We've been having some attitude challenges with our four year old daughter and I've been wondering if I created the monster with my parenting. Yesterday, we went to African Lion Safari, and had the opportunity to witness several different parenting styles. We came home feeling much better about our parenting...and our intelligence.
(For those of you unfamiliar with African Lion Safari, a brief explanation is in order. The park was founded 40 years ago with the premise that you "cage" the people and let the animals roam free. People can drive through the safari area in their own vehicles, or pay a small fee and take a guided bus ride. The Safari no longer has tigers after a visitor ignored the "close and lock your doors and windows" warning and was mauled by a tiger a few years ago. While there are park rangers all through the park, the animals are not restrained in any way. The monkey area in particular is hazardous to cars. The baboons climb on the cars and help themselves to souvenirs...like siding, windshield wipers, license plates, bug screens. They seem to have a particular hate for luggage racks, rear windshield wipers and tow-mount covers. If you choose to take your car into the area, the minute you cross the gates, liability is on you. You can by-pass the monkey area if you choose to. Now that I've set the scene, on with the blog)
- As we were waiting to enter the park, my husband glanced sideways and then did a double take. In the SUV next to us, a young boy who appeared to be 6-7 years old was sitting on his mother's lap BEHIND THE WHEEL of the car. He was not wearing a seatbelt, and was turning the wheel. One sudden brake, one rear end collision, and that child was through the windshield. As I clicked off the traffic violations in my mind, we observed the Georgia license plate- maybe the rules of child safety seats are different in Georgia. We are still debating whether we should move our child from the front-facing car seat into a booster, even though she weighs 43 lbs and is rapidly approaching 4 1/2 ft tall. We're not such bad parents after all.
- Peacocks roam free in the park, including females with chicks. If I had a dollar for every small child I saw being permitted to chase the birds, I could have paid for all 3 of our admissions. There was a near miss when a small child got a little too close to a chick and mamma took a peck at the child who was pulled out of the way in the knick of time. No doubt the parents would have blamed the park if the child had been hurt. My support was squarely on the side of the hen protecting her babies. Our daughter was not allowed to chase the peacocks, peahens or babies. (or the seagulls) She's been taught to respect animals from the start.
- Not being stupid people, and being rather fond of our paid-for car, we forked over $15 and the three of us took the guided tour bus. We were amazed by how many high end cars were driving into the park-Mercedes, BMWs, Lexus, and the people in the Mercedes were all eating in the car. Those of us on the bus were hoping that we would see the Mercedes when it hit the baboon area...that hood ornament was as good as gone.
- I was shocked at how many people were driving through with their children on their laps. There are white rhinos that roam free in the park. They decide to charge the car and those children are going to be hurt or dead. If you're worried that your kids can't see; park your car, fork over $5 a person and take the freaking BUS.
- Many people were driving through the park with their windows open. Our bus witnessed a full-blown meltdown between a man and woman in a minivan. She was freaking out, yelling, gesturing and screaming at her husband, who was flat out refusing to roll up the windows as they headed towards the lions. A number of us on the bus had vowed to vouch for the park if the couple was subsequently mauled for being stupid. A couple of minutes later, as one of the lions started to stroll towards the minivan, the windows were rolled up...rapidly.
- Some people, many with children in the car (and on their laps) were rolling windows down and FEEDING the baboons. FEEDING...as in passing carrots out half-open windows, tossing bread onto the roof or hood of their car and holding the food and passing it to the baboons. These same baboons can rip a license plate off a car, ripped a number of bug screens off and had a few windshield wipers, towing caps and the complete weather stripping off a minivan. They apparently get high on the glue. We watched one SUV get swarmed because the similar SUV in front of it had been feeding them...and the 2nd one wasn't. It wasn't pretty...and it's a good thing it didn't rain last night because they were short 2 windshield wipers. These are strong animals, not King Louis. If the window is open, they could rip it out...with your kid on your lap beside you. You cannot sue the park for being stupid. Also, the safari knows what to feed the animals...and I don't think Pita is on the list.
- Many parents let their kids wander around on the "African Queen" boat. While there are railings, kids can slip and roll. Our kid's butt remained planted on her seat.
- One father thought it would be fine to lift his small child OVER the fence TOWARDS the pretty elephants who were bathing in the pond. As one curious elephant started to come over to say hello to said small child, sending the elephant herding dog into a barking frenzy, and chasing the elephant back to the water (with a trumpeting protest) the elephant keeper told the father in no uncertain terms why that was a dumb idea.
Sometimes the universe throws you a bone.