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The Other
Mom with a View

The Other "M" Word

In our home, this word strikes fear in the hearts of my children.

by

It is impossible to read the piece "Avoiding the "M" Word" and not be frustrated anew by the blindness of the world around us. It conjures up some truly frightening trends and threats that exist today. In our home there is also an "m" word, and while it is no where near as heavy or significant on a grand scale, it evokes near disaster level fear and fright in the Braverman children.

It has nothing to with religion, terror or fanaticism. In our home, the "m" word is unconnected to income, buying power, chores or other financial resources. It's not monsters under the bed, yet it might as well be.

In our home the "m" word is museum. No amount of cajoling, pleading, or rewards of the nature that begin with another "m" word can convince my children to enter a museum.

A wonderful family trip to Washington was only marred, they say, by the presence of so many museums. And our overwhelming need to visit them.

Although they loved The Spy Museum, it certainly wasn't a museum in any classical sense. And classical or not, in general the doors -- and their minds -- remain closed.

I can understand that art is not everyone's cup of tea. But how about science? Natural history? Aerospace? Doesn't anything resonate?

When they were young, they enjoyed children's museums. We took that and ran with it, visiting every children's museum within a hundred mile radius and even some across the country (Paramus anyone?). Playing cashier began to lose its appeal. And how many home videos can they make?

What's a frazzled mother to do? Can't I please make the long summer days fun, and educational? I like museums, I like the new experience, I like the architecture, the gardens, the gift shops...Actually my kids like the gift shop too, as long as they have plenty of that other "m" word in their pockets!

Watching my children sit around when there is so much to learn and see can lead a mother to pull out her hair.

We don't have a television but we do have, what I call, a TV window; a large window in the living room with a full view of the street. (We live at the end of a T so we get two streets for the price of one). My children could sit there for hours watching the world go by. And they do.

But those young minds with all that potential? Is it a lack in me? Do museums need fresh PR?

After years of struggle I have given up the fight. If there is something we want to see at a museum, my husband and I go alone (solving the problem of what to do on date night).

And with our children, we go swimming and biking, to fairs and festivals (we have had to drag them to some of those too), to visit friends. We read and haunt libraries and bookstores. We play Boggle and Scattergories and Stratego and Jeopardy. We bake, do art projects, play basketball and ping pong. We discuss current events, learn Torah and debate important ideas (like was it right or wrong to post the transcript of Harry Potter online ahead of its release date?!).

The days seem full and meaningful -- and exhausting. Could the kids be right? Maybe we don't need those "m" places after all.

Published: July 28, 2007


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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Anonymous, August 3, 2007 11:39 AM

A little knowledge goes a long way....

I believe the key to a life-long appreciation of museums is a knowledge and appreciation of art, science, history: all the disciplines that are explored in a good museum visit.

If you want your children to appreciate an art museum, it would help if they knew the basics about art history. Just looking at a Cezanne landscape isn't so exciting, but it becomes fascinating if you know that Cezanne was one of the first to paing expressively, to use blocks of color, and that his work paved the way for later impressionists and post-impressionists, that Picasso's canvasses can be said to have grown out of his work, etc.

When visiting the air and space museum in DC, which Ms. Braverman mentions, one would be bored just staring at a model of an early space capsule. However, if one knew the history of attempts to launch items into orbit, and was scientifically knowledgeable about the physical difficulties that entailed, the visit would be much more interesting and meaningful.

Having gone through the public education system myself, and now going through (via my children) the day school system, I see that most schools do a terrible job educating children about art, science and history. I always thought I'd be able to augment my kids' educations at home, and I do hope my husband and I are able to.

To appreciate museums - and the world around you - try to cultivate a deeper understanding of things. I just hope I'm able to do it with my kids!

(3) Dvirah, July 31, 2007 2:30 PM

Does That Include Holocost Museums?

A museum is a repository of history and knowledge. It is a pity that Ms. Braverman's children have no liking for them and I agree that it is a bad idea to force them to visit museums, but to conclude that museums are unnecessary is going too far. Without them, much knowledge would be lost or remain isolated in the minds of "specialists." Consider, for example, eliminating all Holocost museums. In a world where history is being denied and distorted, would that be a good idea? Likewise for other museums. Don't force your kids if they don't appreciate museums (although they may yet in time), but equally don't give them the impression that museums are useless!

(2) Annette, July 31, 2007 11:49 AM

'm' word doesn't live here either

oh do I relate! my kids and I feel the same way... we've done the Smithsonians in DC, and the ROM in Toronto, 'm' of Nature in Ottawa and the Louvre in Paris and if we never set foot in another 'm' it would be too soon... however there IS one 'M'ust 'm': and that's accross the river from Ottawa (yes, by the bridge next to the Art 'm') to Hull, Quebec; it's the 'M' of Civilization... so fabulous! so different than the typical 'm' ! and for all age groups, it's beautiful.

(1) Mike Morgulis, July 31, 2007 11:36 AM

our kids love museums, but sometimes you need to travel to get to a good one

We're surrounded by some great museums here in Toronto, and in sourthern Ontario. We normally travel far and abroad to visit other museums with our 3 children. Some museums were better-received than others, Ste Marie among the Hurons was a dud for my wife but the boys loved doing pioneer crafts for about an hour. Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton always strikes a happy chord. Never been to the Bata Shoe Museum. The key is trying to find something that the children will like and to communicate with them at their level. It's not always our first choice of museums when the boys pick, but it does allow us to work cooperatively when they get to go somewhere they want.

Some kids seem to need a rudder more than others, and if they're not self-motivated then that's probably the larger issue as opposed to the choice of a museum. My middle son wants to become an aerobatic pilot. Being a pilot myself I am already cringing and hoping that it's just a fickle choice on his part - he's only 11 after all. But it's not my place to snuff out his ambition, so I will indulge him by signing him up for an aerobatic flight with a friend of mine and see where it goes.

Bottom line on museums, sometimes you have to travel to get to the one you really want to see, and if it's something that none of you have ever experienced before, so much the better. The aquarium at Coney Island is such a place - we all took turns tickling horseshoe crabs and oogling the cowsill rays. If you want a Jewish twist, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History is a small but neat museum. We even got to see our rabbi, Rabbi Plaut, in his combat fatigues in a 1944 picture taken in Normandy.

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