Butts and Privates in Art, or, the Joy of Visiting a Museum With My Child

Standard

Over the weekend, I took my six year old daughter to the Museum of Fine Art. She wanted to go on a mother/daughter outing and who was I to argue when she suggested one of my happy places.

I allowed her to lead me through the galleries. She pulled me along at just under breakneck speed, and I surrendered to the experience of viewing the museum from her perspective.

Paintings and photographs swirled past us, everything melding into a sort of impressionistic blur.

Every once in a while she would stop to admire something.  A portrait of a baby.  A painting of a sunset.  A sculpture of a dog.

We found ourselves in a replica of a 14th century chapel. My child stopped short and gasped at the enormous cross on the wall, and the strange sensation of being in a small room of its own within the giant museum.

We are not religious people and my kids have almost never been to church. But my daughter has a weird fascination with Jesus, maybe because he’s like a celebrity baby and she loves babies. Anyway, there was a serene and sacred vibe in the chapel. We whispered to one another to look at this and look at that.

There were some relics in a glass case. My daughter pointed to a small statue of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. “Look Mama!”

It was indeed a sweet little artifact and we spent a moment admiring the tenderness of the mother and child bond.  I snapped a pic with my phone at Emily’s command.  As we wandered through the rest of that particular gallery, I noticed several portraits of the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus.  I pointed these out to Emily who found them charming.  She also enjoyed the bare butts.  In one, Jesus was full frontal and she gasped, “OMG Mama, I just saw the private!”

“Yes, Dear,” I said indulgently.  “There are a lot of butts and privates in art. It’s sort of a thing.” So for the rest of our visit, she pointed and laughed at butts and privates.  I felt like I had sort of done my part at educating her on art, reinforcing the normalcy of breastfeeding in everyday culture, and joyfully normalizing all different body types (including their privates) without any shame.

Either that or I was totally irreverent and set a really bad example.

Could go either way I suppose.

As we got into the car to drive home, I asked Em if she had a good day.  “Oh Mama, it was the best day ever,” she replied.  I was somewhat surprised that our little jaunt to an art museum was her best day ever, but that’s cool.

I asked her what she had learned about art.  “I learned that there are lots of butts and privates in art,” she stated.  Gotta hand it to my kid, she pays attention.  I guess our next lesson will be about the reasons behind all the nudity in art (pun intended).

Advertisements

Hey, Remember That Time I Casually Mentioned Breastfeeding to My Spirit Animal?

Standard

It’s been over two years since Emily weaned. I don’t write about breastfeeding or nursing anymore, unless it is in response to a comment on my nipple trauma post, still my most popular post on this blog.

It gratifies me to know I’ve left even a tiny mark on the world of breastfeeding health and lactivism.

I miss nursing, but I don’t really feel the urge to write about it anymore.  And unless I am doling out obnoxiously unsolicited advice to a new mom, I rarely talk about it.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

Since I nursed Emily until she was a little past four, when she naturally weaned herself, she remembers her time at the breast.  She occasionally mentions it to me.  She reminisces, and even wishes she could still be a cozy little nursling.

It is also gratifying to know my daughter has happy, safe, sweet memories of nursing and will hopefully grow up with positive attitudes about breastfeeding.

But I digress. . .

What I really wanted to tell you about was meeting my all time musical idol a few months back.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE Regina Spektor fan.  My obsession for her cannot be stifled.

Regina is a Russian immigrant who came here as a child to escape religious persecution for being Jewish.  She is a classically trained pianist who writes insanely creative songs in the indie-anti-folk-alternative genre.

You might know her as the singer who wrote and performed the Orange is the New Black theme song.  She also recently did a cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps for the animated movie, Kubo and the Two Strings.

Her presence in the world brings me joy and hope.  It’s no hyperbole to say her music changed my life.  It may have even altered my DNA at a molecular level.

Regina toured this past year, and I got to see her three times.  THREE TIMES you guys!!!

I saw her in my home state, and in New York City at Radio City Music Hall in March. Then I got to see her in November in Northampton, MA. Through a confluence of rare and unusual events, a friend managed to obtain  backstage passes to meet Ms. Spektor after the show in Northampton.

OMGOMGOMG!!!  I know, right!!!

It was going to be really hard to play it cool, but that was the plan.  The entire show was like an out of body experience, and she sang Loveology and Pound of Flesh and Flyin‘ and a bunch of other oldies I’d never heard live before.

Oh, and also my friend and I were in the second row, just so, so, so close to this woman who has more artistic energy in a fingernail clipping than most people can imagine in their entire lifetimes! The show was unreal, and even if I’d never met Regina that night, it still would have pretty much been a perfect experience.

So, we stuck our backstage passes on our lapels after the show and waited in the appointed spot for the tour manager.  There were people hanging around who didn’t have backstage passes, and they didn’t even try to hide their envy as they asked how we got “on the list”.

Finally the tour manager came to get us, and he led us down some stairs to a chamber that was all brick and basement and lacking in any glamour or glitz.  And there she was.  Regina Freaking Spektor.  My spirit animal.

She greeted us with genuine warmth and kindness that set me instantly at ease.  She was soft spoken and almost shy.  We chatted about this and that and fuck tRump!

