Convo With My 5-year-old Sons, Illustrated With Otter Socks

Convo With My (then) 5-year-old Sons,
Illustrated with Otter Socks

Once upon a time, I took my twins to the zoo.

We saw otters.


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Otters are cute.

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Otters are playful.

Otters are funny. 

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My boys LOVED the otters.

My boys wanted to take the otters home.

We looked at the otters along with lots of other families, moms and dads laughing at the otters’ antics and then at their kids as the little ones tried to copy their furry mentors.

“Look, Mom! I’m rolling around like an otter!”

“Look, Dad! I’m breaking open a shell like an otter!” 

“Aw, Mom! I’m not HURTING my brother; I was just playing like an otter!” 

We families were together

We were Nodding and Smiling , a beautiful example of strangers becoming friends in an instant of shared joy.

We were a Community of Otter Watchers!

You know; except for the scary looking, leather-and-metal-stud-clad biker dude who was also watching the otters and definitely Not Laughing at anyone’s antics. But whatever.

We were Mostly a Community of Otter Watchers! Good enough!

And then the otters had an idea.

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An awful idea.

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The otters had a wonderful, awful idea! 

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They looked down at themselves, contemplated, and then bent all the way over, curled in impossible balls.

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Bent in half!

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And stayed that way a long time.

A LONG time.

Sort of… rocking.

“Mama? Mom? Mom? Mom?” asked my son. “What is that otter doing?” he said.

And I said, “He’s… um… cleaning himself.” 

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All of the parents looked at me with gratitude.

I was the Experienced Parent!

I had Answers to These Things!

I was an Honored Member of Our Community!

And my son said, “Mama? Mom? Mom? Mom?”

And, still high from my last answer, I said aloud for all the parents to hear, “What, baby? How can I help you?”

And my son said, “That otter is cleaning himself a long time, Mom. A long, LONG time, Mom. Why is he cleaning himself THAT LONG, Mom?”

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And I said, “Yes. Yes, he is. Because he’s.. Well, he’s… Maybe he’s… really… dirty. He’s a… dirty… dirty… otter.”

Some of the parents stopped making You’re a Genius Eye Contact and started looking Anywhere Else.

And my son said, “Yes, Mom! That’s it! He’s a very dirty otter. Very, very, very dirty, Mom.”

And some of the families started to drift away from the otters. 

But not fast enough for my other son who said, “THAT makes sense. He’s a very dirty otter, Mama, and so is his penis. That’s why he has to suck on his penis. And suck and suck and suck and SUCK. And just keep on sucking. On his penis.”

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“Yeah!” exclaimed his brother. “He is very best Otter Penis Cleaner I EVER SAW, Mom! He is really washing the heck out of that thing.” 

 I stood watching my Community of Otter Watchers beat their retreat as fast as that little otter could clean himself.

Which is exactly the moment the enormous, fierce, neck-tattooed biker dude burst out laughing and kept going ’til he cried, wiping occasionally at the rivers of tears falling into his scruffy beard.

And it was exactly the moment, too, I realized my Community was still there. 100% in tact — the biker dude, the 5-year-old boys, the otters, and me — Otter Admirers, every one. 


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21 responses to “Convo With My 5-year-old Sons, Illustrated With Otter Socks”


    Or if they are homemade I would definitely be willing to pay you for some otter socks!

  2. Thank you for the PSA! My oldest child is 3, and I would have been completely unprepared for such a conversation if you hadn’t shared. Now, we’re prepared for anything during our next trip to the zoo, right?? Okay, so I have been a parent long enough to realize that is crazy talk. If I want to be prepared for anything, I’ll have to at least remember to check the diaper bag for diapers before leaving the house. 🙂

  3. Love love love!!! I was at the OKC zoo with my son when he was little, and there was a momma ape lounging around. Some little 3 year old boy said, “Look mom! That monkey’s boobs are hanging down like yours do!” She clamped her hand over his mouth and scurried out, and it took everything I had to wait until she was gone to burst out laughing. hahaha! Kids are awesome…..

