The Art of Unseen Efforts
By Lydia Rueger

Recently we took my son, Solomon, to a local art museum for the first time, since he has become a walking, talking, fully-functional, little person.  I was a bit nervous, knowing that my 2-year-old has quite a destroy-now-and-ask-later philosophy.  To avoid this, I came up with a little game to get us through the museum. “Let’s pretend all the art is HOT,” I said.  “You can get close, but you can’t touch.”  So he toddled from room to room saying, “That hot?” pointing at things, but not touching. When he would occasionally get too close, we would say, “OUCH!” and laugh, or pretend to roast marshmallows in the fake warmth.  This went on for more than an hour and we stayed accident-free.  I was so happy that the little game kept his attention and proud that he was actually listening.

Then a museum volunteer reprimanded him for stepping one foot over the tape boundary lines on the floor around an exhibited piece. “He needs to stay behind the line,” the man said calmly.  Well, he might as well have told me to get the @#$%&! out of the museum.  “He’s actually been doing really well,” I told the man, louder than necessary, followed by,  “Come on, Solly, let’s go,” as I huffed out of the room.

Afterward, I couldn’t get this incident out of my mind for the rest of the day.  I replayed the scene in my head in which I, in some clever-yet-sarcastic way, asked his experience with keeping two-year-olds away from attractive things.  He didn’t even TOUCH anything!  And why does this museum advertise activities for children if they don’t actually want them here? I ranted to myself.

Perhaps, the real question should be, “why was I so upset?”  It was because this man had not seen my efforts up to that point.  An hour of successful non-destroying, and all he saw was the second my son stepped over the line.  It was the culmination of all the unseen efforts I make as a mother.  Poor museum worker—he was just the messenger.

It was a good reminder for me to give the people in my life a break; I believe no one, except that person and God, sees the whole picture.  That mom I know that yells at her child in public?  Maybe it’s all she’s heard her whole life, and does a pretty good job of holding it together at home.  How about the moms I’ve met that show no interest in anyone, but their own families?  Are they just rude or might they be so uncomfortable in their own skin that they don’t know what to say?  Then there is that girl in my daughters’ class who I worry will be a bad influence because she seems way too grown up for six.  Maybe the events of her life have caused her to grow faster than she should, by no fault of her own.

Of course, these are speculations about people with whom I’ve come into contact that may or may not be true.  But the point is, when I judge acquaintances for stepping over the line for just a minute, I’m not seeing the whole picture.  Like art, sometimes if you get up close and examine one tiny detail, it starts to look strange and out of place.  But, when you step back, that detail is just one odd flick of the brush within a complicated image filled with color, texture, light and dark.

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Jenny is passionate about the important role of mothers in modern America. She believes the role of moms is often overshadowed by popular culture values… like the spotlight we place on celebrities and the celebrity lifestyle. Jenny wants moms everywhere to understand they are celebrities to their Creator.

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