Navigating the Unexpected with Kids at the Pompidou Center

stravinsky fountain, paris

I strut down the streets of Paris, listening to the echo of my heeled boots — alone.  With my wallet newly stuffed from the ATM, and a bag of breakfast goodies in my hand, my head is in the morning clouds, living an alternate life — no longer a Mom, but as a mysterious woman.

But then a cute little boy dancing down the sidewalk caught my eye. Hey — that’s my boy!  Ethan saw me too and smiled; he was followed by Chase and Ada each holding one of Aaron’s hands.  I stashed my mysterious woman alter ego (until next time) and embraced them.  With the family reunited, today’s adventure was now underway: riding the metro to the Pompidou Center.

Family, kids and the metro, Paris

It was our first ride on the metro and  I was as nervous as the kids were thrilled. At the Louvre/Palais Royal metro stop, I plunked a handful of Euros into the machine for 3 tickets. Children 3 and under are free, and since the boys turned 4 only the week before, we decided to save a few Euros, and (ahem) slip them through.

After purchasing the tickets, we put them into a slot in the turnstile, which makes it open.  Chase and Ethan wanted their own tickets like Ada, and refused to be carried through with Aaron and I. Ethan ended up briefly stuck in the turnstile while trying to follow me. Chase saw his trapped brother, and simply crawled under. Next time, we’ll just buy them their own tickets.

The train arrived to the platform within minutes, the doors opened, and we scurried onto a car with standing room only. Aaron and I each grabbed a support bar, and the kids grabbed onto one of our legs, holding on for dear life. The train lurched forward, and even though I worried I’d lose my balance and smoosh a kid, a smiled a goofy smile. I no longer felt nervous, I felt thrilled. It was love at first ride.

Collage of stravinsky fountains, Paris

A quick Metro ride, followed by a ten minute walk, and we were watching water spray through the whimsical Stavinksy fountains. Ethan asked why the lady was peeing out of her boob. (Kids always say the darnedest things.) Little did I know, that was the first of many questions about a woman’s anatomy that I would somehow not answer.

Our first stop in the museum was the kids’ activity center. What a brilliant idea, to have hands-on activities that promote creating, in a place full of other people’s creations.

Collage of kids in the kid's activity center Pompidou, Paris

Not sure where to start in the museum, we randomly chose the Elles@centrepompideu exhibit, created solely by women artists. I knew nothing about this exhibit. So imagine my surprise when we walked into a room full of Gigantic Vaginas.

Its one thing for kids to see naked ladies beautified through the eyes of the Renaissance. It’s another to see naked ladies interpreted by Modern Art, which in this case, meant they were garishly bright, and spread-eagle.

Thankfully — the kids didn’t understand what they were looking at. When Ethan asked, worriedly: “Mom… why is the lady’s mouth bleeding?” I mumbled an “I don’t know” before grabbing his hand and moving on, hoping the next room wouldn’t be more of the same.

Oh — but it was.

Ethan giggled and yelled for Chase to “WATCH THE LADY’S BUTT!” in front of a video of a naked woman walking on a beach (I’ll admit, it was strangely mesmerizing). But then he wanted to know why a woman had a big cut on her forehead and mouth. (Use your imagination with that one.)

And when I turned his attention away from that lovely piece, it immediately focused on a picture of a man and woman baby-makin’, zoom-lens close. My “it’s Modern Art, no one understands it” answer wasn’t working this time. (And this wasn’t the time for our first how babies are made discussion…) I scurried out before he could ask about the brown, furry mass on the opposite wall, and followed Aaron into a room of…

… large puppets sitting in chairs watching a video of a naked lady hula-hooping with barbed wire.

Sigh.

I wonder if these images will pop up during therapy in twenty years…

If you’re a parent reading this, please don’t let my experience scare you away from visiting the Pompidou. Not only did this elles@centrepompidou exhibit end Feburary 2011, but there is much more to this museum than gigantic vajayjays.

And believe it or not, this was my favorite museum with the kids. And I wasn’t the only one – I heard more children here than in the Louvre. And I think I understand why: chairs in circles, or light reflected on the ground might be strange to many adults, but my kids loved it. While I admired a sculpture, Aaron and the kids were sitting on a bench in a dark room, watching a video of Yo Yo Ma playing the cello in the Alps.

My favorite pieces were the hanging sculptures.  Chase loved them too, and he just couldn’t resist and touched this one:

Hanging Sculpure in the Pompidou, Paris

Not only did he cause it to gently sway, he also gave the museum attendant a mild heart attack, as she came running towards us saying “NON! NON! NON!”

By the time we found the Picassos and Matisses’ we had Modern Art overload. We did a quick, walk through, and called it a day.

After all those garish vajayjays, we needed a sweet and kid-friendly scoop of gelato.

Kids eating gelato in Paris

And on our walk to the Market Montigruel we stopped to ride an oh so friendly, G Rated carousel.

Girl on the merry go round, Paris

After we bought fresh honey-bread and a much-needed bottle of wine from the market, we tried to walk back to the apartment. But the kids don’t walk. Where’s the fun in that? They must run in circles, dance, and impersonate farm animals; Chase finally perfected his chicken cluck and waddle.

Unlike this morning, I wasn’t a mysterious woman. Instead I was the obviously overwhelmed American Mother, barking at her kids to either: hold my hand, or watch where you’re going! My alter ego would have to wait for another day to daydream in the morning clouds. Until then, that bottle of wine was calling my name.