That’s what I have to tell myself, probably more often than I’d like. Get. Out. As in, get out of the house. I never figured myself much of a hermit, but there are plenty of days, saddled with two kids and the insanity that situation brings, where simply leaving the house isn’t worth the hassle. Sure everyone would benefit from it, sure the mere act of continuing to stay in is causing the three of us to go a little stir-crazy, but going out there, in this [insert any type of weather] – no way.
Like my recent realization that “no” tends to be my default answer for toddler requests, it turns out “stay” is my default instinct when it comes to daily activity.
Before Ruthie, I tried hard to take Loren on “Adventure Days,” where the two of us would just go explore something interesting in this big (but not really), amazing city we call home. As with everything else, I’ve taken a bit of time in adjusting to life as a stay-at-home dad of two, and in the meantime those Adventure Days have come to a grinding halt.
It turns out the day-to-day of parenting isn’t really the hard part. The feedings and the dirty diapers and the naps (oh sweet merciful crap the naps) and the play time and the independent time and the time outs and the lessons and all that, I feel like I have those down pat. It’s introducing that daily (or more likely near-daily) flair that has me struggling.
But I’m trying to change that. And you can’t even call this a “Resolution” post, because, technically, I started this new approach in December.
I first got up the nerve about a week before Christmas. That impulse was brewing in me all week before I finally said screw it, we’re going. And we went. We actually, really went.
To the Hirshhorn Museum.
Which, if we’re going on the standard formula for kid friendliness, is pretty much a non-starter. No matter. I don’t go by that formula anymore. Kid-friendly, to me, at this point, boils down to a place that is in some way stimulating or interesting and has changing tables. And even those requirements are too limiting (the park doesn’t have a changing table, for example, and yet it is obviously kid friendly).
And here is the new master plan: Do whatever I possible can to get out of the house with both kids and with enough time between us and lunch as possible, and then figure out the rest from there. ”The rest” in this case includes “the where” – as in, “where are we going, specifically.” I pack a bare bones diaper bag, with some diapers, wipes, and a small tupperware of cut-up apples, then get the children dressed and out the door. I figured we will be back within two or three hours. I don’t even bring a bottle for Ruthie.
On this day, it was a quick zip down Rock Creek Parkway and then a little bend over to Independence Avenue and I’m driving down the thick of the Smithsonian, looking for parking (which during the middle of a weekday is no big deal) and trying to decide on a museum. I had the Hirshhorn in my head for no good reason, and fate gave us a parking spot right outside. The Hirshhorn it was.
And it was every bit the Hirshhorn. I love this museum, from its architecture to its exhibits, it draws you in and grabs you…but I’m not a toddler. At least not technically.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect out of Loren. To my surprise and relief, he was really into it. Even if, rounding a corner, the first exhibit he walked into was the Big Man, which is kinda terrifying and a little disturbing and completely lifelike and nude. ”He’s the first kid his age that I’ve watched see this exhibit and not cry” said the security guard standing nearby. Dad of the Year Award, yet again. But Loren was actually drawn to it. He wasn’t afraid in the least. Later that day, his corrective toddler memory would tell Mama that he saw the “Big Man!” and that the “Big Man’s so Happy!” even though he clearly is not. Note to self: Loren will make a terrible witness.
Also, note to my blog readers: I make a terrible art critic. I kid you not, I just took a moment from writing this post and jumped back over to the link I posted above about “the Big Man” sculpture, I noticed the video and decided to watch it. It wasn’t long before the Hirshhorn Museum’s Kristin Hileman, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art says:
“There are many fascinating things about this sculpture and I think one of them is this contradictory mood that it evokes, in that there is something very adult and present and physical and mature about the object, particularly because of its increased scale, but at the same time, the figure doesn’t have any body hair, and his limbs are a bit elongated, and out of proportion to an adult body, and he’s a little bit coiled up, so, in a way the figure is also suggesting the pose and the state of being of an infant.”
Oh. So, maybe not “Happy” as Loren claims, but also not so terrifying and unfamiliar to children as I assumed. Ladies and gentlemen, mark it down, my toddler just surpassed my understanding of contemporary art. Not that I considered my understanding particularly noteworthy, just that I figured, you know, the whole being an adult thing might give me a bit of an edge in the competition. It did not.
We walked all over, Ruthie in the carrier, happy just to be bopping around and not on her play mat for a change, Loren walking ten steps ahead, behind, or right beside me through every new exhibit he could find, but, as it turns out, mostly just appreciating the art in ways his old man still doesn’t understand.
I wanted to get out of the house, to do something, to maybe give Loren an opportunity to grow a little, give Ruthie a chance to see something new, and now here I am, somewhat humbled and seeing the world anew through my children’s eyes. Yet again. Adventures all around.
Here’s to getting out of the house.