We've decided that for each of our kiddos' tenth birthdays we are going to take them away for a solo couple of days with us. A time to build memories of adventure and laughter. A time to fill them up with our love. Also, a time to have serious talks about the joy, privileges and responsibilities that come with getting older.
Big Buddy turned ten this past August and we took him to St. Louis for three days. He's a big Cardinals fan. Originally, we were suppose to go a game but I misread the schedule and booked our trip for the wrong time. He was gracious (seriously, words cannot describe how impressed I am about the man he is growing into) and was fine with just doing a stadium tour instead.
The thing he most wanted to check out was the Insectarium inside the St. Louis Zoo. This kid is insanely passionate about arthropods. Jeremy and I joked that we should of just taken him to a field for his birthday - the moments where he was bursting with the most excitement was when he captured a grasshopper and a water beetle.
We also checked out the City Museum. We had heard so many amazing things about it and it still blew away our expectations - if you are ever in St. Louis you must visit the City Museum! Those were our three big events. We wanted to leave some time open to just relax and wander. To give ourselves the freedom to follow Big Buddy's lead.
To help maximizes our time we decided to ride Amtrak to St. Louis instead of driving. This meant we had time to relax. Jeremy also started reading Lord of The Rings to Big Buddy.
If you ask Big Buddy what his favorite day was, he will tell you it's when we went to the zoo. We took the Metra to the opposite end of Forest Park and spent the morning walking through the park to the zoo. We stopped to paddle boats across the pond and to take in the beauty of the sculptures and buildings.
Big Buddy's favorite part of the Zoo was obviously the Insectarium (they had over 1/2 dozen scorpions!) but my favorite part was the sea lion sound. It was so much fun to watch them swim around and above us. Big Buddy also seemed to make fast friends with one of the sea lions.
After the Zoo we walked to Fitz's Rootbeer for supper. It was a beautiful walk; the houses are stunning and Washington University's campus is picturesque. Fitz's has a 1940's bottle line in the restaurant. Unfortunately, it wasn't running when we were there. We've vowed to return though (they have a gluten free menu and their floats are amazing!) and next time we will check the bottling schedule.
While we were on the trip, we took some time to talk about puberty and were babies come from. Big Buddy wasn't completely in the dark about these subjects. We've made it a point to answer their questions as they come up as simply and as directly as we can. We, however, wanted to make sure we had everything covered and that Big Buddy knew he would be able to talk to us openly about these things.
When Jeremy was a full-time professor, if he was really impressed with a student, he would sometimes ask their parents for advice. The university he teaches at is small, around 1000 students, and he would often have students in multiple classes. One piece of advice he received was to be preemptive and to talk to children a couple of years before things become an issue. This way emotions and embarrassment (the kids and the parents) aren't as wrapped up in the conversation.
For this conversation we decided to use two books to help us make sure we were clear and concise. I highly recommended On Your Mark Get Set Grow. We actually gave Big Buddy this book as a gift; that way he will able to read and learn at his own discretion. It's So Amazing has some areas/wording that we are not comfortable letting Big Buddy be exposed to at this point, but we did enjoy the simple yet informative way it talks about bodily changes and sexual intercourse. We also appreciated the uncomplicated but straightforward illustrations. Even more important than these books, we shared with him a lot of Biblical scripture pertaining to maturing and God's design for sex. For those interested in the scriptures: Heb 5:11-6, Luke 8:14, Eph 4:13, 1 Cor 16:13-14, 2 Tim 2:1-4 & 22, Ex 20:14, Gen 2:24, 1 Cor 6:12-13 &19-20, Eph 5:1-21, 1 Cor 7:6-7 & 17, Matt 19:12, and Phil 2: 20-21.
Big Buddy was a attentive listener as we talked, but when we were finished, and we asked him if we had any questions..he asked something about grasshoppers' legs. He then told us he'd think about all this weird stuff later, but right now, he just wants to think about bugs and sketching. This boy makes my heart burst with joy. He is polite and thoughtful but yet unabashedly his own person. I love how passionate he gets about things. Part of my mommy heart mourns that he is slowly approaching manhood but the other part is so proud to watch him grow.
We saved our trip to the City Museum for the last day. It is such an impressive place! Jeremy, the architect, kept marveling at the way they used up-cycled pieces of the city to make the museum. He was blown away by creativity and craftsmanship that was put into each piece. I was also in awe of the construction but was most excited to try out all the slides. Big Buddy enjoyed the ball pit and crawling through the caves the most.
We had so much fun in St. Louis; we all agreed that in the next couple of years we have to go back with all the kiddos. We want to show them all the fun places we visited and check out some the places we missed. We were also impressed with all the gluten-free friendly restaurants. Our favorites were Fitz's Rootbeer, Rooster, and Pi Pizzeria, but there were plenty of other options that we didn't have a chance to try. St. Louis - we will be back soon!