The 5 year-old boy who is curled up watching Bob The Builder with his younger brother this morning was, just 24 hours ago, riding the 7:38 Go Train into Toronto, on his way to the Art Gallery of Ontario. For Luke, this was the downtown day that Daddy had promised him weeks ago when he complained that he didn’t want to go to school because it was boring. (Luke’s complaint, not Daddy’s)
“Too many rules”, is the most common response I get when I ask him about his school day. While I think that there are plenty of things that go on in both his daycare Kindergarten and his “big boy school” (the latter being the preferred venue these days) that interest and engage him I sense that, overall, he is finding things in his non-school world that do a better job of intriguing and capturing his imagination.
On our last downtown day in March, we went to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to see the dinosaurs and the Mayan exhibit. By the end of the day, Luke had become my tour guide, in the end, pointing out just how interesting the world outside Milton really was!
And while I had confidence in the power of ancient ruins, mummies and dinosaur bones to hold the attention of a 5 year-old, I wasn’t so sure about the draw of the Group of Seven, Alex Colville and Evan Penny.
So, I was more than a little surprised when the Henry Moore sculpture that holds court in front of the AGO turned out to be my first indication that this was, indeed, going to be an interesting day.
“I see a sculpture, Daddy!” We had talked about sculptures on the train ride into the city.
“Uh, gosh I don’t know, Luke, Maybe a smushed doughnut”.
The look of disbelief (and disgust) with which my response was met indicated that I was going to have to work harder today!
“Ok, Luke, your turn, what does it remind you of?”
“I think it looks like two waves. One looks like it is about to crash on the shore, and the other one is waiting behind it. Daddy, see how it’s a little bit higher?”
It was a fascinating experience watching Luke move through the galleries, taking his time to sit and look, invite me into conversation—and watch every piece of video footage that accompanied the installations. (After watching the archival clips on the Group of Seven artist, Tom Thomson, Luke asked if we could “get that video” to watch at home.)
Some rooms were chock full of paintings, while others were sparsely appointed and provided lots of room to move and imagine. And the questions that we asked each other allowed us to sit and look in different ways:
“Luke, each of us gets to pick one painting on this wall and tell each other why we chose it.”
“If you were going to ask the person in this picture one question, what would it be?”
“What is the difference between this sculpture and this one?”
From the model ships on the lower level of the gallery, to the trip up the grand spiral staircase to the fourth floor Evan Penny exhibit, to the hidden (Luke insists that we discovered them) set of stairs that afforded a magnificent view of Toronto’s skyscrapers, our trip to the AGO painted a picture in my mind of what happens when we introduce our children to the places that matter to us allow them the time and space to participate in their own way and take time to listen to what they are saying.
In this case, I suspect that both dad and son went to bed last night living in a slightly different world.
“Daddy, when can we do this again?”
“Soon, Luke…very soon!”