I had such a vision for my family enjoying culture and the arts. I’d get dreamy seeing young kids at the museum, or when friends brought a baby to a party. It gave me a refreshing hope that creative parents can keep their lives going and integrate the kids. If they can do it we can do it, right? Right?

A recent attempt left me facing up to a harsh truth: right now, Disney on Ice is the best I can manage with a 5 and 8-year-old. A show like that is absolutely kid proof. Screaming? Wiggling? Running around? The soundtrack will drown you out. Plus, other kids behave far worse than ours. As a bonus there’s overpriced beer and the atmosphere of a sporting event. I feel like a model patron of the arts.

But our attempt to see Matilda the Musical wasn’t so successful. The show would have been quite enjoyable if I weren’t worrying so much about our kids. They weren’t bad really, but wiggled during quiet bits, Jaden kept asking questions about what was going on, and as the show progressed I felt increasingly anxious they wouldn’t make it through the show. I was monitoring them like an evil school headmistress, and it didn’t help that Matilda features a prominent villain of exactly this sort, Ms. Trunchbull, played in drag as a viciously awful and cruel former hammer thrower:

Charles Brunton as Ms. Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical

Charles Brunton as Ms. Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical

The show was smart and funny, and if I remember the music was beautiful. I would have laughed a lot more if I weren’t plotting most of the time how to keep both kids in their seats. Even as on stage the horrible, controlling Trunchbull is vanquished by clever if naughty children, in our row, in my seat, the ogre won out.

Things did not improve with my next great idea for that day. What idiot plans a “now we need to be on really good behavior and sit quietly” meal right after the kids have endured a multi-hour show? Me, I’m afraid.

It sounded so fun! By coincidence our musical outing was also the 2nd anniversary of the day Jay and I had gotten hitched at city hall, so I got a reservation at the same place we celebrated that day. Grandpa Mel was going to be able to join us, and we could entertain him with stories of the wedding, after our triumphant trip to the theatre. But without a team of uncles and aunts to manage the kids (I’d forgotten about that part), and with nothing even vaguely resembling a corn dog, there was little hope of making it work. The kids were done sitting still. I managed to eat my delicious meal, but found myself angry and embarrassed at my increasingly-unmanagable kids. Grandpa Mel was understanding, but I fumed and fantasized about how I could punish the little beasts later. It was not my finest hour.

There’s nothing worse than feeling so upset and at the same time knowing I’m the cause, not my poor kids, who really did their best.

My fantasies about what  we could do with the kids were just not in line with reality this time. I was trying to get us all to look like some other family than the one we are right this minute. Maybe our oldest could handle a more adult show, if not for the little one. Some more practice at shorter shows, more kid-specific venues for the little guy.

But for now, I’m afraid, that’s not going to be us with the amazingly-behaved children checking out the J.M.W. Turner show. Instead you’ll find us, surprisingly well mannered considering the chaos around us, at Disney on Ice.