We headed to the zoo for a lovely family day out.

The mental scars from the last family day trip had healed. We convinced ourselves that they are older now and it’ll be better than it was the last time.

Ha.

We are older.

This much is true.

We headed off to DierenPark Amersfoort Zoo. Friends had recommended it to us and said it was great for kids. They were right, the animal prisons enclosures were leafy and spacious and they had plenty of places to hide away from prying eyes.

In fact the animals had so many hidey-holes, that our 5 year old kept a running tally of how many we were actually able to spot.

So there we were having, A Nice Family Day Out…50 rounds of, “Can we have an ice cream?” and, “When can we go on the train?” and, “Jesusmaryandjoseph. If you bang on the glass one more time, I’ll throw YOU over the fence”. Just a nice, normal family day of fun at the zoo.

We got to the lions. It was very impressive and I could see where the zoo was going with the Gladiator theme, what with all the tunnels and stone pillars and things. We headed up a long flight of stone stairs, with everyone else. Very high, very steep stairs that seemed to curve up and around the lions’ enclosure. It was very busy and it was slow-going progress.

Knowing what I know now, I feel like I could have done with some warning of what I was letting myself in for.

At the top of the steps, there was a big, black, tunnel opening. It was a slide. Inside was pitch black and you could hear screams and roars echoing up from the bottom. It was all a bit ‘gladiators to the lions’ and fairly intimidating looking. As we stood there, uncertain what to do, we were being shoved by the queue of people behind us.

The 5 year old doesn’t do well with crowds, noise or weird situations. He decided that he’d had enough and took off. He leapt away from us, back down the death stairs. My husband set off behind him in the hope of catching him before he jumped over the lions’ fence, or shoved a granny to her death.

Not one to give up easily, I sat down at the entrance to the slide.

The 3 year old gamely sat on my lap. She then changed her mind and tried to get off as we began to slide forward. A helpful man in the queue behind us gave us a push to get us going.

Thanks for that.

We plummeted vertically in the darkness.

The 3 year old screamed in terror and clutched at my windpipe with all her might. As we shot down the tunnel and twisted round a corner in the darkness, her lizard brain took over and she started to claw her way to safety through my face. She fully believed she was going to die. I fully believed she was going to kill me.

It was a surprisingly long slide. At one point I stuck my leg up on the roof of the tunnel to try and slow our descent down, but that just further enraged the frantic, howling 3 year old. We banged our heads on the metal slide and her wails blended into the roaring sounds from below.

We landed with a hard thump onto a sandy floor of a small stone room. There were flashing lights and the sounds of lions roaring and crowds cheering. We held hands and fled. Behind us we could hear the sounds of a French child begging for it all to end.

We had to sit in a train and have an ice cream after that.

I think that might have been the five year old’s plan all along.

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We now live in the Netherlands, in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired, small kids. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all the Dutchness around me.

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