Sunday, January 22, 2006

Arts and Culture, Take One

Now here's a scenario for you:

Say a friend invites you to go to the fancy-pants art museum. With all four of your collective kids in tow, ranging in age from almost-4 to 1. Your response?

a. "Wow. That sounds a little overwhelming. Maybe we could try that when the kids are a little older. How about we go to (local children's museum) instead?"

b. "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? I'd rather pull my fingernails out one by one."

c. "Sure, that sounds like fun! What time shall we meet there?"

Yes, of course, I chose "C". (Let's just leap right from the hypothetical that you knew darn well wasn't hypothetical to what actually happened.) I like to live dangerously, you see.

My trepidation over this excursion was based primarily on well-established precedents with Allie's behavior in public. Sean I wasn't too concerned about, but Allie is often the reason why even trips to the grocery store have to be cut short.

My friend has a membership to the museum, and her son, who is Sean's age, has become quite enamored by the armor and medieval weaponry rooms. So that's where we started our visit, and really where we could have ended it. Sean seemed enthralled by all the shiny metal; I don't think he had any idea what they, or the spears and lances, were for, though. He'd never even seen a weapon of any kind before this, and I had a hard time explaining them both accurately and in a peace-fostering manner. Fortunately, Allie had already tired of her stroller and was raising a fuss, so we couldn't linger.

From then on, at least one of our children made it clear that what we were doing at any given point was suboptimal. Sander was afraid of the dimly lit reconstructed 15th-century temples, Sean was displeased that he wasn't allowed to pick up the small stones that surrounded the tea house, Allie just wanted out of the stroller, now. It turns out that shrieks from a 2-year-old reverberate quite nicely in a museum with lofty ceilings!

After a brief attempt to look at the pretty Impressionist paintings, we surrendered and went to the cafeteria. A cranberry muffin that my kids spit out, some jello for Sander, and all was well with the world. When Sean began pushing the stroller around the cafeteria, proclaiming "Look out! Here comes the trash truck!", I knew it was time to leave. To round out our visit, Sean, umm, aimed poorly in the bathroom. Luckily, I had extra clothes with me (see, every now and then I am a prepared parent!).

I can't say the trip was a complete disaster. The kids behaved like, well, kids; Jen and I both knew that we weren't going to be spending a leisurely morning admiring the artwork! Behavior issues aside, it was a good introduction to a world I know very little about. I'd love to learn about art along with my kids. We may even try the Sunday morning preschooler programs that the museum offers.

And if some day we can enter an exhibit room without the security guards visibly tensing up, so much the better!