When we were dating and during our first few years of marriage, Kate and I went to museums often.
Whether it was the Museum of Art on BYU’s campus or the Indianapolis Museum of Art (now known as The Newfields) when we lived in Indiana, we kept up the habit of taking in the fine arts, even after having kids. I can remember taking the twins, and even our son when he was very young to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It was always a fun outing for the family.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been to an art museum since moving to Texas.
We made sure to correct this in our most recent travels.
In May, Katelyn and I took our family on a road trip to California, Utah, and Colorado as part of a three-week vacation.
While in Los Angeles, CA we visited a couple of museums, including The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens and The Norton Simon Museum. We would have also visited The J. Paul Getty Museum as well had it not been closed on Mondays.
While we enjoyed the fabulous art and beautiful gardens at both locations, our experience at the Norton Simon left us a little disappointed.
In the roughly 75 minutes we were at the Norton Simon we saw art by such masters as Rembrandt, Degas, Picasso, and Rodin and were talked down to and chastened by no less than five security guards. In most of these instances, it had nothing to do with what our children were doing, but rather an obsessive concern that we simply had children at such an institution.
Now, I won’t say that my children are perfectly behaved, I’m not so blind to think my kids crap gold.
No, quite the opposite.
In fact, when we go on these outings Kate and I take up different roles to ensure our kids learn both from the cultural experience and the social environment as we teach them how to behave appropriately in such an overtly kid-unfriendly locale. This means Kate, our art expert, is typically in charge of teaching and guiding the kids from exhibit to exhibit, while I am on escort duty teaching the younger kids how to behave themselves in this unfamiliar setting. And for the most part, these roles work.
In this way, we not only feed their minds but also set the norms for social behavior in settings that are new but very worthwhile. They wouldn’t otherwise learn these norms if we hid them from society because we felt intimidated by the social pressures involved in taking kids “there.”
Norming Kids, Norming SocietyThere are so many things being pushed as normal in society today. We, as parents, should take the time to make our families one of those normal things again, because they ARE the most normal thing regardless of society's shifting and judgmental opinions.
You see, I think that there are two types of norming occurring when I take my kids “there.”
To clarify what I mean by “there,” it’s anywhere that might cause a tingling in the back of your mind saying, “Kids might not be welcomed there,” or where people’s actions, mannerisms or words toward you might say, “What are you doing here with kids? Don’t you know they aren’t welcome here?”
The first norm is teaching my children the appropriate ways to conduct themselves, and the second norm, which is just as important, is teaching society – meaning the people who patronize or run “there” – that children and families are in fact part of society and should we welcomed.
If we hide our big families, or even our small families from society, then we only have ourselves to blame when we show up at such benign places as the supermarket and find that people scoff at the number of kids we have.
There are so many things being pushed as normal in society today. We, as parents, should take the time to make our families one of those normal things again, because they ARE the most normal thing regardless of society’s shifting and judgmental opinions.
Today we have places like Disney, Six Flags, Sea World, Great Wolf Lodge, and Children’s Museums where families are expected to take their kids; it’s the places that society has made for kids. While these places are great fun, they lack depth of experience related to the real world. They are simply about entertaining kids. Again, I like these places, but I want more for my kids than simple entertainment, and so I am willing to take my kids “there.”
A Stranger’s Encouragement and My Childhood
While visiting the Norton Simon’s pristine indoor water exhibit for boys (I’m talking about the bathroom) with my son, an older man congratulated me on taking my family to the museum. He commented that when his children were younger he and his wife took them to museums and though it wasn’t always easy it was always worth the hassle.
This was reassuring and reminded me somewhat of what my parents did in my childhood. You see, my parents were willing to take my sister and I to places most wouldn’t.
When I was growing up, it was car shows. Many of my vacations as a youth involved very rare, expensive and exotic cars.
In fact, there was one year that my sister and I as young teenagers (I was 12 or 13) were tasked with marshaling a very valuable collection of Porsches to their parking spots for judging. We certainly did not drive the cars, but as marshals we guided them around posts, pillars, doors, curbs, pedestrians and tents to where they were assigned to park, much like those guys with the orange batons guiding airplanes to their gates.
I obviously wasn’t in my parents’ head when they decided to take us to these events or allow us to have such authority, so I can’t know what they were thinking at the time. As a parent now, I appreciate their bravery in not only taking kids to such an event, but allowing them to be a part of it.
I look back and wonder what the owners thought of my sister and I directing them, but in the end it didn’t matter because my parents took us “there,” and “there” we were.
As our family grows and ages, we intend to take our kids many places deemed “there.” This is especially true for us as a homeschool family wanting to expose our kids to various and interesting parts of society and to educate them on all things. This is after all the true definition of socializing children.
As we look to make travel and exploring a bigger part of our life, we have decided to begin a segment for Whats Up Fagans? about different aspects of traveling with a big family both to impart knowledge about what we know and have learned, as well as to hear about your experiences traveling with as both small and big families. We’ll share what we’ve learned, but we also want to know more about what you’ve learned as well and what works for your family.
So tell us: Where do you take your kids? Where is “there” for you? Do you take your kids “there” or keep them at home?
Tell us your experiences with taking your family “there.”