My friend and her daughter happily explored room to room in the Hirshhorn, stopping here and there for an endearing toddler-on-point observation. ” A cow!” she announced breathlessly under the sculpture “The Dangerous Logic of Wooing, 2002” and still later near raptures about the colors in the Morris Louis.
And me? I was in the hallway, keeping a wary eye on my own toddler who looked ready to mutiny as he huddled against the wall.
It hadn’t started out this way. He careened joyously around “Barbara Kruger:Belief+Doubt” looking for “my letters” and couldn’t get enough of the “real race cars” in SALVATORE SCARPITTA:TRAVELER . Then, like it always seems to happen with the toddler set, I had to say no to something (in this case NO you CANNOT “zoom” your toy car across the crowded hallway) and we were on a downhill slide.
Suddenly everything was a test. He wanted to zoom the toy car, he DID NOT want to see the big window, he wanted to sit in the middle of a crowded hallway, he DID NOT want to see the picture with his name on it, he wanted to push the stroller “by self” past the unprotected sculptures. And on…and on…and on….
We tried a snack break as a “re-set” and it worked, for a moment, but the minute we went back inside he was a ball of emotion and contradictions. So, I did what so many other parents have done in the aisles of grocery stores, at friends houses and in parking lots….I picked him up and we made an ungraceful dash for the door.
Through the halls of the Hirshhorn I maneuvered a stroller and carried a kicking, screaming, crying toddler. Because I had to make sure I didn’t take out a priceless work of art, I couldn’t lower my gaze and avoid eye-contact. Well, I’m glad I didn’t, because what I saw was really encouraging.
A visitor tried to make eye contact with my son and waved his hands and made silly faces…clearly an attempt to make him laugh. Someone else stepped back to so I could beeline to the elevator. All of the guards gave me sympathetic smiles and had doors open for me as I rushed through them. Of all the people we passed, not one person gave me a mean or disgusted look and everyone tried their best to be helpful in whatever way they could.
I’m not sure if the main point of this post is to tell you “I get it, I totally do, taking toddlers out can be a roll of the dice” or just to prove that even though my 2 year old is an “experienced” museum goer…he is just a regular kid. I think, actually, it is to show you that museums (and the people in them) are no more intimidating and unwelcoming then your local grocery store.They are full of people who get it. Your kid has meltdowns when you are out, but you do your best and handle the situation and keep going. That doesn’t have to be any different in a museum.
So, like my son says, “Try it again, one more time.” Maybe we’ll see you next week at the Hirshhorn?