I decided to take two 6-year old boys to the Chicago Art Institute. I used to go to the lectures there on Tuesday nights after work and then walk around the quiet halls, perfectly happy to be in that place alone, appreciating the art.
Today, 20 years later, I am no longer alone walking quiet galleries. I am yelling my fool head off.
“Don’t touch that!”
“Don’t touch anything!”
“Well you’re wrong, art is not boring!”
“I said no touching!”
Then I drag the boys over to this gorgeous 500-year old statue of Samson murdering a lion with his bare hands thinking, what a clever mother I am, because surely this is going to appeal to them, and it did, but not for the reasons I hoped for.
“Yeah, you can see his butt.”
Me, then, trying to work on art appreciation and ignore the butt talk and the ensuing giggles because some parenting book said I shouldn’t reward the behavior with acknowledgment.
“What about the lion? Do you see the lion? Isn’t it amazing? It’s Samson and the lion!”
And then in desperation, trying to make this beautiful sculpture even remotely interesting to my audience I say sarcastically, “He rips the lion’s jaws apart with is bare hands.”
“Yeah, well, I can see still see his butt.”
Tactical error 517 on taking two 6-year old boys to the Chicago Art Institute, forgetting about all the nakedness, even Buddha’s backside got a giggle.
At some point during the entire outing, wondering, why am I here, I mean really, honestly, what’s the point of it? Why did I ever think this was a good idea in the first place?
We have met every guard in the Chinese gallery, the boys are bored, even the armor exhibit didn’t hold their interest for long, and I think the highlight of the day was probably getting to drink a huge soda at lunch.
As the boys and I are winding down at computers in the educational center, working on art games, I hear another mother say loudly enough so I’m sure I was supposed to hear it, “No, you can’t use the computer. We aren’t here to play video games.”
I think to myself, “Well, good for you, you must be a better mother than I am, because that is exactly why we are here.”
We are here to see and experience and do things that capture our imaginations and inspire us. We are here to feel and be. To have fun and giggle and to try and touch stuff we’re not supposed to. And I do believe that if I get back down to the center of things there are lots of good reasons for us to be here.
Then I decide that maybe, because of all we have done this day, together, maybe some day my son will decide to take two 6-year-old boys to a museum and be able to wonder why he ever thought this day was a good idea in the first place. He might even be able, at the end of it all, while being admonished by one of his peers, to come back to center, remember Samson’s butt, and giggle.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.