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Local Treks

Monday, 28 January 2008

The National Museum of the American Indian

It's often hard to separate how worthwhile a destination is from how difficult it is with a toddler in tow, and that is certainly the case for me with the newest addition to the Smithsonian Museum family, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

We wanted to go, not only because it's new, but because during the construction I contributed money in the name of my late father, so there was supposed to be a brick in the courtyard with his name on it.  Things change during building, of course, and the list of donors is now on plaques that surround the atrium.  I couldn't even get a rubbing, but the computer kiosk to locate my father's name was very cool, and should be adopted by the Vietnam Memorial.

The trip got off to a rough start - we took the Metro in to DC, and the kid was so jonesed about being on a train that he completely burned himself out by the time we reached our station.  He spent the short walk along The Mall howling and screaming and kicking in the stroller.  When we arrived at the NMAI, we were on the Mall side, which has a lovely if austere water element.  Naturally all the boy wanted in the world was to get into that water.

The flipout resumed.  Not even goldfish snacks would mollify him.

We decided to go in, get lunch as we'd planned, and see if a full tummy would help.  The guards didn't take nearly as long to search the diaper bag as I'd feared, and were very pleasant.  The big open atrium made me feel at home immediately; it's just like a lot of Desert Southwest architecture.  Unfortunately, it also magnifies the sound of a howling toddler.

The museum cafe is probably the best one of the Smithsonians (my husband prefers the Air and Space cafe, but I'm the one writing here).  So many appealing choices it was hard to pick one.  But at $8.00 per tamale, I was limited to picking ONE.  The restaurant staff pointed out a place we could sit well away from other guests, where the child could see the fountain.  That was fine, until a particularly friendly staff member came over to fawn all over the child, saying how "macho" and "guapo" he was.  I'm looking at his snot-covered blotchy red face thinking, "Yeah, guapo.  Right."  He has never liked strangers being all up in his face, so he busted out the fit again, which of course made the woman, probably an abuela many times over, want to comfort him.

Once that was diffused, the father part of the parental units was completely locked into a foul mood.  I still wanted to see the museum, though, so we headed up to the top and worked our way down.  The kid had to stay in the stroller the whole time, as there was no safe place to let him out.

Overall, I thought the museum did an interesting job of displaying the millions of holdings from Native American cultures they have; but because of the broad thesis (all cultures from the Arctic to the Antarctic) there wasn't much depth.  I didn't really learn anything new (but I am from an area where multiple native cultures are still very active).  The museum also walked an interestingly fine political line, showing all the peace symbols for all the treaties between the US Government and the natives…but never mentioning how the USG broke every one of those treaties.

As usual, I wanted to check out the gift shop and thought husband and child could wait in the lobby…but no.  Captain Burnout had to be with Mommy, so I carried him in my arms around the store as he sobbed into my shoulder.  We were almost out, when quick as a flash his hand shot out, grabbed a stuffed wolf, pulled it into a desperate embrace, and wiped his snot all over it.

I didn't let the cashier touch the wolf when he checked us out.

The interesting thing is that Wolfie (I was hoping for "Diefenbacker," but no) has been the kid's constant companion since.  This is a child who has never taken any interest in stuffed animals before.

All I can say is that I guess it's a good thing we suffered through the NMAI, and we'll wait until he's 10 or so to go back.
Posted in All Ages : Americas : Toddler by Raq W. at 12:14 PMPermalink

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