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My husband and I recently took our three children to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. This post is a summary of our experience that day, and what I learned from it. If you’ve had any interesting experiences with children at the museum, good or bad, please do share!
We just returned from the High Museum of Art. I’m absolutely exhausted. The painting below pretty much sums up my mood. Like the protagonist in Degas’s canvas, I could use a good shot of Absinthe right about now.
I was so excited about the outing since it would be our first family visit to the museum. Christian and I met on a blind date at the High over ten years ago. The first time we met face to face was under the Rodin sculpture that welcomes visitors to the High. I had fantasized about gathering the children under the Rodin and snapping a few cheerful photos. As Art History Mom, I’ve written Seven Tips for a Successful Trip to the Art Museum with Kids so my expectations were high, and perhaps overconfident. It’s easy to go from Hero to Zero.
Our main mistake was lumping two big events together in one outing: Church and the museum. These are two places where people need to sit quietly, use their inside voices, and keep their hands to themselves. Oh, and they can’t run around like little six year old boys do.
After Church, Anders was hungry. If you’re familiar with Dante, you know that bringing small children to a museum on an empty stomach is included among the nine rings of hell; one of the lower rings if I recall. Needless to say, we suffered through lots of extreme whining.
Once the kids’ tummies were filled at the High’s café, we were ready to see some art. Well, I was ready to see some art. Little Sophie was ready to touch some art. First on the agenda: African Masks and Masquerade. The thing about African masks is that they are so…well, touchable. What four year old fingers can resist the textured wood, spongey animal hair, and shiny shells that decorate those fascinating artifacts? Certainly not Sophia Nelson’s. After several kind requests from the guard to NOT TOUCH THE ARTWORK, we were outta there.
The Go West! exhibition was next. More like the WILD West when we entered. Our seven year old daughter is extremely fond of horses and there are lots of them featured in this show. Upon seeing one she would point and shout “HOOORRRSSSEE!” My husband said “shhh” so many times his lips began to hurt. So long Albert Beirstadt. I’ll have to admire your stunning landscapes via Wikipaintings.
The grand finale was when our son had a meltdown as we were leaving. Unbeknownst to Daddy, I had promised Anders a treat at the end of our visit. When Anders asked for some candy, he was told by his father that we would be having dessert at home. Anders’s reaction to this startlingly bad news brings Munch’s The Scream to mind.
I will say that Renzo Piano‘s wing of the High has outstanding acoustics.
So, what did I learn from this little trip to the museum?
Be gentle on your children. And yourself.
One of the reasons I married my husband is that he makes me laugh. I can be a very serious person in much need comic relief and he never fails to provide. Upon returning from the museum, we had a good laugh about the excursion and talked about what we’ll do differently next time.
I was frustrated with our kids because they hadn’t acted according to my expectations, but in reality, my expectations were unrealistic. Our kids simply can’t stay still and quiet at church and the museum in the same day. Maybe other kids can do it, but ours can’t. And that’s okay. Next time we’ll make our trip to the museum the only excursion of the day.
Persistence will pay off.
You may know of Picasso’s painting, Guernica, in which he portrays the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. Sometimes parenthood can seem like a battle, too.
Children will often resist that which is good for them: vegetables, homework, chores, etc. They would most likely rather go to the movies than the art museum. I believe that exposing them to great art and music is important, and that if I persist in my efforts our children will one day thank us. Or maybe they won’t thank us. But just maybe, sometime in the future, they’ll go to Paris. And when they arrive in that beautiful city they’ll wait in line in the summer heat for over an hour to get into the Louvre, because they simply can’t miss seeing the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Liberty Leading the People.
And when I receive my French postcard of the Mona Lisa in the mail, I am going to smile and think: it was all worth it.
Oh, and High Museum of Art, look out, because we’re renewing our membership next month.