A few years ago, I took my four year old daughter to the Seattle Art Museum where they were having a fantastic display of Roman art and sculpture as well as a chance to see Ghiberti’s Golden Doors before they were to be sent back to Florence forever. It was a great chance to expose her to art and history before our big trip to Italy! We had spent so much time talking about travel, looking through pictures and magazines and even learning Italian together. I even had a section in my travel office with a little desk and supplies so that she could do “business” with me. This exhibit was going to be the first time I could expose her directly to what we had been talking about.
Beyond excited for her adventure, she descended from her room and down our stairs like the Queen of Sheba. Decked out from head to toe in sparkly Barbie party accessories complemented by a blue sundress and magic wand, she was ready to hit the rainy streets of Seattle. We spent the ride into town deciding which exhibit we would see first and finally settled on the statues.
Once in the museum, I was beside myself surrounded with an amazing collection of Roman art on tour from the one of the most famous museums in the world, the Louvre. Wanting to share this excitement and teach her how to appreciate what she was seeing, I went into full Roman art historian mode. I’ve always prided myself in my ability to explain art in a simple way that anyone can understand and more importantly remember. While we walked around the room I talked about everything from mosaics to marble while she listened and commented appropriately.
I could not help but swell with pride as I noticed she was the only child in the museum, not to mention I was the exceptional mother who brought her there. Don’t think I didn’t notice the admiring glances from other patrons. The many passing conversations in my mind went something like this:
“Why thank you, I do my best.”
“Yes, she is an exceptional child.”
“Quite brilliant, I know.”
I was practically throwing my shoulder out patting myself on the back when my incredibly and outrageously clever child stopped dead in her tracts and made an announcement to the entire room.
“Mom, this really isn’t my favorite part of the museum.”
Always trying to encourage open communication, I asked her what made her feel that way.
“There are too many penises here.”
Was that a stifled giggle?
A pause for thoughtful reflection.
Indeed there were quite a few, and from her perspective (and more imortantly eye-level) they must look even more pronounced. Always one to make each experience a positive learning opportunity, I decided to switch gears.
I would later regret this snap decision when traveling in Italy.
To keep her interested in Roman art and to allow me to finishing viewing the exhibit, we spent the rest of the day counting the “yucky, squishy penises.”