  4. Wouldn’t it be awesome if husbands could…….no. nevermind.
    But it does remind me of an old joke. why do dogs lick their {selves}? Because they can.

    I think I may be a dirty girl. I apologize.

  5. LOLOL!!!

    We saw a sea otter doing that once, although he wasn’t very bent over, and he _was_ pretty quick about it. It was one quarter the length of his body–a well-hung critter! ;-D

    I’m so glad that you discovered that the biker dude was part of your community! We once went on a family trip to South Dakota, and quite by accident ended up being there at the same time as the Sturgis Rally. All of my pictures from the campground, and Mount Rushmore, and the bison reserve are filled with people wearing leather, snapping pictures, laughing, and having a good time. That was the Best Trip Ever.

  6. I’ve noticed the responses have fallen into 3 categories: friendly biker dudes, lascivious animals, and the things kids say in public. Let me introduce a fourth: the problem of raising precocious, intelligent, observant children. Mine is that way, and living with her has made me realize that in wishing for a precocious, intelligent, observant child, I really wanted her to be precocious, intelligent, and observant IN SCHOOL. Instead, she is constantly outsmarting me and my faulty arguments, polite evasions, and half truths–you know, the majority of my parenting toolbox. On top of that, she also makes me laugh, so my attempts to be stern, dignified and parental are also undermined. My sense of humor represents most of my remaining toolbox (a VERY useful tool in many instances, but not when I ‘m trying to be serious) so all I’m left with are the parenting platitudes I’ve inherited from my parents and THE LOOK.

    So now what ? I’m open to any and all suggestions on this.

  7. There was a certain frustrated manatee at the Ocean World theme park that decided the glass and his fin were more receptive than the females in the tank with him. You should have seen the crowd scatter when the first (inevitable) “Mom, what is he doing? What is that thing coming out of him?” question happened.

  8. Oh goodness. You otter be ashamed of yourself. 🙂

    I once had my infant son in a car seat while waiting at the bank behind a burly, sweaty, mean looking biker dude. I nervously avoided eye contact with him, hoping the line would speed up! Speed up!!

    And he bent over my little boy and started making funny faces at him and talking to him in a high pitched little voice and told me that I had a ‘beautiful baby boy’.

    I guess biker dudes are real people, too!

    • One time I was walking into a grocery store with my then-two-year-old daughter when she let go of my hand and dropped back behind me. I turned around to see that she had lingered to visit with a big, tough, tattooed biker dude. She wanted to show him the Lion King temporary tattoo on her arm. He was nodding appreciatively at her ink and showing her some of his ink, and she was nodding appreciatively, too, very seriously. It was adorable.

  9. went to the Baltimore aquarium and saw the big harbor seals. there was a worker talking about them who asked the audience if there were any questions and one of your boys (right??) ok, maybe not, this was more than 13 years ago… but he asked the worker what was the big red thing on the harbor seal. The very aroused harbor seal. She said, go ask your parents when you get home. your answer might have been better!!

  10. I have seen that otter and he is ALWAYS “cleaning himself” I wish I had been there to overhear you, that must have been just awesome.

    Also, (and don’t take this the wrong way, because it, too, is awesome) I’m pretty sure your Community was nowhere near “in tact” even though it WAS intact.

  11. LOL!!! My 4 yr old daughter this morning was telling me about how her brother has this pointy thing that holds his pee and that is how he pees. I did my best not to make a big deal out of it, and hope my husband didn’t hear our conversation (he can be a bit squirmy when it comes to that topic). However 5 minutes later I don’t even think she remembered 🙂 Love the otter story! Can’t wait to take my kids to the zoo and see what kind of things they pick up on!

  12. Now that is an awesome story!

    We have seen shagging baboon’s at the zoo, which raised a few questions and caused a few red faces, but our otters seem to be pretty clean (so far!)

    The sock puppets are a work of genius!

  13. That’s what the otters were doing when we were there too. We just kind of kept walking. Oregon Zoo has some dirty, dirty otters indeed!

    Love the socks.

  14. My reputation for laughing loudly in public spaces sitting at my computer is growing, and it’s at least 83% your fault, Beth Woolsey.

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