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Parent Forces Bratty Teen Son To Volunteer At Zoo After He Belittles Zookeeper’s Job During Visit

zookeeper tending to a kangaroo.

There are certain professions that are, for the most part, universally admired.

These include doctors, teachers, and lawyers (at least those fighting for marginalized communities, and barring obvious jokes).

Sadly, there are other jobs that people tend to look down upon merely for the low pay they are commonly associated with despite the difference they make to the world at large.

This is mostly true for manual labor or service and retail jobs, but if the pandemic taught us anything, we quickly learned that these jobs were “essential” and kept the world as normal as it possibly could when it went into lockdown.

On a recent visit to the zoo, Redditor dublygo was horrified to hear a disparaging remark her son made about a zoo employee.

Wanting to teach him not to look down upon hard-working employees, the original poster (OP) came up with a punishment she believed perfectly fit the crime.

Despite how furious it made her son.

Wondering if she had gone too far, the OP took to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole” (AITA), where she asked fellow Redditors:

“AITA for making my son (16M) volunteer at the zoo, after he made some rude comments?”

The OP explained how she believed there was only one punishment that was suitable for her son’s bad behavior during a recent visit to the zoo.

“I’m divorced, but I have primary custody of my three kids, 16, 12, and 8.”

“Last week, I took them all to the zoo, and it was mostly a good experience.”

“The two younger kids especially liked it, but my oldest isn’t very fond of animals.”

“We passed a zookeeper working hard cleaning a giraffe exhibit, and to my surprise, my 16-year-old son pointed and said to his brother, ‘That’s why you do good in school, I guess, or you end up scooping poop for a job!'”

“He said it loud too. The keeper and nearby guests surely heard. I was very embarrassed.”

“I quickly led them away and left the zoo soon after and asked him where he learned to talk like that.”

“I said, ‘that’s not even true. Don’t many of them have master’s degrees and higher?'”

“But he said he thinks it’s gross menial work for people who don’t want to work with their intellect, and ‘anyone could do it.'”

“Referencing enclosure cleaning, I assume.”

“I was pretty appalled by how he’s learned to look down on manual labor but particularly zoo keeping, because as I understand, it’s not even ‘easy.'”

“Sure, it’s manual labor, but I don’t think I could do what those zookeepers do every day, I gag from our cat’s litter box alone!”

“I thought the best way to teach him more respect and appreciation was to sign him up to volunteer at the zoo, so that’s what I did. I found a ‘zookeeper for a week’ program at a zoo not far from here and enrolled him.”

“When I told him, he was very upset and said, ‘why would you do that? That sounds awful’.”

“I told him I thought he’d said it was ‘easy,’ so surely just one week wouldn’t hurt, but he said, ‘yeah, cleaning up messes is ‘easy’ in that anyone can do it, but that doesn’t mean I want to!'”

“His father thinks this was too harsh when he found out (I’m guessing some of his sentiments may be influencing these attitudes), but I decided to stick with it.”


Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation by declaring:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

The Reddit community all but unanimously agreed that the OP was not the a**hole for forcing her son to volunteer at the zoo.

Nearly everyone agreed that the OP picked the perfect punishment, believing that she was right that doing a week of manual labor would teach her son not to look down on hard work ever again.


“Making him do the work will make him realize how hard a lot of these jobs are actually are, and the amount of effort people put into what they do.”

“The jobs we might see as undesirable are the ones that keep a lot of systems running.”

“To make that comment loudly in front of the zookeeper is just harsh.”- fruitcakeslaps


“My daughter’s middle school class took a zoo field trip once (one of those overnight ones), and I was a parent chaperone.”

“In the morning, one of the keepers led us around a bit and then stopped outside the lion night house.”

“She pulled out a $10 bill and said half-jokingly, ‘Okay, I’ll give $10 to anyone who can come in here with me and help me clean’.”

“So I and two of the kids walked up with her, opened the door to the inside, and OMG.”

