I am the most tyrannical mother ever. I torment my children by dragging them with me to art galleries and museums sometimes when we travel. This has made my company less desirable as far as they are concerned. Not only has my effort to expose them to galleries across cities failed to whet their appetite for art and culture, it has in fact caused an aversion in them. They hear the word museum and become apoplectic and suddenly developing extra affinity for their father beg him to save them from my cultural onslaughts.
Unrelenting as I am in this regard, today I used a little bit of deception to bait them into accompanying the husband and yours truly to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other day. I tempted the child with the exhibition on Lost Civilizations and since Cleopatra and the pyramids intrigue her, our older one, finally acquiesced. R being five years younger only had one pressing concern as far as the Met was concerned, “Will John be allowed inside the museum? I am only coming if they allow him in,” she declared. John, if you please, is the name of her teddy bear and R is clearly very concerned about his intellectual development.
“What is the full form of Met?” enquired Z as we made our way towards the museum. I spelt it out. “What?!!!” she gasped sounding betrayed. “It is an ART museum? ART?? I told you I don’t want to see any art.”
I assured them that I would not make them see any art and would allow them to become the philistines they were well on their way to becoming. And so it is that two unhappy children came with us to see the marvelous exhibits from Ancient Egypt and Rome. Several mummies and artifacts later they both realized that it wasn’t such a bad deal overall.
The Met has also put together an exhibition of the portraits of the Altamira family made by the Spanish artist, Goya and it was a delight to see them all under one roof.
I announced to the troops that we were going to Goya next and was surprised to see Z very pleased with the suggestion. “Yippee, we are going to Goya,” she sang and the younger one, as always, joined her in the chorus.
When she saw me ask an attendant for directions to the room where his works were on display, she looked a bit alarmed. “So Goya is an artist?” she subdued her voice and her emotions and asked me.
“What did you think it was Z? You sounded so happy when I brought up his name.”
“I thought it was the name of a Japanese restaurant.”
Poor Goya! Must be turning in his grave. All his life’s work and to think that his name has been reduced to a Japanese restaurant?
“Well it is not and now please come with me Z, there is this picture of a boy in red with cats and magpies in it and the cat has a spooky look in its eyes which has confounded many….”
Z cut me off mid sentence with a ,”I don’t care what look a cat has in its eyes. I am in New York. I want to see so much and you are wasting my time by showing me paintings of cats. I am going with papa to the cafe to eat, you please enjoy your Goya by yourself.”
You can well imagine how that conversation ended. I however, was not too displeased at the prospect of enjoying Goya and then Modgliani by myself without the impatience of my younger children coming in the way.
We are such tourists! We took our kids to the Times Square in the evening. I find Times Square unbearably congested, dirty and terrifyingly touristy but you should have looked at Z and R’s faces. Their jaws were on the floor with awe as they gawped at the humungous LCD billboards and the other drama on display, which included, among other things, couple of real naked women, painted with stars and stripes all over.
Times Square to me is what this city is all about – loud, exciting, flashy and larger than life. It is the very quintessence of American culture. The husband kept reminding me not to lose the kids in the sea of humanity at the square. As if. Then there was the massive Toys R Us where I noticed only children of Indian and Chinese origin hungrily shopping away.
We told our children that they were only allowed to pick up something worth 5$s each. I may sound like a skin flint here but this I did only out of regard for their long term happiness. Is in not awfully boring to have all your fantasies fulfilled that early in life? Bored kids become unhappy or bored adults. The kids don’t get it right now and think I am being parsimonious but they will (hopefully) thank me for it when they are older and don’t need to turn to drugs for excitement or fulfillment.