Mini day-tripping with my little dude: I let my kid skip school and we went to the art museum

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He loved this one — seriously loved.

My family and I are biiiig fans of day-trips — those happy occasions where you get out of your surroundings for a few hours to go out and do something new. Since moving back to Oregon, we’ve made it a point to get out a few times a month as a family to learn more about our new surroundings. Since last summer these trips have included journeys to various coastal spots, driving an hour to see a combine tractor rally (which, funnily enough, was something we had never done while still living in Alabama), and touring/sampling a cheese factory.

A week or two ago I woke up with the day-tripping itch: I wanted to go somewhere. Unfortunately for me, this was a day in the middle of the week. My husband had to work and drove our car to do so, and my son technically had to go to preschool while I technically needed to edit some posts and/or photos. Despite these very logical and real reasons for not blowing off school/work I couldn’t help myself: I think some of us just need to break up the routine a little more frequently than others, and the way I like to do that is to spontaneously decide to change my day’s plans.

While my (almost four-year-old) son was bustling around deciding what toy he wanted to bring to school with him and I was mid-bagel, I asked if he wanted to go skip school and go to the art museum. He was somewhat incredulous at first (we haven’t visited this museum yet) and I was somewhat unsure of how he’d be once we got there (he’s generally well-behaved, but a huge building filled with things to knock over/touch? HARD.), but we decided yes: we were going to do it.

I know a 10 minute bus ride into downtown doesn’t totally qualify as a legit day-trip, since we weren’t leaving where we live, but since we were stepping out of our established routine to do something we haven’t done before, I’m gonna roll with it. We decided to make an entire thing of the day — we missed our first bus (literally watched it go by while we were heading toward it), and instead of frustratingly pounding the pavement and lamenting our luck, I asked my son what we should do. “Maybe… get doughnuts?” he asked, looking at me to see the likelihood of this seemingly impossible dream of his. “YES,” I said. Doughnuts. Why not?

So we snagged two chocolate-covered delights and hopped on-board the next bus, both of us kicking our feet and talking about how delicious they were. He mourned the end of the experience after he finished his doughnut, but was immediately enthused when we hopped off one form of public transit and onto another. While we were standing outside waiting for the tram, he suddenly grinned, looked around, and squealed, “I’m not in school right now!” before hopping around for a little while.

We arrived at our destination and discovered we were both thirsty, so he and I sat together in the museum’s cafe for 30 minutes, sipping drinks and splitting a muffin. We chatted with other people there — mostly retired seniors who were hanging out — and made our way into the exhibits. We spent over two hours there that day, and my son was more engaged than I ever thought he would be.

We had a few moments in which I needed to remind him that museums are a place for walking feet and inside voices, but other than that he was golden. We were golden.

I initially thought my plan might have been a little ambitious for a three-year-old (he’ll be four in March of this year), but he was totally there: he answered questions I asked him (“What colors do you like in this? What do you think they mean?”) and had questions of his own that surprised me (“Why is there always a baby sheep in paintings of Jesus? Why does Cleopatra have blonde hair?”) and entertained me (“Where are their clothes?”). I even had the chance to spend 20 minutes with the work of one of my favorite photographers while my son happily listened to a DVD recording of her.

We had a few moments in which I needed to remind him that museums are a place for walking feet and inside voices, but other than that he was golden. We were golden.

The best part of this? You don’t have to be in a city with an art museum to do it. My husband and I lived in a small town in Alabama for years before coming back to Portland, and we did stuff like this all of the time — just the two of us, and again with our son.

My son and I have spent hours in small towns in Tennessee — the ones that pop up between Birmingham, AL, and Nashville — eating ice cream and meeting new people. You can have an adventure in a small used bookstore down the street from your home, even — the whole point is to shake up what you usually do and learn a little more about who you all are and who you’re becoming.

