Monday, January 14, 2013

Just Let Go and Go

Maybe I was a regular at all the token Smithsonian museums because my parents hosted a lot of visiting family from Mexico.  I can recall countless trips downtown with a car full of cousins all jabbering in Spanish, cameras in hand and my mom ready with the gigantic video recorder so familiar to us 80s babies.  I remember my excitement (and eventual boredom) touring the National Gallery of Art, Air and Space, American and Natural History museums over and over.  A new wave of cousins, a new visit to the museums.  Cousins visited again, and we would go again.  The cherry blossoms and paddle boating at the Tidal Basin, home to the Jefferson Memorial, and kite festivals in the Spring were all a part of life.  My favorite, Fourth of July, was always spent picnicking a hop, skip and a jump away from the Vietnam Memorial.  Back then, alcohol was allowed, and if it wasn't, people sure brought it anyway.

And one thing that I have noticed as I've gotten older is that a lot of kids I grew up with didn't frequent downtown a whole lot, if at all.  I'm not really sure why.  We were only about 20 minutes away, and there was the Metro line if you didn't want to deal with parking.  Even in high school when I would mention hanging out in Georgetown, faces would wrinkle, and I remember a lot of kids not wanting to drive into "the city".  Suburban Maryland isn't exactly sparsely populated.  I never got it.

Granted, my family did have businesses downtown so I spent a lot of time hanging out there with them, "helping" in the kitchen and serving tables as best as a 5-year-old can.  I would sit down with customers, chat them up and help myself to their tortilla chips.  I was a big hit.  So even though I have never lived in the District proper, it's always felt like home to me.

A conversation with my friend Cheryl, a homeschooling mom of seven(!!!), prompted my trip down memory lane over the weekend.  She just returned to Florida from a road trip to DC with her family.  They went everywhere and loved it.   I remember going everywhere and loving, and still do, but something about "homeschooling" has had me in a box, thinking that if we do go to a museum, I'll need worksheets to supplement Isabella's experience.   And when we get home, she should be required to draw or write something about our trip, right?

Cheryl's answer:  Oh no!  Don't take the fun out of it for her!

Sounds ridiculous, but I was shocked at her answer.  And relieved.  Very relieved.  She explained that part of helping Isabella develop a love for learning was to not make it a chore for her.

"Just go," Cheryl said.  "Isabella is eight?  I'd say you can go twice a week.  Have her just wander and enjoy them.  Don't suck the fun out of it for her.  Get to where they feel like home to her."

Oops.  Did I mention that time I took her to the Natural History museum and made her sit and draw a picture of the nomads?  It was indeed miserable.  

Fast-forward to Saturday, after my very helpful talk with Cheryl, when we had to be out early to drop James off downtown so he could join a friend and other church members play basketball with children in a juvenile correction facility.  It was too early to visit the American History Museum, so I had the best idea ever!  We went instead to the Newseum, the museum of news (catchy, huh?) and it was awesome!  There was no pressure I was putting on myself to have Isabella learn something about everything, or even something about something.  We just enjoyed strolling through.  It is by far one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had with the girls at a museum.

I was so proud of myself, I didn't even start sobbing uncontrollably when I saw the remnants of the Twin Tower's broadcast signal and all the September 12 headlines plastered on the wall.  I was such a big girl!  And it was so nice to see Izzy just strolling through.  She wasn't as interested or fascinated by Gutenberg's printing press, which was a bummer, but I didn't talk her ear off about how it was one of the most important inventions ever!  I only went on ever so slightly about how expensive books were because it was so laborious to copy them before the printing press was invented, which is why only the really rich people had fancy libraries in their homes.  That was it.  Then I shut up.

This week we have the International Spy Museum and Library of Congress planned.  Not our first time visiting either, but this time it'll be with a whole new set of eyes.  While planning all the places we'll visit the remainder of the year, Isabella gave me a huge hug and said, "You're the best mom EVER!"

I'm starting to think so, too.  

Broadcast signal from one of the Twin Towers.

September 12, 2011 headlines.

Posing on the 6th floor terrace.  Amazing views!

Checking out a printing press.

Reading about September 11.