A couple Saturdays ago I went with a few friends to The Leonardo, a new museum downtown. It’s a pretty cool place. It’s super interactive and the exhibits are about civil rights, clean air, stop animation, DNA, prosthetics and more. We spent 3 hours there and could have spent more.
Then we went to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Unbeknownst to us, they were having an event that day, a circus themed party for families. There was an exhibit of circus paintings and the party was to advertise and celebrate the exhibit. I’ve never seen so many children in an arts museum.
Upon leaving the arts museum, I saw two women talking in the parking lot, three kids gathered around them. The two little boys were playing with each other and the little girl was squatting near the woman, busying herself with a pile of sticks and rocks on the ground. It appeared she had collected them and was arranging them in the pile, talking to them, breaking the sticks into smaller pieces.
As the two women finished talking, the woman near the girl reached down and grabbed her arm and pulled her away to the car. The woman didn’t talk to the girl, or even look at her, as she did this, she continued her conversation with the other woman.
I realized I had been seeing this all day with the children at The Leonardo and again at the art museum, parents pulling, tugging and forcing their children one way or another. It really bothered me.
I felt like maybe a better (different?) way would have been to finish the adult conversation, look down at the little girl, and tell her it was time to go. Or even get down to her level and talk to her about what she was doing.
As I talked about my observation with my friend, we wondered what kind of effect actions like that have on children as they grow up. Will she feel as though her parents pushed her around all the time? Or will she feel like the activities she finds interesting are never good enough for their attention?
And at the same time, is there a certain number of children that would be the threshold for the parent’s attention and patience? Can the parents have 2 or 3 but when #4 comes along, there is no longer enough time, energy and patience for them all? Or maybe the number is closer to 1 or 2. Or maybe it matters how many years are between the kids.
Understanding though, that I don’t know this woman, I don’t know the little girl and I don’t know what their day was like. And really, I don’t know if this woman was the little girl’s mother or the nanny or the aunt.
I guess it just makes me hope that when I’m lucky enough to have kids, I am interested in their pile of sticks and rocks, that I ask them questions, talk to them about what they are doing and encourage their creativity. Not tug and pull them around without talking to them.