A few weekends ago my husband was off on a much needed cottage trip with some friends and I was solo with the kids for a few days. On the last Sunday by myself, I must admit - I was killing it. I was a mom on fire. I got some work done, we did a huge amount of gardening, we walked down the street to the Farmer's Market for some waffles and seventy-million dollars a cup organic, fair trade, made with the tears of Russian Elves, coffee. It was exhausting - all that engagement, the non-stop referring, the endless questions about what would happen if Mario from Mario Brothers ended up in the Skylanders Game. By the time we were walking home from the Market, I was looking forward to the late afternoon movie (theirs) and nap (mine). I got home and thinking about dinner, looked at the clock.
It was noon. NOON!
At almost the same time a friend texted to say that she was going with her daughter to meet another friend and her two kids at the Art Gallery of Ontario I immediately signed on. I hadn't been to the AGO since the first time I visited Toronto to see Adam. He enlisted the help of a friend to show me around while Adam worked. The friend altered his consciousness a bit and we spent an hour in a white room with silver mylar balloons being blown around by a fan.
As much as I imagine my kids digging those balloons, I had heard that in the big Frank Gehry renovation, they'd made an amazing kid's section.
Did they ever.
In the basement of the AGO, there's a giant room with picnic tables, ping pong tables, a life size version of snakes and ladders and bins of building materials. Straws, blocks, etc. In another room it's arts and crafts heaven. A wall of different papers. A giant table with three lazy-susan type trays in the middle filled with every art supply a kid could want - glitter, tape, markers, crayons, feathers, etc. A reading nook, a games nook. A dress-up room. It was amazing.
The five kids played for nearly four hours. Mick made a giant bug suit he could wear made entirely of straws. Lucy did the project of the day - and Illuminated Manuscript page - and actually wrote a story. It was a beautiful day. High fives all around.
So, of course I decided to ruin it.
Upstairs was the Renaissance exhibit and I thought it would be a great idea to take the five kids, ages 2 to 8, up to a nearly black room, filled with serious art folk talking very very quietly, about priceless 700 year old art. What could go wrong?
Well, the two year old could smack her hands against the 1000 year old fresco from Florence, sending every guard into cardiac arrest. That could happen. Lucy, exhausted by the day could throw herself on the ground and roll around because she didn't want to hold my hand. That could happen.
What I didn't really realize is that all the Renaissance art work was entirely biblical. Focusing largely on the crucifixion. Lots and lots of blood splatter. Mick was absolutely fascinated. However, one of the moms and her daughter are Jewish and the mom walked into the room at the end of a long day and whispered "I am not ready to answer these questions." I had gone a few rounds with Mick about Jesus and how he wasn't Santa Claus or Zeus but another guy altogether - and while my children have perhaps stepped into church twice in their life, I felt fully capable of explaining that everyone believed a different kind of story. I volunteered to take the girls around and talk about the story the paintings were telling while my friend kept the two-year old from setting off alarms.
Clearly, this was a bad idea.
Half-way into the story of how Jesus died (bloody, very bloody) my friend's little girl, who has hit overload, starts yelling "we don't believe in this!" People are beginning to look at us. Lucy gets upset, because despite absolutely ZERO christian education she is now fully invested in Jesus. So Lucy is screaming - "he's Jesus! God's son!" and the other little girl is screaming "We don't believe in him!"
We quickly get the girls out of the exhibit, but of course you have to pass through the gift shop where Lucy decides her life is not complete without a Jesus and The Disciples set of cheese knives.
I realize at this point, I've lost Mick.
Back into the quiet dark serious art room I go. He's not at the beheading of the saints. Or the strange picture of Jesus with what looks like a dragon. No, he's in the far corner surrounded by a tour group looking at a series of panels. Jesus carrying the cross. Him on the cross. Being taken down from the cross. Put in the tomb. And then, of course rising from the dead. Mick has no inside voice and he yells "did she kill him?" pointing to Mary Magedelan, I tell him no, she's sad. We talk at length about the blood splatter. And finally at the last one I explain how people believe Jesus, three days after being buried, rose from the dead.
My son nods sagely, as if it is all making sense to him now, turns to the tour group behind us and tells them as if they were worried and confused; "Jesus is a zombie."
I grabbed Mick, caught up with my friends who were surrounded by a circle of hyperventilating guards trying to get the kids off the giant Inuit sculptures - and left.
Please, readers and friends - share a bad parenting story - at the end of the week I will pick a winner and preorder a copy of WILD CHILD for you!