I got to tell her how I’d seen her at RCMH and how I heard her speak about Purim and the importance of resistance and how meaningful and prescient this had been to me at the time.  I shared with her that I worked for a Jewish agency and she seemed truly delighted by this little fact about me.

While we were talking, her tour manager came up to her with a bag of lentils.  She thanked him and turned back to us.  “If you ever need to make a heat pack in a pinch,” she said. “Lentils work great!  Stick them in a sock in the microwave.”

“Rice in a sock works good too,” I added.

“Oh yeah?”

“Sure,” I offered confidently.  “Came in handy during breastfeeding.”  As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was sure I’d said the most flagrantly awkward thing on the planet.  Who meets their idol and starts talking about breastfeeding?  I apologized with a little laugh.

“No!” Regina said with a pleasant and unflappable grace.  “That’s so real.  Breastfeeding is real.  I remember. . .”  Somehow we got on another subject and then she signed my poster for my daughter and me.  Love and peace and fun.

She gave us hugs and we took photos together.

The whole encounter didn’t last more than ten minutes and then my friend and I were on the road back home.

I haven’t posted here in a long while, and I haven’t posted about breastfeeding in a longer while.  It occurred to me that this was a sharable little nugget.

I’m always searching for ways to integrate all these random bits of myself; to reconcile all of the parts of who I am to make something whole and awesome.  There is me as an artist, woman, mom, wife, worker, and friend.  There is me as someone who hopes and hurts and heals and hides.  There is me as a sexual goddess being, created of life.  There is me who is very private.  There is me who is very proud and enthusiastic.

In a way, it is so totally perfect that I managed to casually weave a thread of one of my life’s greatest passions into my tiny interaction with my greatest hero.  It felt awkward and crazy and just right.  To me, that’s what my integration is all about, and it was received with gracious humor that night.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stifle/

We Are All Momming As Hard As We Can, So Can We Stop Already With the Mythology of Summer?

Standard


A friend recently remarked that she was super impressed with how much fun, enriching stuff I do with my kids.  She mentioned seeing a group of photos I’d posted on social media of an outing my daughter and I took to a local farm, where we pet a lamb.

It had been an enchanting excursion.  I won’t deny it.  We were by the ocean and the scenery was lush and pastoral.  Emily chased after chickens and we walked up to a fence to look at a bull with gigantic horns that looked like something out of a story book.

Then we got into the car to go home and Emily told me I was the worst mom in the world and she hated me because I wasn’t taking her to a restaurant for lunch.

So, I thanked my friend for her compliment of my pictures.  And then I let her know Emily’s five-year-old opinion of me.

Sure I could have taken the compliment and allowed my ego to be stroked. But I happen to believe reality is important. 

I also let my friend know that every photo of us doing something energetic and interesting represents a minuscule slice of our actual existence. 

 For every five minutes we are out doing something exotic, there are about three hours spent lolling around the house watching television, having tantrums, bickering, eye rolling, and sighing.  Heavily.

I also do not incorporate photos of my never-ending laundry, toilet scrubbing, and refereeing sibling rivalry on social media.  No one does.  We all post the highlight reels.  We post the pics that say “Look at me winning this impossible quest!”

We perpetuate our own mythology along with the collective mythology of modern day parenting. 

It’s what we all do.  Sorrynotsorry. No regrets. Because we are all on this seemingly never-ending struggle bus ride fraught with constant motion sickness and punctuated with momentary glimpses of something lovely out the window.


We all do it, but we all forget that we do it.  That’s the problem.  And that’s what leads us to compare with one another and feel like everyone else is out there having a better time.  All the other moms are out there momming better, harder, and faster than we are.

Summertime seems to highlight this dynamic.  At least it does for me.  There seems to be this unspoken expectation that we are all going to be shiny, happy summer people, and that in addition to all the normal mom duties, we are also going to bring it in the areas of crafts, activities, and day trips to exotic ports of call like we are a deranged cruise director.  Oh, and shit, I forgot about incorporating baking and sensory play.  Gotta do it all.

I’m here to tell you, you do not have to do it all.  I’m here to tell you, it is perfectly okay if this flurry of activity is not a realistic expectation for you.  If you are tired, frustrated, or out of good ideas–  it is all okay.  If you just don’t feel like going outside today, also okay. Stay on the couch.  Put in some Disney or Doctor Who.  It’s all good.  We all eventually get to the same place.

I personally don’t have the time or energy for being super creative mom of the year. 

Of course it is important to do things with our children.  In no way do I espouse neglect or unlimited screen time.  Balance is key.  Exercise is important. Hugs count. But…..  

We do not need to be in constant motion and contact with our kids.

Kids need a break too.  I’ll speak for me and mine.  As a children of working parents, my kids have really  long days–  as long or longer than mine sometimes.  Emily can usually be flexible and roll with the flow, but Jack needs a lot more down time.  This makes it even trickier to balance their needs with my own.  Societal demands, pressures, and expectations have no place in this equation for me.

It’s really hard not to let the social media highlight reels feed into the mythology of what summer and parenting is “supposed to be”.  A lot of people I know have gotten off of social media for just that reason.  

I’m learning to enjoy the posts of other parents without feeling threatened or pressured to do and be more, more, more.  Because really, we are all already doing more than enough.

We are all more than mom enough.