I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
January 24, 2019
Last weekend, my eleven-year-old son and I went to the zoo. It was a cold, snowy day and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We had fun watching the clouded leopards and Andean bears in their exhibits… But what we really enjoyed was the playground.
The Nashville Zoo’s playground is massive– It’s the largest community-built playground in the U.S.– and it’s generally packed with children. I have many less-than-fond memories of losing my kids in its labyrinthine fortress back when they were small and could zip in and out of its small openings quickly while I lumbered behind, trying to keep up. On this day, though, the playground was a wonderland of emptiness. Together, my son and I raced up to the very top of the fortress, where we found a tube slide that looped around and around all the way to the ground far below.
“Let’s go down the slide!” I said to my son.
“Yeah!” he responded enthusiastically.
“You go first!” I said.
“No, you go first!” he replied.
Gamely, I crouched down in front of the opening, which suddenly looked very, very… small. Dressed for the cold in a puffy jacket and oversized scarf, I felt like the Michelin Man — and even though I knew it was absurd, I worried I’d get stuck inside the slide. That would be a nightmare, because there was quite a lot of slide to get stuck in, and no way of getting out unless I could somehow scoot my way down to the bottom in total darkness. I imagined myself, trapped and screeching for help while my son cried on the empty playground. Seconds passed. I cleared my throat.
“Uh…” I said to my son.
“Let’s not go down the slide!” he said quickly.
“Yeah!” I said.
“Let’s go down the rope ladder instead!”
“Yeah!” I repeated.
“I got a little scared about going down the slide when we were at the top,” he admitted once we’d safely made our way down the rope ladder and left the playground for the African savannah.
“Me too,” I said. “But that just makes me want to do it more.”
“Why?” he asked, surprised.
“Because I like to do things that scare me,” I said. “I feel really good when I can conquer my fears.”
We continued exploring until a half-hour before the zoo was scheduled to close — We’d agreed to spend the last 30 minutes in the reptile and amphibian building, my son’s favorite exhibit. He surprised me, though, by asking to go back to the playground instead.
“Why?” I asked him.
“So you can go down that slide,” he said, grinning. “I’ll hold your stuff.”
Back we went to the playground. Up we went to the top. Again, I hesitated at the teeny tiny opening at the top of the slide.
“Don’t do it, Mom!” my son said behind me. The fear had returned.
I laughed, weak with relief. “Okay,” I said. “Maybe next time. When I’m not wearing all these winter clothes.”
We took the rope ladder down again and made our way out of the playground. My son put his arm around me comfortingly.
“It’s okay, Mom,” he said.
But it wasn’t okay. Because I like to think I can do hard things. I take challenges. I’d just told my son that I like to do things that scare me, and yet I couldn’t even go down a freaking tube slide. What kind of mother was I? What kind of lesson was this for him? I opened my mouth to say, “Don’t tell anyone about this,” but instead, something else came out.
“I’m gonna do it.”
“What?!” my son asked. “The zoo closes in ten minutes!” Quickly, I peeled off my heavy coat and scarf and handed them to him.
“Hold my stuff and stand at the bottom,” I instructed him. I’m going to run up there and I’m going to go down the slide and I’m going to do it really fast so that I don’t have time to be scared.”
“Okay!” he said. I ran back up to the top and leaned over the railing.
“And if I get stuck,” I called down, “just go to the front gate and tell them your mom’s somewhere up inside the big twisty slide and you need them to come cut me out!” I saw his mouth form an O, but didn’t wait for a response.
I had an appointment with a tube slide.
Without hesitating, I kneeled down and launched myself into the plastic abyss. Around and around I went, and while I certainly didn’t go fast, I also didn’t go slowly enough to come to a complete stop before I made it to the bottom. Hallelujah.
I DID IT.
I CAN DO THE HARD THINGS.
(ESPECIALLY IF THEY INVOLVE TUBE SLIDES.)
I like to believe my son looks at me differently now. Before, I was a nice woman who could make a decent peanut butter sandwich. Today, I’m a badass who made a tube slide her bitch. Okay, so maybe I’m taking it a bit far… but I do know my tube sliding victory made an impression.
“Mom, when are we going to the zoo again?” he asked me yesterday.
“I don’t know. Soon,” I said.
“Can we go today?” he asked.
“Today?!” I laughed. “Why? We just went a few days ago!”
“So I can go down the tube slide,” he said.
We’re heading back to the zoo the first chance we get.