Comments on Mini day-tripping with my little dude: I let my kid skip school and we went to the art museum

  1. This was really inspiring. I completely know that feeling, that itch, of needing to change things up suddenly, try something new. Just reading this made me feel the refreshment it gives. You sound like a wonderful family; I hope you keep going new places and making new friends. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I love this! I too get the itch to “Do Something” at random times. I often think I should have become a documentary film maker. I love going to random festivals and meeting the people who’s LIVES revolve around certain niche interests. The guy at the farmer’s market who’s passionate about organic garlic. The men and women at the Scottish festival competing in the highland games. How did they get into caber tossing? Where do they practice? I’m just fascinated. It’s the main reason I’m interested in photography; to document the cool shit we’ve done. Thanks for reminding me to do this more often.

  3. This is awesome. My own mother did this with me when I was in elementary school. Everyone else was going on a field trip to a reptile house (I’m deathly afraid of snakes), and the teachers only response to me was to sit in another class and do extra homework.

    So, my mom pulled me out for the day and took me to an art museum instead. It was awesome. So much more educational than doing misc busy work. She did it again another time as just a random treat, but this time to the Bowers museum.

    Someday I hope do the same with my kids. Randomly pulling them out to do something fun yet educational. its an experience that I never forgot, and I’m sure it will be the same for my kids. <3

  4. I’ve taken my two and a half year old to the Portland Art Museum twice now, and she absolutely loves it. I was surprised at how well it went both times. The guards all think it’s wonderful to see kids enjoying the art, and they pointed out all the paintings that had animals in them for her. (She’s way into naming animals right now.) They also have a special kids room (I think it was on the third floor?) where you can do your own art projects and not have to worry about using quiet voices for a few minutes. It makes me really happy to be able to share my grown up activities with her. It feels like it would be impossible, but it’s really not.

  5. I took my son to a Picasso exhibit when he was 13 months old. At the time, he was in the middle of a signing word explosion, very interested in things with wheels, and a breastfeeding enthusiast. So at all of the nude paintings, he signed either “wheels” or “milk”…it was hilarious.

    I’d love to take him again now that he’s older. I’m sure he’d love a get out of preschool day…not really necessary, given that he only goes for two hours two days a week, but it might peak his interest about the museum.

  6. This is great! I remember my Dad coming to get me at school one day and took me out to the beach. There was a seal sighting nearby (rare for where we lived) and he didn’t want me to miss it! The rest of the day was spent combing the beach for shells and sea glass!

  7. There is something special about playing hookie, no matter how old you are. And also something thoroughly magical about watching little ones enjoy art. Their views on it are so limitless, so unsullied with things like historical context or art movement. I’m not a mom yet, but I fully intend to bring my future child to museums. And to play hookie and eat doughnuts.

  8. Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero…

    This sounds awesome. Art galleries are brilliant for kids. It’s a mistake to think that they’re too young to get anything out of the experience. I have no idea about art criticism either, but I have fun when I go. I think it’s a similar thing to reading books aloud to new babies. They don’t understand a word of it, but if you don’t start doing it, they’ll never understand it.

  9. I dont think 3yrs old counts for playing hookie. I mean, it’s just preschool… He probably learned more from his adventure downtown than he did all week at school!! Portland is the best place for adventures. Me and my little dude go to all kinds of places. Its all learning at this point

    • I do agree with you that it’s “just preschool” but he was super aware of the fact that he was missing it (and he looooves going, he goes 5 days a week), and the school has also done incredible things for him, cognitively and socially. I’m also kind of setting a precedent — I hope to continue to sporadically have these adventures as he grows up.

      I’m sure he learned a lot out with me that morning, but he also does learn a lot every day. He’s always coming home with new information. 🙂

  10. Carrie Mae Weems!! What fantastic taste you have! Her “Portrait of a Woman Who Has Fallen From Grace and Into the Hands of Evil” has stuck with me for over a decade. Love love love it. Any work that plays with respectability politics gets me jazzed, and she does great things with it.

  11. My mother did this with my brother and all all through our childhoods and it was amazing. I remember these trips so vividly, we loved them SO MUCH and it was so nice to spend time with her and get to see the world a little.

  12. My mom used to pull me from school for things like this. She called them “attitude adjustment days”. Some of my best childhood memories by far.

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