The Art of the Unexpected

Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.

Oscar Wilde

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This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

Henry David Thoreau

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I like Saturdays, even though I’m a stay at home Mum these days. Some might argue that every day is the same when you are a stay at home mum, but I love Saturday because my husband is home and that means there is a different feel about the house. I also like Saturdays, because every Saturday my husband and I do something fun. At the very least, we get take out and have an ice-cream on Saturday night and sometimes we watch a movie. That was a boring night before Little Birdie was born; now I look forward to it all week. However, we also like to go out on a Saturday and have lunch somewhere or with friends.

Last Saturday, my mother was supposed to come over but she cancelled so that she could visit my ailing uncle instead. So, all of a sudden, we had no plans for our Saturday. There’s not a huge range of choices when you have a small baby, especially last minute ones. It’s very easy to just fall into the trap of going out to eat. It’s also not easy to get out and get some exercise when you are a mum, so going out to eat all the time can be a problem.

We mused over what to do while LB had her morning nap. We tossed about the same old ideas. Shopping centre? No, it’s too tempting to spend money. Seaside? No, it’s too hot to walk at midday and then we’d probably just end up sitting somewhere eating fish and chips. Drive? LB was already asleep, so was unlikely to sleep in the car. Then my husband put forward a new idea – the art gallery.

I LOVE going to the art gallery, but I had never visited with a baby. To be honest, I felt very apprehensive about going, because it might interfere with LB’s naps. It takes time to really enjoy a gallery. You need time to read the information about the artworks and then peruse them. I didn’t think it was really the right activity for a little one, whose attention span is still pretty short. However, I was looking forward to getting out of the house, so I ignored my feelings of foreboding and off we went.

It seemed to be a disaster from the start. My husband chose to go to a car park that was at the opposite end of the expansive public parklands to the gallery. He was hoping for a family walk, as well as a trip to the gallery. I was concerned that it was going to be too big a day for LB but, once again, I decided to go with it and see where the day went instead of letting my worries take over. We couldn’t even seem to find the lift to get out of the car park and had to carry the pram up a staircase. To my amusement, we weren’t the only parents who were caught out, another couple carried their pram up beside us and they had a toddler to contend with as well. I looked at them and thought to myself how much easier our life was with only one child. It was a good leveler, I knew I was being silly and worrying too much about the day rather than enjoying it

When we reached the top of the stairs, we walked straight out into the weekend markets. I cannot resist a market and these were selling all sorts of beautiful things. We slowly walked along the stalls and I checked out all the children’s clothes. As we walked, we considered going to one of our favourite restaurants for noodle soup but we knew our time was limited. It was the soup or the gallery. The walk between the two was too far for us to enjoy both. We decided on the gallery and I felt a little tug of disappointment, I haven’t managed to go out for noodle soup since LB was born. I was reminded that these are the freedoms that we miss as parents. However, it was lovely to be out and going to the gallery at all and I was grateful for that.

Soon, we had perused all the stalls and we decided to walk towards the gallery along the river. As we walked along, I saw lots of people out who had babies in prams as well. I’m not sure whether I didn’t notice prams before I had a baby or whether there has been a baby boom, but wherever we go, we see lots of people doing exactly the same thing we are. It’s very comforting.

LB was just as tolerant of the walk along the river as she was of our journey through the markets. I hoped she was enjoying seeing all the people and the beautiful scenery. Taking a family walk is one of my favourite times to spend with my husband because we are not exhausted and about to go to bed and LB is safe and occupied, so we can have a proper conversation. It’s so hard to talk about life in the detail we used to before LB was born and I worry that I don’t spend enough time discussing his work and helping him unload some of that stress and think things through.

Before long, we had reached the gallery and, as I often do when we are out, I really felt for people in wheel chairs. It’s so hard to navigate a pram friendly route and you seem to have to walk so much further to avoid all the staircases and find ramps and lifts.

We were drawn to the gallery of modern art. I was a little anxious that we had wasted all our time walking and had missed out on the opportunity to spend time at the gallery and buy some lunch. However, LB was still being incredibly calm.

When we arrived at the gallery, I really didn’t feel particularly inspired. If you manage to get out of the house with a baby, you really need to make the most of it. The gallery didn’t have any special exhibitions on and, as a fairly new gallery, the collections that were there were fairly sparse. We decided to catch the lift up to the second level to see what was going on and discovered an exhibition about every day life. It just seemed so mundane but my husband was drawn that way, so I followed him. After all, I’d survived thus far and LB was holding it together, so I decided that I may as well trust him and keep going.

The exhibition was as I expected, bits of junk (literally) repurposed to make comment about the everyday. I decided to make the experience less about me and more about LB. I put myself in her shoes, asking myself what would interest her? Getting out of the pram would be one thing, I thought. So I carried her around on my hip, looking for things to interest her. Just inside the door was a collection of diodes with all different coloured lights. I pointed them out to her and she seemed moderately interested. There was a father with a toddler across the room. He saw what I was doing and quickly followed suit. I’m on to something, I thought.

I gazed around to see what else would interest a baby. There was a large curtain of gold tinsel being gently blown from behind by a fan. It was sparkly, bright and moving. It was a real sensory experience for a baby. I walked LB over and she seemed genuinely engaged in watching the sparkly tinsel move. I thought it was a pity we were in a gallery, because LB would really have liked to touch the tinsel! I walked through a bit more of the collection and entered a room with a video of a man playing a traditional wood wind instrument on the side of the street in Asia. Once again, LB seemed interested. It became a challenge to spot things that would appeal to LB’s senses. Eventually, we ended up in a room painted light blue with trees made of plush; it was like being in a snowy, Dr Suess-inspired forest. Needless to say, she loved it.

One of my other favourite past times is going to art gallery gift shops. Since becoming a parent, I appreciate them even more, because the merchandise for children on offer is fantastic. Daddy came home with one of LB’s favourite bedtime story books after visiting an outlet of an American art gallery shop at Sydney airport. We weren’t disappointed on this occasion either. There were lots of brilliant books to choose from, but was chose a board book that taught children about blending colours.

That book came in handy too, because we did get a nice lunch out at a café my husband had been dying to try. I had brought some food from home for LB and she was very accommodating as I tucked into my duck salad. I read her the book over lunch and she even had a little crawl on the pavement in front of the café. It was a lovely end to a very enjoyable morning.

I can’t say I enjoyed the exhibition we went to see at the gallery, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day out with the family and a lot of that enjoyment stemmed from LB. As stressful as it can be going out with a baby, it can be really fun as well. I would have been disappointed by the trip to the gallery, because I didn’t enjoy the art, but the visit turned out to be much more fun when I made it about LB instead of me and tried to see the world through her eyes. She helped me get in touch with my senses and I was able to look at the art in a different way than I would have otherwise. The experience was a timely reminder of how even though sacrifice when we become parents, we gain so much as well.

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