Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do as I Say AND as I Do

 I am not usually a person to say "Do what I do! I did this amazing thing and you should follow my advice because I know a LOT about what I am talking about! Do it!"

Well, I don't think that I am that way. Am I? Am I pushy and don't even realize it?

Something to ponder in the future.

But, in the meantime, I am going to say this:


I did this amazing thing and you should follow my example and advice because I KNOW WHAT I SPEAK OF.


No matter how tight your time and budget may be, try try try, with all your might, to take your child on a special one-on-one trip. It doesn't need to be fancy or expensive; when Justin turned 10, I took him camping at Mammoth Cave. It was amazing and special (despite some difficulties) and he still talks about the fabulous time we had.

I think that the age of 10 is a turning point in your child's life. Double digits, cusp of pre-teen years, and they still think you're moderately cool. It's the perfect time to snatch them away from the regular hub-bub of life and remind them that you love them and that you think they are cool. Do it NOW before the teenage years hit and you are flung over the cliff of "OH MY GOD I did not know that this was ever going to be my life why didn't somebody warn me before I got pregnant?!?"

Evan turned 10 this April and I took him last weekend for his special one-on-one birthday trip to St. Louis.

It was amazing and special and he and I will talk about the fabulous time we had for years to come.

 We only had 2 nights away, but the time together felt multiplied by 20. Without interruptions or questions from anyone else, Evan and I were able to focus completely on each other.
 And you know what? He's a pretty cool kid.And even funnier than I realized. Holy crap, that kid has got some wit.

"Hey Mama? When CAN I have a girl friend?"*

"Good Lord, Evan! Be a kid for a while, ok?"

"But WHEN?"

"I don't know. You have to be at least 12. But what makes you think you can get a girlfriend when you're 12?"

"Are you kidding me?" he gestures up and down the length of his body, "With this face? What's not to love?"

(I shit you not. This is my 10 yr old son. Lord help me.)
 He even tolerated my attempt at incorporating a little historical education into the trip with a little walk through the Westward Expansion Museum under the St. Louis arch (FREE! And totally cool. Very worth a trip through).
 The paddle boat ride down the Mississippi wasn't all I'd dreamed of, but I'd dreamed of Mark Twain and towering trees and gentile boatsmen calling out to each other as they poled across the water.
 I guess that wasn't a very realistic expectation in 2012. But Evan had a blast playing with his new wooden ball in the cup toy. Better than Nintendo.

We spent our second day at Six Flags over St. Louis but we have no pictures from that day and very little video, either. I have mixed feelings about this particular Six Flags as the rides weren't AS fabulous as I'd expected and the service, though friendly, was extremely slow. Maybe I'm just too Chicago-ish? I like my food served quickly, my directions succinct and my maps to MAKE SENSE. When you ask several workers for directions to a ride or location within the park and they all start their replies with "Wellll, let me seeee....." ? I tend to get a little twitchy. And don't even get me started on the whole "no bag" issue. A menstrual period is a MEDICAL ISSUE. End of Story.

Still, we had fun and the Mr. Freeze ride is FANTASTIC and Evan has only great memories of Six Flags. And that's all that matters in the long run, right?
 Day 3 was spent entirely at the City Museum in downtown St. Louis.
 I am told that not many tourists know about this attraction and that it is frequented mostly by locals. Perhaps this is because it's not quite a children's museum and not quite a history museum...
 If I had to describe The City Museum, I'd say it is an Architectural-Art-Adventure... And, in my opinions, it's really not appropriate for anyone under the age of 8 or so. I would bring my 6 year old, but she's used to finding her way back out of sticky situations and The City Museum is FULL of sticky situations! Just be aware that your child WILL get turned around at some point during the day. If you can be chill and confident that he or she will find their way back to you, then your child is old enough.
 The tunnels that lead through trees and under whales and into caverns can be confusing if you're too little... Or too big. I don't even want to admit how many times I got stuck. Evan had to talk me through my slight claustrophia issues. Several times.
 And the art! The art is everywhere! The detail in every aspect of the museum is something that can only be developed over many years by many artists... Amazing.
 There is an entire section dedicated to the rescued architectural art of former St. Louis buildings. The detail is astounding.
 And Evan thought I was weird, but I could have spent hours in the doorknob section. They were gorgeous!
 We spent the extra $5 a piece and went up to the new Rooftop exhibit. It was decent, but initially we weren't sure what the hype was.
 I mean, he loved the slides and big spinning swing, but it wasn't anything that the outside first floor didn't have...

Until we found the 10 story slide into the spooky tunnels way below the museum.

Holy. Holy. Holy Fun.

Evan and I could have spent the entire day there. In fact, I had to pry him away at 5:00 so that we could get back to the Chicago area by 9.

 Out of all of the parenting ideas I've had over the years, this is the one I must insist you try or at least seriously consider trying. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. It just needs to be time spent together doing something fun. Camping is cheap but you can also go online and bid on hotel rooms near a cool zoo or fun museum. The beach or the mountains, the city or the countryside; whatever is near you. Just take the time. The TIME is what is awesome. His face lit up every time someone asked why we were on a trip. "It's my birthday present! I turned 10. It's just me and my mom!"

*This is not the first time he's asked the question. It's getting a bit old, to be honest.
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