Yesterday I took my two sons to the Children’s Museum in our city. My younger son and I are both suffering from colds, but I didn’t want my day off from work to go to waste so I packed us into the van, strapped a box of tissues to my belt, and off we went.
My older son, who is four years old, was off and running as soon as his hand was stamped at the entrance. His younger brother, just two weeks away from his first birthday, is still content to be strapped on mama in some form or fashion. I stashed the stroller and darted through the crowd behind the blur of light that was my older son.
His first discovery: the space ship play area. He was delighted. He ran from station to station — flipping switches, scampering under doors, turning lights on and off, sitting at the helm of the space ship. He moved so quickly that I, with his little brother strapped to my chest in the Baby Bjorn, could hardly follow him. As he belted out commands from the helm of the ship, I noticed a few looks from other parents. Surely they were wondering if this kid was out of control. Or maybe they just thought he was a good candidate for Captain Kirk if the museum ever decided to do a rendition of Star Trek.
After exhausting every section of the space ship, he moved on to another area — this one marked for kids age three and under. He does not fit in this category but his brother does. A few years ago I would have been horrified if an “older” child was in such a play area. But yesterday, there by myself and wanting my younger son to have just as much fun as his brother, I toyed with the idea of letting the age restriction go “un-noticed.” That idea didn’t last long, as I turned from the sign stating the age restriction I saw my older son start climbing on top of the miniature whale — another sign which he couldn’t read stated, “Please climb in the whale, not on top of the whale.”
“Buddy, let’s head out of here — you’re too old for this area.”
“Actually, you’re right mom. You’re surely right,” he nodded, pleased with himself for using two of his favorite words: actually and surely.
And he was off, expertly maneuvering his way out of the baby and toddler proof gate that kept this section safe for the wee ones. I found him in an area where ping pong balls could be suctioned, dropped, spun and launched in several different contraptions. As I watched him I saw his eyes darting around the room, in search of a free ping pong ball. An older boy, on his way out of this exhibit, offered him the bounty he’d collected in a mesh basket. My son’s squeals of joy at this stroke of luck were likely heard throughout the museum.
Following him around the ping pong exhibit, I noticed that there was a craft area in the next room. I started to point the room out to him but stopped myself. That was a room I would enjoy. Even from where I stood in the room next door I could tell things were in order. Girls sat at tables with clay in front of them (they weren’t throwing it our pounding it with their fists). Easels and jars of paint beckoned the next artist. I was sure that there was some type of beading and maybe even decoupage that we could do.
While the idea of having a quiet moment to craft or do arty things may have been a dream to me, I knew it wouldn’t be for older brother. In the last few months he’s become more interested in drawing — in fact he does draw each night with my husband before he goes to bed. But here in this museum I knew that a crafty moment was not his idea of fun. As much as my progressive, breast-feeding, natural childbirthing, liberal mama self hates to admit it, he’s “all boy” and that means when given the choice between Van Gogh and Bob the Builder, Bob wins any day.
Some days it worries me — I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up with everything boy in my household. I don’t want to be the mom that sits on the sidelines and watches as her husband and sons dig for worms. Or the mom who instills a sense of fear into her sons because she is terrified that they will break a bone if they wrestle with one another. And yet, I’m in unchartered territory, having never been a bug digger. I find myself looking for any way to navigate through the male world so that I can provide my sons with a sense of balance between the masculine and feminine.
Our morning at the museum ended in the building area. The room had wing nuts, screws, levels, and oodles of peg board. Older son’s jaw dropped at the building potential — but he would have none of it until he was appropriately adorned. He went to the tool bench area — something akin to a dress up closet — he put on the hard hat, strapped the tool belt around his waste and said, ” Now, I’m surely ready to build, Mom.” And so he was. Best of all, I was right there with him, enjoying every minute.