One of our favorite summertime destinations is the Missouri Botanical Garden. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, admission is free for St. Louis City and County residents, so I usually take the boys on Wednesdays. And even though it it pretty crowded on these days, the garden is so vast that we barely notice the extra people.
I used to be really intimidated by the thought of looking after all three boys by myself here, but last Wednesday’s visit really boosted my confidence. Milo and Oliver were so well-behaved and did not dart off ahead. They stayed close to me and showed a lot of interest in the current exhibit featuring silk and steel structures to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dragon. The Lantern Festival is also going on at dusk, but that is not the best time for us to venture out, as the boys are usually pretty exhausted come 7pm.
There is so much to see and do, but once inside, I refrain from directing the boys from one thing to the next. I think it is really important for them to discover and enjoy at their own pace. They lead the way and race on, or sit and gaze into the water for what seems like hours. Really, it makes no difference to me. We can come back again to see something new next week!
I find that these are the most enjoyable moments for me as a parent. When I can let go and not push. Time slows down and stress evaporates. These are the moments I feel like I am the luckiest mama in the world.
These are also the moments when Oliver perfects his role as little brother:
And I marvel at Milo’s patience with both Oliver and Emil. He is becoming such an amazing big brother in his advanced age of four and three quarters (he is not four and a half). They are good for each other, these boys.
Oliver found a young settler friend… or his shadow?
Emil, not impressed…
… then impressed…
… then nearly asleep.
And I am so proud of these guys. I shared the following story with my mom the other day about what happened here, in the sandbox inside the Children’s Garden:
Oliver was contently playing with the hourglass-shaped funnel pictured above, when a boy who looked to be about 10 years old came over and snatched it right out of Oliver’s hands, then walked over to another part of the sandbox and started playing with it. Oliver stood up, walked over to the boy, and leaned down to get on eye level with him. He actually said these words, my not-yet-three-year-old:
Excuse me, I was playing with that. May I have that back now?
The boy just ignored him while my heart exploded into a billion pieces. But I hung back to see what would unfold. I was sure Oliver would try to take the toy back or throw sand in this kid’s face or something slightly barbaric (I kind of wanted to shake the kid myself- he was nearly as tall as me!) but instead, he turned and walked over to me with a really concerned look on his face and informed me that the boy had taken his toy away. I went over and suggested to the big boy that if he would like a turn with the toy, we would be sure to give him one as soon as Oliver was finished playing with it, but that it was not cool to take a toy away from someone so much smaller than him, yada, yada, yada.
The big boy just ignored me too and then gave me a what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it look, so I gave up and pulled Oliver aside and explained to him that sometimes things happen that are unfair and that it is still important for him to try to be fair to others because of how icky it feels when someone treats you that way. Oliver went and found another toy and was totally fine. I, on the other hand, was kind of pissed off that this kid’s mom was nowhere to be found, but really, that is my problem.
It freaks me out how completely uncivilized people can be! We are making such an effort to teach our boys to be good people, fair people, kind people. But I’ve had enough doors slammed in my face (while carrying a bag, pushing a stroller, and balancing a baby on one hip) recently that I’m starting to feel jaded. WTF? Are people not teaching their kids to be good anymore? Is it too much to ask for people to instill some basic decency in their offspring?
I found Milo crouched in the corner of the play area weeding. Nope, not climbing and jumping and actin’ a fool. Just quietly, calmly pulling weeds. He found this beauty and showed us the baby tree that had sprouted from a seed still attached! What a great find. After finding the mama tree towering above us, we had a pretty cool discussion about the tree’s life cycle. Then he felt bad and tried to replant the sapling.
My heart explodes with love for them. And at the same time, I dread the day when some other kid teases the tenderness out of my boys. Or at least makes them ashamed of it. I never understood the appeal of homeschooling (or the newest extreme schooling trend, unschooling, as the hipsters like to call it) until now. The thought of the “cool kids” making fun of an active imagination or a Little Mermaid tattoo or gentleness toward plants and animals (one neighborhood girl has already made fun of Milo for crying after she smashed a caterpillar he was playing with- “My Mom says bugs are disgusting”- SPLAT). If I could be sure I would be any good at it and Milo wouldn’t surpass my own intelligence at the age of 9 and I would not loose my freaking mind, I would consider it myself.
So let’s hear it, how do you feel about homeschooling, or the more extreme version, “unschooling?” (Check out this story, or listen to the 5-minute version here). Whoa. Interesting stuff, no?
In unrelated news, Father’s Day is a week from tomorrow, so I will be posting a Father’s Day gift guide on Monday. Also, a Happy Birthday shout-out to my sister-in-law Annie today!
Enjoy your weekend!