Lions and tigers and bears (polar bear, at least): oh, my! And with an epic drumroll solo, I cross #96 Go to Pittsburgh Zoo with my daughter from my yearly (Sort Of) Bucket List; however, I should really say daughters, as in plural, but I’m briefly getting ahead of myself.

My daughter has loved zoo animals, as far as she knows, since the day she was born. From my perspective, it’s a bit more like since her second Christmas. When each of our kids were toddlers, we had to chose some subject matter to get them interested in, and for her gift we bought a set of plastic zoo animals. That’s the moment that she was All About the Animals. With an interest that persists into her teen years, I fully expect her to pursue a career in some scientific or biological field of study.

The problem, from my perspective as a dad, is that the zoo is an expensive afternoon endeavor, really expensive: adults at $16 a piece, kids at $14 a piece, plus all of the zoo-foods that go along with eating lunch there. A few weeks ago, I thought that I had the answer: FREE ZOO DAY.

In reality all of Pittsburgh had the exact same idea as me. I’m sure you can imagine how that turned out. Actually, I can only imagine because we never made it to the zoo that day. With traffic backed up for miles, we sat in a line of stationary cars, awaiting access to the zoo. And we waited for a very long time, until we exited the right lane and bailed on the Free Zoo Day idea. The disappointment emanated from the back seat was palpable, sliceable with one of those fancy cheese knives. Truth be told, I was frustrated as well.

When I placed goal #96 on my bucket list, it wasn’t because I really love the zoo, but because I know that my daughter really loves the zoo. I am a firm believer of pursuing the interests of your children, and penciling outings—whether one-on-one or as a family unit—on the calendar (whenever possible) to quench that individual interest and curiosity. For each kid, that solution presents itself in a different manner, and I feel, as their father, it is my responsibility to manage those possible opportunities.

Another variable in the zoo equation is that of weather conditions. With the majority of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium falling within the Outdoor Exhibits Everywhere and We’re Going to Be Walking a Lot Today categories, pleasant weather is of paramount consideration. Our October has been unbelievably mild, however I strongly suspect that we’re in for a brutal November, December, and January. Today was perfect: temperatures in the mid-60s to low-70s, no precipitation, both of my girls were off from school. In working from home, I was tasked with watching them both as my wife attended a mandatory off-site teacher conference.

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction ~ Rachel Carson

With a partial workday cleared with my boss, and a handful of vacation hours, we three prepped for an afternoon at the zoo. In arriving before noon, we had plenty of time to see everything before leaving at 3:00. Foot traffic was light at the zoo today, as it was a weekday and not a weekend, with very few zoo patrons on the loose. We each saw our favorite beasts of the world: clown fish, red panda, and jellyfish. We (thankfully) dodged all requests to venture into the plethora of gift shops. Yes, dad mini-victory!

We enjoyed a relaxing outdoor lunch as we watched the towering giraffes enjoy their lunch, while two zebras casually strolled the grassy knoll. In walking through the two new areas of the zoo, I’m amazed at how far the design of natural habitats has advanced over the years. Get ready, here comes one of those when I was a kid statements: when I was a kid I also visited this zoo, and I can remember animals displayed in steel-barred boxed cages; today: waterfalls, concrete stone sculptures, and imported foliage make the habitats believable (full disclaimer, I have no idea what the wild beasts think of it all!)

Here’s what’s most important, the take-away per se: my daughter was thrilled at the opportunity to visit the zoo, and I had the blessing of enjoying that experience with her. It’s not about fulfilling a silly item on my own bucket list, but fulfilling one of her own desires to experience something in her world that she’s earmarked as a priority. Sure, I have a large list of personal-must-dos, but this wasn’t about that at all.

Likewise, I asked my two other children what they wanted to do this year, with dear old dad, and I’ve already accomplished those goals with #22 Take my son to a concert and #92 Inspire someone to create a legitimate bucket list then help them to achieve one goal. The latter included an episode of grip-you-by-the-you-know-whats-horseback-riding, but I’m sure you already read that story.

So, as you can clearly see, I am truly in the business of wish fulfillment.