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Museums Are For Everyone

I know Halloween’s tonight, and
I’ll have lots of exciting photos and stories to share next
week, I’m sure. But first I have to share this –

Yesterday the family went to the King Tut exhibit currently in our
hometown; Brian took the day off and we went to celebrate my
birthday. I hadn’t specifically needed the girls to come, but
I dind’t want to make an adult miss the exhibit to stay home
with Maddie and Cora, so everyone came.

I should point out, too, that in the
two-and-a-half years Maddie lived in New York, she went to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art at least a half dozen times, as well as
the Museum of Natural History and a couple smaller ones.
Maddie’s first trip to the Met was at around 9 months old,
when the Hatshepsut exhibit was in town and I was determined to get
out and do fun stuff “in spite of” being a mommy.
Maddie’s always loved the museum (remember the naked statues
and the belly button comment?) and was excited about the upcoming
trip to see the Tut exhibit; I’m a big fan of Egyptian
artifacts and have dragged Maddie through the Met’s Egyptian
wing every time we’ve gone.

So we’re standing in line at the museum waiting for our turn
to get in; the exhibit is sold out and there’s a line of
people obediently waiting until their scheduled time to get in to
see the collection. I look ahead of us and am surprised at the
number of families there at 10 a.m. on a weekday; I saw a family
with a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and one that couldn’t
have been more than six weeks old, as well as a couple more
families with preschoolers, babies, and/or toddlers in tow. And
then, of course, there was my group, complete with stroller and
diaper bag stuffed with snacks.

I was standing there misty-eyed, composing a future blog on how
great it is that parents are realizing the value of hitting the
museums young, when I heard the couple behind me begin talking
furiously. They were middle-aged, and clearly childless – and
not just for the day.

“You know,” the woman drawled disdainfully, “that
most of these children are FAR too young to get anything out of
this exhibit.”

I’m sorry, what did you just say?

“Yes,” the man agreed with a superior sniff.
“It’s incredibly inappropriate that they have come. I
don’t know why these people don’t leave them at

I’m telling ya, folks, it took all my willpower not to turn
around and unleash a can of Mommy Whoopass on those poor misguided
a$$es, bless their hearts.

In the first place, where exactly we would we leave our children,
and with whom, while we’re gallivanting around a museum?? In
the case of the mom with the six-week-old, for instance: did that
couple really think the newborn was there for cultural enrichment?
Or is it perhaps that bringing the newborn was the only way that
mommy got to see this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit??? Who can justify
a sitter for an afternoon at the museum?

But more to the point, why SHOULD we hire a sitter? Are you afraid
my three-year-old is going to get around the state-of-the-art
security and plant sticky fingerprints all over the dead boy
king’s royal jewels? Is my eighteen-month-old’s
exclamation of “Moo!” when she sees a masque made to
represent a cow deity so distracting from your deep study of
five-thousand-year-old papier mache?

There is no bad age for taking kids to a museum. It’s cheap
(if not free for young ones) and SOMETHING there is guaranteed to
capture their imagination. Last night at dinner Maddie held up some
mezzaluna pasta and said, “Do you know what this looks like?
A lion’s mane!” I never in a million years would have
seen that, but she did. Children’s imagination can only be
stimulated at a museum, and I guaranteed you, a guard will stop
your child before he breaks a big toe off Rodin’s “The
Thinker”. Toddlers will melt down anywhere – grocery
store, soccer field, doctor’s office. Don’t let that
keep you from exploring things your tax dollars help support! And
think of it this way - on a rainy day, hitting the museum is way
cheaper than heading to the mall and buying lots of junk you don't

I’m not saying you should spend all day studying 19th century
European masters, of course; break the visits up into bite-sized
pieces, and include plenty of breaks. We headed to the sculpture
garden after the Tut exhibit and the girls ran and screamed amidst
five-figure-priced statues and sculptures that are MEANT to be
touched. We ate snacks, we strolled, and in between we looked at
some awesome art. This is totally doable, and I guarantee your kid
will be better off for it.

And for the record, of all the children there that day, there were
about a half-dozen running and screaming and bumping into exhibits.
All of them, though, were part of a school group and were at least
ten years old. Of the Toddler Brigade that had descended upon the
showing, it left in its wake no reverberating screams, no
scribbled-on wallpaper, and nary a stray Cheerio dropped by the
dead ruler’s sarcophagus. We somehow made it through without
leaving a poopy diaper hidden in a potted palm, or any other
terrible scenario I’m sure was playing through that
couple’s mind as they wished they’d picked another time
to come.

And Maddie woke up this morning saying, “Can we go to the
museum again today? I’d like to see a few things
again.” Now maybe she was thinking about running in the
sculpture garden, but it’s all good.

They’re never too young.


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