If you were to ask me for an activity high on my Not In This Lifetime list, taking 20 three year olds to the local art gallery would be right up there. And yet, today, I found myself doing just that.
After our week off, we returned to the preschool routine yesterday. During the ‘morning tea in the basket-drink bottle on the bench-lunch in the fridge’ frenzy, we were approached by Mr3’s teacher, who was waving a form at us. Uh-oh. There was to be an excursion. A walking excursion. To the Art Gallery. Yippee.
After consultation with Mr3, who thought it sounded very fun, I signed the form. No, I circled, I could not attend. I was working. Smiles all round, kiss goodbye, see you later.
At 11pm last night, Mr3 woke in a panic. He could not possibly go on a ‘scurshon’ without me. He would not sleep unless I agreed to go.
And so I found myself leading a little band of short people the three blocks to the local art gallery. I was responsible for three – Mr3, Little Miss Red Hat and Little Miss Dora. LMRH is a confident, outgoing child of four, whose silver Converse sneakers were too cute for words. LMD is a tiny little girl of three with huge brown eyes and not a lot to say. Mr3 was so happy to see me that he kissed my hand repeatedly. We were team red badges (every adult had three kids to watch, we all wore matching badges so we knew which ones were ours – efficient).
During the 30 minutes it took us to walk the three blocks to the gallery, I had time to reflect on why I’d decided (via work experience) that a career in childcare was not for me. They say that when you go bushwalking you put the slowest person at the front of the line and walk to that person’s pace. Nobody gets left behind. We were following in the tiny teeter-totter steps of LMD.
To stave off my overwhelming feelings of impatience (I am really not good at this), I asked Mr3 if he remembered going to the big gallery in Canberra a few months ago.
I asked LMRH whether she thought we’d see paintings at the gallery.
Would we see drawings?
What did she think we’d see?
“Stuff to look at,” she said.
We spent several hours at the gallery. The first 10 minutes was taken up with a flurry of toilet visits. Then the preschool teacher gave a talk about how much work people had put into their artworks and how we could look but not touch.
Moments later, a gallery staff member gave the same talk. We moved inside the gallery.
Three minutes later, another gallery staff member repeated the ‘don’t touch’ rule, adding in ‘don’t run’ and ‘don’t speak, in case you ruin the gallery experience for other visitors’. All of this said at a volume and in a tone of voice that one reserves for the very old, the very young or the very hard-of-hearing. All I can say is that they’re small, but they get it. Talk up. Plus, looking around, I couldn’t see too many others trying to experience the gallery. They’d taken one look at the be-badged sea of preschoolers coming their way and hightailed it for the exit.
My little team were unimpressed by much of what they saw. They liked the helicopters in one painting, the horses in another. They didn’t really get the idea of ‘distortion’. But they loved the opportunity to roll around in the sun and stick spangly bits on cardboard frames. The doing, not the viewing.
On the way back, they kept falling over. This is a relatively good sign that a good time has been had by all. When you’re so tired, you’re walking in circles and forgetting where your feet go, you’ve had the three-year-old equivalent of a ‘rage’.
I learned a few valuable lessons myself. One was that there was nothing on my desk that really suffered from having to wait a few hours. One was that Mr3 has progressed from scribbling colours to drawing those funny huge-head-skinny-leg pictures that show that his world view is changing. One was that time goes so much more slowly when you’re cruising along at preschool pace.
But I’m confident I made the right career choice.