I work at the Met (the museum, not the opera or the grocery store). It’s a good job. I like my department, the hours are pretty great, and I basically get to people watch all day.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the four months I’ve been at the museum, it’s this: Kids. Are. Awesome.
I mean, yes. It’s true that sometimes they run, and sometimes they throw tantrums, and sometimes they are unbearably obnoxious; but to be fair, most adults can be like that too. The thing that makes interacting with the tiny visitors so much fun is that they are incredibly honest. They say exactly what they mean.
A lot of the time when adults are around other adults, there’s a drive to impress each other, especially in a setting like a museum. You might want to show off to your date or friends about how much you know about Impressionism. Or you might just want to prove to your parents that the Art History class you took in college wasn’t a waste of your money. This isn’t a bad thing. We want people to like us, we want to give them a reason to keep spending time with us. It happens naturally. We all care about what the people around us think.
Kids? Not so much. They will say exactly what they feel, what they want, or whatever delightfully insane thing pops into their minds. They want to go see Egypt. They want to see the knights. They like this painting. They like that sculpture. The guy in that painting looks silly. Sometimes, it is just really refreshing to have such a straight, honest reaction to art. Kids are good at that.
They’re also great at saying the best things. So, here’s two stories from my encounters with kids at work.
It’s a quiet day, and I’m near the ground floor entrance. We tend to see most of the real little visitors come through this entrance because parents don’t have to drag their strollers up the main steps of the museum. Today is no exception.
A little girl and her mom approach me. The little girl is all of three years old, and is just insanely cute. She’s also incredibly shy, and she’s very intentionally not looking at me. Her mom says to her. “Here, she works here. You can tell her.”
The little girl says nothing. I squat down so I’m on her eye level. She gives me a glance and then shies away. “What is it, sweetie?” I ask.
She mumbles something at me.
“What’s that?” I ask her.
She looks me in the eye, and says with obvious distress: “They don’t have any underpants!”
My mind is racing. Every horrible scenario is going through me head. Someone upstairs in the galleries has finally snapped, and has taken off their pants and is running through the museum. Oh god. This is not going to end well.
“They don’t have panties at all!” she insists. I look to the mom in confusion. The mom smiles at me.
“She means the statues in the Greek galleries.”
My day is officially made. I try to keep from laughing, but I can’t help but giggle a bit. Thankfully, the mom laughs too, but the little girl is still looking at the two of us very seriously. I tell her that I’ll talk to someone about it, and I can’t promise they’ll give the statues underpants but I’ll try. That seemed to help. I hope she isn’t too upset when she returns to the museum to find the Greeks and Romans still in their birthday suits, but every time I walk through those galleries, I crack a smile.
Which leads me to…
I’m going through the museum towards the Great Hall and decide to head through the Greek and Roman galleries. This is a favorite spot for families to bring their kids. I adore these galleries. They are laid out beautifully, the lighting is stunning, and the majority of the pieces are openly displayed (rather than behind glass).
I’m almost through the hall when I hear a seven year old speaking in that matter-of-fact way that only elementary school kids can.
“Those are boy bits, and those are boy bits,” she says, pointing to two different statues. “And they’re broken.”
I speed up to keep from laughing out loud, but I definitely spent the rest of the day giggling to myself. To be fair. She was right. They were broken.
So thank you kids, for being awesome. Thank you parents, for having awesome kids. And thank you museum, for being there so all this can happen.
Good night, everybody.