20 February 2006

Children and Museums: The Crime of Babywearing

Our family attempted to visit the De Young Museum on February 15th. Midway through our visit, we were asked to leave. What had we done wrong? My husband and I were "wearing" both boys (one eight months old, one three and a half) in sling-style soft back carriers. You see.... you're not allowed to wear backpacks in the De Young. They're afraid you'll lose track of your personal boundaries, and bash into something. Doubly so with children. Therefore, they must be in strollers, or on your front. This is a deeply child-hostile policy, on three fronts. The first front is on a comfort/attention/behavior viewpoint. Parents who take their children out into the world bear, in my opinon, an obligation to keep them entertained, mannerly, and engaged. The museum's policy makes that all but impossible. The second front is a philosophical consideration. People appreciate what they know. If you're going to raise a child who appreciates art, you must expose them to it in a positive way, get them excited about it. How in the world are you to do that, if attending a museum is an uncomfortable, awkward, boring experience? Third, it assumes that the babywearing parent is somehow unconscious of where their child is. That would be analogous to banning wheelchairs, because the handicapped person might lose track of where their wheels are. It sorely underestimates the union between the babywearing dyad. The museum's current policy on back carries marginalizes those of us who are both willing and able to control our children, and want very much to introduce them not only to art, but to the art of correct social behavior in such facilities. In discussing my upset with other babywearing, museum-going parents, I've discovered that the experience, with regards to the acceptance of soft back-carriers, is inconsistent. The Metropolitan Museum in New York rents them for use. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art consistently asks people babywearing to leave. And about half of the parents who've visited the De Young were asked to leave, while the other half enjoyed their visits uninterrupted. It's my hope that some sort of compromise, or waiver policy, may be achieved, not only at the De Young, but at museums everywhere. I also understand that there may be some sort of insurance or other complication that makes that unattainable in the short term. But as babywearing parents, I think it's incumbent on us to challenge these sorts of policies, and do what we can to educate policymakers. If you have a picture of you and your child in a back carry at a museum location, I would very much appreciate it if you'd send it along for inclusion. Should that fail to have the desired effect, next stop is a letter-writing campaign. Stay tuned, either for the Happy Dance, or the Call to Action, whichever's necessary. =) Thanks to everyone who's offered me support in this so far. I know it seems a little thing. But I fully intend to raise children who are comfortable in cultural institutions, and know how to behave appropriately, and I will not allow some poorly-thought-out policy get in my way. Stay tuned. And thanks for your support.

2 Comments:

At 2/25/2006 12:17:00 AM, Anonymous beth said...

hi--I saw your blog on foodlab and figured I'd check it out...hope you don't mind. anyway, I feel your pain here. I recently went to the Corcoran in DC and have a backpack diaper bag (well it can be worn over my shoulder too) and they told me I couldn't wear it. So I wore it like a messanger bag instead, THAT was OK. It irritated me. I've been irritated by the rules in many museums. It's just not the easiest place to go w/ kids. Each time, I say I'm not going back for awhile. But at the same time I WANT to expose my kids to art! Once at the BMA in Baltimore, the wouldn't allow my daughter to push the stroller. I get irritated but then I realize they ARE responsible for VERY expensive art work (probably a high stress job) and pieces of history. I also wouldn't want to be the one responsible for damaging it! So, I see their point too. Even though it aggrevates me! And yes, you're right about the different museums having different policies. I remember going to a Smithsonian one (can't remember which it was) and them giving out backpack carriers because they did not allow strollers.

 
At 3/15/2006 11:48:00 PM, Anonymous Bryan said...

Dave works for the Asian Art Museum, which used to be housed at the De Young. He's been kicked out for wearing a backpack. I guess he entered through the employees entrance, and they didn't catch him...

He was a docent of sorts, and still got kicked out. I'll see if I can get better details...

 

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