FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

The Animal Magic Show

Written By: Scot Butwell - Sep• 02•12

john abrams

D and I are sitting on the library floor behind a strip of yellow plastic crime scene tape with the words, “Caution: Do Not Enter,” in bold black letters. D has done an amazing job waiting for the “Animal Magic Show” to begin for approximately twenty minutes.

He has been sitting perfectly still, which is not easy for him, but it starts to feel like the plot for Waiting for Godot, an absurdist British play by Samuel Beckett where two transients wait endlessly for a third character named Godot who never shows up.

The librarian and magician stand like security guards behind the yellow tape while we’re waiting, and the magician doesn’t appear about to pull a chinchilla out of a hat any time soon.

The librarian stares at the kids to make sure no one disturbs the yellow tape, and, sure enough, D earns a reprimand after his foot begins involuntarily kicking the tape, as if he has come down with Tourette’s Syndrome.

“Please don’t kick the yellow tape,” the librarian sternly tells him.

I want to scream at her to start the freaking animal magic show, but of course I don’t say anything–though I am sure other parents are having similar thoughts. Or maybe not. D’s fidgetiness could just be getting to me.

“Where is the magician’s black hat?” D asks me.

As I explain that not all magicians wear a black hat like Professor Hinkle on Frosty the Snowman, D’s foot takes aim at the blond hair boy sitting next to us. Luckily, his kick misses his arm, and I pin D’s leg down with my arm.

That’s when I realize my Dad Mistake #1: We arrived too early to get front row seats! Actually, we showed up a week early (I mixed up the dates) and came back today; we’ve been sitting for close to thirty minutes and, cross my fingers, another hour and change to watch the animal magic show.

Then, as I contemplate mistake #1, I realize my Dad Mistake #2: his body is squirmy because he needs to pee, not from having difficulty regulating his body, as I had presumed. We visited the restroom when we arrived, so I thought he was “okay” on that front.

But D says he needs to pee again–after I ask him once his leg starts shaking–and we rush off towards the restroom.

I realize my Dad mistake #3 in the bathroom: He drank too much water in the car which may cause us to lose our front row seats. And when we return from the restroom, sure enough, our front row seats are taken, D loses interest in the show, playing instead with a shard of carpet, and I ponder how a couple of blunders can lead to the sudden demise of our trip.

I know my “mistakes” are common knowledge for moms, probably most dads too, and I’m sure in my life as a dad, I will make many more parenting mistakes along the Yellow Brick Road.

However, this is what I’m learning today: I must not only be aware of my need to pee, but also monitor the level of D’s bladder, especially when sitting for any length of time will be required.

I mentally bookmark this lesson: drinking too much water = a need to pee. I know it’s not Einstein’s e = mc squared, and not earth shattering, but this is what I must learn if I am to be successful going places with my son.

I doubt Samuel Beckett, who was married but had no kids, was thinking of parents when he said–“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”–but I find his words fit exactly how I am feeling.


Later that evening I googled “library quotes” to gain perspective on our first two summer library events. I scrolled through fifteen to twenty quotes before I found one that related to our experience, at least metaphorically.

The quote was from from a librarian in Arlington, Texas: “My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.”

That’s how I felt after our trips to the Animal Magic Show and The Really Big Music Show: they helped move me forward in my relationship with my son, and nothing was wasted in either one of our visits.


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