Tag Archives: museums

Playing tourist

Saturday’s lovely weather inspired me – me, the effort-averse home-lover – to suggest we go downtown. B, of course, was all for it. (He loves effort and has no problem with taking on a day-trip that may be doomed to failure from the start.) But the gods were smiling upon us and on the whole, the outing was pretty disaster free.

We hadn’t been to the monuments for quite a long time, because they’re unaccountably far from the metro stations (in relative terms, when you’d like there to be a metro station every two blocks in every direction as in Manhattan, I mean). But we girded our loins and tried to stop the kids from climbing every tree they passed and got down to the Tidal Basin without too much ado.

Dash trying to climb a tree

Looking for a good tree.

All the trees here will burst into beautiful cherry blossoms in another two weeks or so, and then the place will be thronged with tourists and we will avoid it like the plague. With great beauty comes great numbers of people with oversized cameras, as the saying goes. But yesterday there were just a modest number of people, and me with my little point-and-shoot, and we posed on rocks. And trees. And monuments.

Maud and Mabel at the Tidal Basin

Jefferson Memorial in the background.

Around the basin a little way we came to the Martin Luther King monument, which was erected nearly three years ago and I had never actually seen. (We clearly need more visitors. I can’t believe it’s been that long.) It’s large, white, and impressive. I really liked the low curving marble wall leading up to it, riverlike. Mabel liked sliding down it, slidelike.

Mabel sitting on MLK's name carved in a wall

B started to tell them the history of civil rights in America starting with slavery. It went on for a while. Dash managed not to ask me if I’d been alive when there were slaves, so I’m giving him bonus child points for that.

Part of the MLK monument

Part of the MLK monument

We continued back across the road towards Lincoln, stopping for a break and a sandwich under a tree. There were plenty of people at Lincoln, and Mabel had stopped wanting to pose for me, but she did look as if she was listening while B read the Gettysburg Address out to them.

B, Dash and Mabel

Good audience

Then, looking for an elusive bathroom because Dash had suddenly come over all OCD and claimed he couldn’t eat his sandwich without washing his hands, we ended up walking all the way back up Constitution Avenue and going into the Natural History Museum, where he had his sandwich and an Incredibly Expensive Cupcake. (The Smithsonian museums are all free, which is wonderful; but they recoup their costs by charging the earth for the food, and I shouldn’t resent that but I do.)

On the way we found Einstein, who also gets a memorial. Obligatory physicist posing ensued.

Mabel climbing the statue of Einstein

A giant among scientists. Har har.

There were Irish flags along with the Stars and Stripes all along the street, for the weekend that’s in it, I suppose.

Irish and US flags

There’s also a red and white striped flag in the middle which is the DC flag, but you can barely see it here.

The whole area near the museums and the White House features curbside vans selling sweaters, hats, scarves, tourist kitch, hot dogs, and ice cream. The kids know that these vans have ice cream, and Mabel, pretty tired after all that walking, began a sustained campaign for an ice cream once we left Einstein behind. I refused, because Dash couldn’t have an ice cream till he’d eaten his sandwich, and he had to (apparently, not my rule, I’m not that hygienic) wash his hands first, and I am not such an idiot that I would buy an ice cream for just one child. Also, I hate those vans on principle because they cause my children to have tantrums, so I don’t want to buy anything from them. (There may be some circular logic at work here.)

A piggyback did wonders for her mood, and the tears stopped until we got into the museum, where the security guard not unreasonably told us that we’d have to leave Mabel’s stick outside. She had, of course found the Best Stick Ever along the way. There were wails and despair and scenes of torture as we wrenched the stick from her little hands and B went back outside to hide it. I’m sure the guard went home and regaled his family with tales of the fearsome stick he saved the museum from.

Mabel with her stick in front of the statue of Lincoln

The stick in question, which was much more interesting than Lincoln.

But we retrieved it safely on the way out, so all ended well. And so back to the Metro and home via some ethical burgers and frozen yogurt. All in all, the sort of Saturday that should qualify me to do nothing at all on Sunday.

Proudly nerd parenting

I was going to write a long and edifying post on the trip to the art gallery we took this afternoon, but then I decided that the salient points were neither the wonderful free museums nor the exorbitant prices of the food in said museums nor even how the children did not express a newfound love and appreciation for art, but simply the following two episodes.

I took Mabel into the bathroom and had a proud moment as she remarked, in her clear piercing voice as I hung out in the two square inches available in her stall, “Mummy, it’s hard to decide who the main character in Star Wars is.” Then we discussed whether a baddie could be the main character, how there aren’t often girls as main characters, and how (and whether) both Anna and Elsa could count as main characters in Frozen. If you have to have a long conversation with your pre-schooler in a public bathroom, all this rates a lot higher than a repeated chorus of “Have you finished?” “Now have you finished?”

But my nerdly pride was not yet satiated.

After a quickish look at the French Impressionists and some other British and American artists (not too bad considering we mostly let the kids direct what we looked at and how long for), it was time for lunch. After sustenance we were planning to go on to the modern-art side of the museum (though it turned out to be mostly all closed, so we didn’t) and I was trying to explain how this would be different and, you know, interesting.

“After a while artists stopped trying to paint what looked real and started painting other things,” I said. “So you could look at a picture and say what you think it looks like, but there’s no one right answer.”

“Oh!” said Dash, not quite getting the point, but ready to apply it to something he had heard about recently from his father. “Like that thing in Star Trek when there was a test the captain couldn’t get right because there was no right way to do it?”

Now, your nerd quotient might not be high enough to recognize this as a description of the test in Star Trek II (The Wrath of Khan) called Kobayashi Maru, but I’ve been acquainted with my husband long enough to know exactly what Dash was talking about, even though I couldn’t swear to you that I’ve seen the movie. (Not while awake, anyway.) But I pretty much brimmed over with vicarious pride (B had gone to the bathroom when this happened, so he couldn’t do it himself) in my well-schooled little nerdling.

I like to think we’re just keeping that whole discovery-of-art thingĀ fresh for themĀ so they can impress the opposite sex with their sophisticated prints of Dali and Klimt on their college dorm walls. Whereas knowledge of the Star Wars and –Trek universes will stand to them much earlier.