An afternoon visit yesterday to the newly renovated Providence Children’s Museum did not disappoint. And as much as Oscar and Edgar were able to glean from their visit, I feel that often when I am in an environment among other parents I learn just as much–though what it is, at first, I’m not always sure.
In so many ways, every parent is a novice. We encounter each stage of our child’s development as it happens without any preparation. And even parents of two or more children bear witness to each child’s approach to each stage as it occurs–as no two children walk, talk, toilet train, or approach life’s challenges as young adults in exactly the same way. So, when I have the chance to watch other parents in action, I do.
Yet sometimes what I see makes me sad.
Chasing Edgar through the museum, which amounts to my cardio, thank you very much, always proves entertaining. And when he gets upstairs, he is drawn immediately to the boat display. He ran into the exhibit (almost literally) and began to play. A mother turned to me and said, “How long have you been here?” I glanced at my watch and replied, “A couple of hours.” She then said, with exhaution in her voice, “We have been here four hours! I am so bored!”
Bored? Watching your child jubilantly play? Having a probably much-needed chance to occasionally sit down and bask in your child’s independence? Bored.
I don’t want to judge because I certainly do not know what preceded or precipitated this comment, and I didn’t take the time to inquire. I simply continued watching Edgar play, happy that I wasn’t bored, that I never have been bored when in the company of Oscar and Edgar. Maybe it’s because I came to parenting a little later than some. Maybe it’s because I have ample opportunity, thanks to a very supportive partner, to go out with friends and enjoy adult company when time and inclination permit. I’m not entirely sure. But what I do know is that nothing Oscar and Edgar ever say, do, or think bores me. My children fascinate me as much as the latest thought-provoking novel or film–and sometimes more.
Parenting and intellectual stimulation, luckily for me, are not mutually exclusive. No, I certainly don’t read nearly as much as I did four-and-a-half years ago. And my days of lingering over “The New York Times” are on a bit of a hold. But that’s okay. I do get to read books other than Dr. Seuss, see films other than “Cars,” and talk to people over four feet tall. And that just may be why I am free to find my children so interesting and bask in each stage of their development.
I am no better than the mom I met at the museum. But something tells me I might just be a little luckier.