My sister is wont to say that someone, whether animal or human, has a lot of love to give when it is highly unlikely such an observation is true about that subject. I have no idea if there is any irony in thinking that the hippo-costumed man in this picture also had lots of love to give as I could not see the expression on his face when my daughter approached him. We encountered him nine years ago during an ill-fated trip to the Toledo Zoo, when my daughter had one of her worst ever meltdowns at the snack bar because no straws or lids were available for the drinks (for good reason, to prevent wildlife-damaging litter). By the time I took this picture, she was in a serene mood, having drained all of her tension through lid/straw protest.
Enough years have passed that I can discuss just how hard this era was for us. I had started working full time for the first time since before she was born, and she was freshly diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Her school had urged me to get her evaluated at a counseling center because she was getting sent to the principal’s office several times a week. I released the center’s findings to the school, and they banned her from the end-of-year zoo field trip because of her diagnosis. There is no point in window dressing this episode: this damned-if-you-do/damned if you don’t scenario sucked, most of all for my daughter.
So we made a special trip to the zoo on the following weekend, which went well except for the royal tantrum at the snack bar. We had begun play therapy at the counseling center. While she actually liked her therapist, she needed a lot of persuasion to walk into the building to see him. Once she decided to take off running from the center rather than go inside. This was not a good thing for two reasons: the center was situated in a crime-ridden part of our city, and I weighed around 250 pounds at the time. Once I caught up to her, I could not get her back to the center without carrying her. By the time we reached the building, my heart felt like it was going to explode from all of the exertion, and I wished that the ground would open and swallow me whole.
In the intervening years, I lost the excess weight, and my daughter mellowed out. She was diagnosed with autism last year, and the diagnosing psychologist looked at her history and mentioned that ODD was likely a misdiagnosis along the way.
Looking at this picture shows me that we both survived and had many bright moments along the way, even if we labored in darkness for so long.