Get creative and go for well-planned, inexpensive outings
With everything you have to do as a Solo Mom, you probably think that if anyone tells you your kid needs some culture, you’re going to explode into a Jackson Pollock painting. Those expeditions to children’s museums are almost as expensive as theme parks, and that’s before you throw in food and souvenirs. As for dance and music, tickets can be very expensive, and often you can’t even afford to go without your kids!
Instead of stressing, why not think of these cultural expeditions as brain food? They’re a way to be with your kids but also have some time for yourself. Maybe it’s only a minute or two with a beautiful painting or sculpture, but the act of walking, standing, and looking is, for me, both stimulating and relaxing. Yes, the guard has asked your child to put his shoes back on, but so what? As a Solo Mom, I am so grateful for these moments when I get to be alone and with my kids at the same time.
Will art interest your children? Will they be shocked by nudity? Profanity? Atonal chords? Possibly. Why not also add some thinking and convert the shock to stimulation? At some point in their lives, they are going to see humans observed in the nude or hear music that stirs them. Why not with you?
My feeling is that, as a Solo Mom, you have license to give you and your kids a different perspective on things. Naturally, like everything in a Solo Mom’s life, it’s not all that easy. Usually it has to be on the kids’ schedule and address their ability to sustain vaguely acceptable public behavior. You may not get to attend the whole concert or you may only get to zip through that one exhibit. But remind yourself that the point is to go and to bring the kids—and then come back with them.
Compromise and negotiation—it’s how a Solo Mom gets through the day!
The fact is that art, music, and dance don’t always have to be kid friendly. Great classical music and dance provoke and inspire, even while sometimes confusing—and that’s a good thing!
Here’s what you need to consider as you work more art and music into your family’s life:
Start free or cheap. Though tickets to most concert halls can be prohibitively pricey, there are local chamber groups and university orchestras that would love an audience and often even provide or sell snacks at intermission. The music is often provocative and different, and sometimes it’s stuff you’ve never heard before. During the holidays, there are many different recitals available for choral music at local churches. Many museums have jazz concerts on the weekend. Bring a picnic and stay awhile.
Dream small. If you’re thinking that dipping a toe in cultural waters will suddenly transform your child into a baby Mozart, forget it. Like sports or good food, it’s something to try, but you never know.
Museum pluses. Kids are almost always admitted for free. Many museums have free days when even your ticket is gratis. Those days tend to be more crowded, so take that into account.
You don’t have to be quiet. There is no rule that says you can’t talk in an art museum. Ask your children which paintings they like. Offer your opinion.
You can keep moving. If things aren’t going well in one room, there are plenty more. No one is offended if you zip through. Plenty of adults with pretensions do, too.
Museum minuses. Not all museums are interactive, so no touching!—most of the time.
Don’t expect to see everything or do it at your pace.
Snickering. Sigh. Ignore it; everyone is entitled to an opinion.
There are bathroom breaks and fidgeting and inevitable breaks to sit on a bench with the kids kicking their feet. So what? It doesn’t matter if they see everything, as long as they look around.
Here are some tips for making these outings fun, warm, and wonderful family traditions:
Food. Feed them before you go. A treat on-site or close by is recommended. Call it mood enhancer, enticement to return, or just plain sugar rush. Good kids? Hot chocolate or ice cream for everyone!
Bribery. With concerts you rarely need to add little gifts, unless it’s a program you can get a musician to sign, which is always fun. Museums of course have gift shops with Death Star gravitational pull. Once in orbit, you will be sucked right in. Don’t even bother resisting. Set a reasonable, single-digit limit on things to be purchased at the gift store: key chains, magnets, postcards, and pencils. Most of these will be lost within 24 hours, sometimes even on the way to the car. Chalk it up to the experience.
Fuss and fun. Make a big deal out of it, but not too big a deal. If your kids like to dress up—go with it. Think of it as going on an expedition without leaving town!
Running breaks. Many museums have adjoining sculpture gardens or parks. After you’ve maxed out your kids’ cooperation, let them out for a run. One of our favorite excursions was museum, ice cream, and a grassy hill down which my kids could roll. Running breaks are also important during intermissions. You may just be stretching your legs, but there is nothing wrong with letting your kids go a little wild.
Cultural excursions can become a lovely part of your family traditions. Kids don’t have to learn anything except that they can form their own opinions, pick their favorite painting, or lose themselves in the drums or strings. The best thing to remember is that there is no right way to experience art. Dance, music, and art are part of life, part of being human, part of growing up and staying young. There is a reason Ferris Bueller and pals visited the Art Institute of Chicago.
You may be surprised how it changes your kids and how suddenly, as teenagers, they start going out for a day at the museum without you. Unless, of course, you ask to come along!
Do you integrate creativity into your life? We publish creative work by Solo Moms and all submissions are considered for our Showcase Awards.
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.