Mary Beth Writes


Last week we went to St. Louis with our son, his wife, and their two kids who are 5- and 7-years-old. Our daughter-in-law (known hereafter as DIL) is a small, quiet person who harbors great and noisy ideas.

Last summer the six of us traveled together to friends’ wedding in Michigan. (Hi, Otis and George!). We rode many hours in our son’s big car and no one overheated, we had a great time. When we were almost home our son suggested we arrange another adventure sometime. At which point our quiet DIL with the noisy ideas suggested St. Louis. She'd been there once years ago and wanted to take the kids. We said yes.

Reading about someone else’s trip to a second-tier mid-American city with their kids and grandkids can be, I fully admit, less than riveting reading. So I will just tell you the “aww-shucks” part right away and get it over with. Our grandkids have been in our life two years via adoption. One of the things that happened on this trip was that my kindergartner granddaughter decided sitting on my lap to do mazes was fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat with a sweet, warm kid on my lap and that was the trip’s highlight for me.

Do you know about St. Louis’ City Museum? It’s housed in a 1901 multi-story warehouse and it’s astonishing. It has tunnels, slides, climbing apparatus, net walking. It fully invites kids and adults to crawl into dark places. To slide down enclosed, dark, weirdly lit slides that curly cue from floor to floor. There are acrobatic circuses and magic shows. There are things to look at, areas drenched in light, spaces only lit by purple light, plus a giant prism to walk through. It was cold outside yet little kids, teenagers, and adults were climbing through snares of tunnels constructed steel rods - to a jet, to a castle, and more. The top floor of the building is outfitted with a school bus that hangs over the edge plus a gigantic grasshopper and even more climbing stuff, though it’s closed in the winter. We were there 10AM-4PM and no one got bored. It cost $20 per person and was, in our opinion, more fun than Disney World. We were there on a super busy day yet the only long line we endured was the line to buy lunch. (As long as one keeps their wristband on they can exit and return the same day. Next time we go (?) maybe we’ll leave for lunch then go back.)


The next day we went to the Soulard City Markert, the zoo, the Arch, and to Cahokia on the other side of the river. We ate at a screaming yellow Mexican place for a taco lunch and did Middle Eastern take-out (with the best lentil soup ever) for dinner. St Louis is big enough to have all this and small enough to do it in one day while still having enough time leftover for my granddaughter to sit on my lap.

The zoo is old, has some lovely old buildings as well as lots of outdoor space. It’s built into hills so there are winding paths plus a creek. Zoos are weird because animals are locked up their whole lives. The tiger had a big area but it was pacing and roaring which was powerful and unsettling.

I’ve written about Cahokia in the past. Read here.  The important thing to share about Cahokia is 1.) my son carried the 5-year-old ON HIS SHOULDERS up those stairs! And 2.) Our grandson counted 145 steps.

There are many ways to be in relationships with kids, from being their parent to being the adult who lives in an apartment down the hall. It’s work to care about a kid and there’s always the potential for disappointment and grief.

I have volunteered with kids a lot in my life. I don’t do it because I’m bored, but because for me, being around kids knocks loose some of my opinions and dusts out my brain. It is a worthy challenge to try like a kid for who they are now, not for who I would invent them to be.

I adore the occasional fabulous humor of kids. I’ve been called Grandma Leonard and Len has been called Grandpa Mary Beth and this makes us laugh every single time. I appreciate that part of their humor is to terrify us. I gasped when our grandson hopped up or down four steps at a time on the slippery wood staircase of the Airbnb. Then, when I told the kids to NOT hop around on stairs, my granddaughter sat on her bottom to bounce all the way down after which she stood up and walked away.   Good God, I have friends who have spent months in physical therapy after much less intersection with stairs.

I respect the ways kids are not me. That my job is to shut up to watch the child, figure out if what they are doing is really a poor choice or if it might be okay. I give up my stereotypes of how things should go - in order to be present to how they are.

In theology this practice of letting go to grow into what’s coming next is called redemption and sanctification. Always renewing one’s place in the world and in our relationships.

Also, kids will often (not always) share their candy with you.



MB, my younger brother Dave and his wife still live in near North St Louis, one of those aging inner city neighborhoods still holding forth. 3 of their 4 sons also live in/ near St Louis. You will have missed a famous landmark- Crown Candy( and ice cream) where one of my nephews is a manager. The grandkids love city museum and the parks there are also great. I haven’t been there in many years- since the last nephew’s wedding. He is the one at Crown Candy and they had dessert of huge hunks of various types of chocolate carved from a huge choc “ cake”. Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

Love this! As much as we loved/love our kids, going places and spending time with your Grands AND your kid is the absolute best!!

I love that phrase, that being with kids dusts out our brains! It's amazing how whenever I'm with kids my energy level goes up.......and then when I go home I have to recharge :) And then there is the awesomeness of babies, more good stuff for the soul!
Mary Beth's picture

Boy did we sleep that first night home from that trip!

I feel so fortunate to have little grands who help me dust out my brain (and your words to help me to understand that… as sometimes all that dusting results in total exhaustion!) Also loved your ‘liking them for who they are now’ I’m glad to be grand-parenting with you! Thanks!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks and yes, love gets so wrapped up in worry for their futures. Tell me about it...

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