world, but it would be a way to get out and do something out of our normal weekend routine. When my son said "no thanks..." I thought we were headed for just another Saturday, but he followed it with a better suggestion: "Let's go to the Indianapolis Zoo!"
So after breakfast and a few chores around the house, we hopped in my truck and headed off to Indianapolis. The two hour drive was spent switching back and forth between music on my iPhone and his iPod, with each of us getting a four-song block of our favorites to enjoy.
We arrived at the zoo a little after 1pm, leaving us four hours to see all the animals and -- most important of all -- ride the Kōmbo coaster! Exiting the Oceans and Deserts exhibits, we caught sight of the roller coaster reaching the top of its highest climb in the distance. We rushed over, bought tickets, and made it to the line in time to grab the last open seat.
My son seemed to be enjoying the zoo up until this point, but as soon as the coaster pulled away from the loading station, his face lit up with pure joy. On our second ride on the coaster, I decided to brace myself with my knees and try to capture his expressions as we went around the turns.
After the exhilaration of the coaster, we went from animal to animal, finding lemurs, baboons, lions, giraffes, and rhinos among to zoo's residents. As we made our way back through the zoo following a little elephant watching, my son spied an ice cream stand and immediately looked at me with an enthusiasm that couldn't be denied. I ordered a Butterfinger bar and he decided to try his first Drumstick.
The cool, breezy day wasn't the most perfect setting for frozen food, but my son soon forgot about the cold as he discovered the solid chocolate in the bottom of the drumstick cone. A sense of pure satisfaction came over his face as he enjoyed the scrumptious last bits of his afternoon treat.
On our way out of town, we stopped by Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see if the museum and gift shop was still open, but we missed it by eight minutes. Although we're certainly not the typical NASCAR family, we do enjoy the racing and I didn't want to end the day on a disappointing note. So I drove around the far reaches of the museum parking lot to find an place where we could see a stretch of the track. I threw my son up on the hood of my truck and started snapping away. Even after a long afternoon of walking around the zoo, he still had enough energy to give me his best funny faces with the track in the background.
One the way home and as we were getting ready for bed last night, we constantly talked about how wonderful a day it had been. But I didn't need any reassurance.
All I needed was to see the looks on his face.