“We all turned around, retching and coughing for fresh air.”

“I didn’t know it’s possible for anything to smell that bad.”

“The zookeeper laughed like it was nothing and said, ‘Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to you. Guess I have to clean this alone. Enjoy the rest of your day!'”

“I don’t think 99.9% of people could do that job, like at all.”

“The furthest thing from ‘easy.'”

“NTA.”- grimbet


“That attitude anywhere in life is absolutely disgusting.”

“That being said, my only thoughts would be of concern for the keepers who will be responsible for supervising him for a week.”

“I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to supervise people who thought the work was ‘boring and menial’ and copped a lot of attitude for it.”-  Novel-Problem

“NTA gotta nip that attitude in the bud early.”- ReasonableCookie9369

“NTA any attempt at stopping the formation of a pretentious snob is a benefit to society.”

“Kid needs to learn some respect.”- Huegod


“This is a classic case of the punishment fitting the crime.”

“And ‘picking up giraffe poop’ is a good sort after job.”

“At least he will have a better idea of what is involved and a greater understanding of what it takes to look after animals.”

“I would laugh if he came home after that week and decide to work in the zoo ‘when he grows up’.”-DiamondHeist1970


“BUT, very important, most zoos have a few different sorts of these ‘volunteer programs’.”

“There’s the long-term volunteering you have to commit to for several months and apply for (free)…”

“There’s the paid ‘fun’ little programs where you get little tours and photo ops with the animals, and it’s more like a tourist thing than anything zookeepers really have to do.”

“Maybe a little cleaning and unpleasantness involved, but they go pretty far out of their way to spare you from the worst of it, because they want you to come back and pay more!”

“And there’s the more ‘vocational’ programs for people more serious about a zoo-keeping profession, where they definitely won’t hold anything back, and you’ll be getting down and dirty.”

“Sometimes zoos will remember those who perform well in such programs and offer them internships later on (most do not perform well…at all…lol).”

“I’m guessing you did, but make sure it’s the 3rd ‘down and dirty’ kind!”

“And please update us. I’m going to really enjoy hearing how ‘easy’ he finds the work.”- ferg3332

There were a select few, however, who felt that spending a week at the zoo wouldn’t teach the OP’s son anything, worried that the OP’s son will instead only become a problem for the staff and the zoo, and wondering why she didn’t make him apologize to the zoo keeper at the moment.

“YTA, although it’s a very soft YTA.”

“Here’s why: all you’re doing is taking your son’s bad attitude and making it the problem of the employees at the zoo, ie, the very people he wants to denigrate.”

“Are you going to be there to make sure he isn’t disrespectful?”

“If you aren’t, he’s probably going to behave very badly or at least not do the work.”

“Personally I’d take the kid to one of those ask a zookeeper events and I’d go with him to ensure he doesn’t speak poorly or create issues and pointedly ask about their schooling, qualifications, etc.”

“I think your attitude is absolutely correct, but I also think when we punish or correct children, we have to make sure not to essentially foist them onto someone else, especially if that someone else is someone they will not respect or will be belligerent to.”

“That said, since the sign-up is done, maybe you can see if you can go with him to make sure that he behaves and those questions get answered?”

“At least for the first day or something.”- No_FunFundie

It’s sad to think that the OP’s son, or anyone for that matter, could so instantly look down upon hard-working individuals whose job it is to make everyone’s visit a joyous experience.

Hopefully, after spending a week in their shoes, he’ll learn to treat them, and everyone, with the respect they deserve.

It would be especially ironic if this week results in a sudden change of career goals…

Written by John Curtis

A novelist, picture book writer and native New Yorker, John is a graduate of Syracuse University and the children's media graduate program at Centennial College. When not staring at his computer monitor, you'll most likely find John sipping tea watching British comedies, or in the kitchen, taking a stab at the technical challenge on the most recent episode of 'The Great British Baking Show'.