How to Teach Your Kids to Appreciate Art

I took my boys to an art gallery, but it was completely by accident, so I don’t feel like anyone should blame me for all the naked people they saw. Not real naked people; that’s what the locker room at the YMCA is for, and bursting into my bathroom every time I try to take a shower, and, eventually, college art classes. But paintings of nudes? Yeah. Sure. You betcha. Lots of those were all over the gallery.

Now, I wasn’t worried about the naked people. My kids are very metropolitan. I mean, as metropolitan as kids can be who can see llamas from their house. But we’ve traveled and stuff, so no biggie, right? Naked ladies; pffttt. My 8- and 14-year-old boys can totally handle pictures of naked ladies.

F Your I, my boys totally can’t handle pictures of naked ladies. Or naked men. Pretty much any kind of nakedness, and my kids can’t handle it.

We went into the art gallery for two reasons:

  1. There was an espresso sign outside, and Nice Mommy wanted to stay Nice Mommy so a hit of caffeine was in order.
  2. There was a toilet somewhere therein, and I had two boys who needed to pee.

We opened the door, and the metal-art, salmon-shaped cow bell clanged our arrival.

I guided my boys — all flying limbs and wild energy — past All Things Breakable and to the espresso counter. Success!

I ordered a cappuccino from the distinguished elderly gentleman behind the counter, the owner of the gallery, it turns out, in his tweed jacket and artsy / old-guy spectacles, and asked for directions to the restroom for my boys.

And here was where we discovered there was good news and bad news.

Painted in WaterlogueGOOD NEWS: The restroom was right next to the espresso counter, so I didn’t have to guide squirrelly boys back through the breakables to find it. Hooray!

BAD NEWS: The restroom, which was decorated in nudes, was right next to the espresso counter where the distinguished gentleman and I could hear every word they said.

Every whisper.

Every giggle.

Every guffaw.

Every sentence as my boys grew louder in their incredulity.

Every “LOOK AT THAT ONE!” And “There’s more over there!”

Every “HAHAHAHA. BUTTS!” And “Hehehe, boobs.” And “PENIS! That guy’s got a GIANT PENIS.”

Every snicker.

Every howl.

Every delay as they stretched time immeasurably to cavort in the bathroom, pointing and cackling up a storm.

And I tried — I want you to understand, I tried — to ignore them. I tried valiantly to pretend I was deaf so, when they emerged, I could claim ignorance and maintain some form of dignity in front of this stranger.

I tried to act like we’re mature.

I tried to act like we’re cultured.

I tried to act like we’re a family that doesn’t find nudes of either gender hilarious. 

I tried. But then one of my boys yelled, “I didn’t know those things could be so pointy!” And another one yelled, “Or so bumpy. Those things got lots of bumps.”

And I lost it.

I just… lost it right there in front of the store owner. Laughing and laughing, and wiping my eyes.

Which turned out to be fine, because the old guy was laughing, too.

“What can I say?” I asked as I shrugged.

And he said, “You know what? You’re doing a great job, mom. Your kids obviously appreciate art.”

So there you go, folks. Words from a professional. You know how to get your kids to appreciate art? Expose them to it. As the nudes have taught us, the more exposure, the better.


P.S. Like all my How To posts, this one is chock full of helpful information. For more utterly useless How To posts, which won’t help you at all but will make you feel better, see How to Organize a Linen Closet, How to Decorate for Fall, and How to Mop.



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5 responses to “How to Teach Your Kids to Appreciate Art”

  1. I work with new moms and have hunched over hundreds of beds teaching them how to breastfeed. It has long been my theory that we should employ teenage boys to be lactation consultants. After a week, boobs will be such old news they will have broken the habit of staring, noticing, commenting on or obsessing over. Exposure is the key. I think you are right!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I was that child once upon a time and more recently I’ve been in your shoes when I took my daughter to the gallery a few years back. Now I’m trying to prepare myself for doing it again with my 6 year old son.

  3. My boys have no trouble at all using the word “penis” in all company and (almost) all situations, loudly and with great glee.

    But all I have to do is LOOK at my newly-minted 13 y.o. and whisper the word, and he turns multiple shades of red.

    I have been enjoying this thoroughly. 😉

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