Last month, on May 22, we went to our very first 22q at the Zoo Awareness Day event!
This event is organized by the International 22q11.2 Foundation and by hosts at local zoos worldwide to connect individuals with 22qDS and their families and to spread the word about 22q. Families participating in 22q at the Zoo wear t-shirts and pins inviting others to learn more about 22q deletion syndrome, and some hand out pamphlets with information about 22q.
Honestly, we had not been planning to go to 22q at the Zoo this year. We were totally just going to put it off until next year, maybe even the year after that. We had some reservations for a couple of reasons… First of all, James and I are pretty introverted and shy. We’re not big “joiners.” The idea of meeting up with a bunch of strangers is, like, borderline terrifying for us. Second, we weren’t sure how much of a conversation we would need to have with Calvin about what “22q” means. He’s kinda young to understand the concept, and we didn’t want to freak him out telling him he’s different. At the same time, we knew we would have to start talking to him about it at some point. We just weren’t sure if we were ready for that.
We had plans to go camping that weekend, but when we saw rain on the forecast we decided to cancel our campsite reservation and we made the last minute decision to go to 22q at the Zoo here in North Carolina.
We decided to try not to make a big deal out of it and just start talking about 22q like the totally normal thing that it is. He has brown hair. He has one dimple. He has an outie belly button. He has 22q. NBD. So we sort of casually told him that he has something called 22q and that not everybody has it so it makes him special and that we were going to the zoo to meet some other people with 22q and their families. And he was like, OK cool.
Still not sure if we’re handling this “You have 22q” thing “right,” but it feels right for our family at least for now. More conversations to be had in the future, and we’ll let future James, Diana and Calvin handle that.
So back to the zoo!
We met up with the other 22q families for a group photo when we first arrived, and then the families kind of split off to enjoy the zoo and met up again later for a picnic.
We were one of only like 2 families without cool 22q t-shirts. Most had ordered official 22q at the Zoo event shirts, and some families had special shirts made with their 22cutie’s name on them! All the shirts were in red, the color for the 22q foundation, and although we didn’t have shirts, I did dress Calvin in some red shorts for the occasion.
We had never been to the North Carolina Zoo before, and you guys, it is GORGEOUS. Also, it is HUGE. We only saw about half of the zoo that day, so we’ve definitely got to go back and see the other half!
We took the boys for a ride on the carousel because who doesn’t love a carousel??? Um, Calvin, apparently. He didn’t used to be afraid of these things, so maybe it’s something about being 4 or maybe it was that alligator he chose to ride on, but either way, this ride ended in tears for Calvin :(. Henry, as usual, loved it.
We got Calvin a giant ice cream to cheer him up.
After some more zoo touring and a very long and very unsuccessful attempt at getting Henry to nap in the stroller, we made our way over to the picnic area to meet up with the other 22q families.
There was a picnic lunch and face painting and a nice lawn for the kids to run around and play. Calvin, being his usual social and friendly self, set off towards the other kids and made friends immediately. It always amazes me how he manages to do that even with his speech difficulties.
Henry was all cranky from not napping, so James put him in the Ergo and went for a walk and Henry was finally able to sleep. This left me standing there realizing that it was my turn to follow Calvin’s lead and go try to make some friends. I took a moment to shake my head at how two introverts managed to have such an extroverted kid, and then I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to talk to some other parents.
I met the ladies who had done lots of work to organize and set up the event at our zoo. I learned about the Facebook group for 22q families in North Carolina. And I made friends with the other family that didn’t have red t-shirts!
It was a really nice event and I’m glad we went. Next year we’ll be ready with some #cheers4calvin shirts!!
22q at the Zoo day for 2017 is set for Sunday, May 21st. Check out the event website here: Annual 22q at the Zoo Day for info on which zoo near you is hosting, and how to volunteer to host at your local zoo.