Rules are made…to be kept!

September 5, 2012

Kids in Museums

I usually don’t write negative reviews on my blog. I believe that if you don’t have something nice to say you’re best not saying anything at all. That may give my blog a bit of a “happy place” bias, but if I’ve really had a bad experience at a museum, then I prefer to send them my constructive feedback directly rather than name and shame them in public. Everyone is entitled to their own way of thinking and doing things, this is just my way. But the other day, we had an experience at a museum here in Berlin that just left me shaking my head so much I had to share it. Mind you, there are close to 200 museums and galleries in Berlin, so you won’t necessarily guess what place I am talking about and that’s not the point anyway.

So, #MuseumBaby and I went to visit a museum after work/ nursery, which meant we hadn’t been home to off load some of our stuff. I was already prepared for the fact that I’d have to check in my large-ish backpack, which I carry around with me during the day. I’d probably have had to do that even in Edinburgh where museums are a lot more lenient about the size of bags you’re allowed to carry around (here in Berlin most places prefer you to carry around nothing larger than miniscule, or preferably no bag at all). We even checked in the pram, as I crazily decided to let #MuseumBaby run around among all the art, but he seemed to be in a generally well behaved mood. We were just about to turn away from the cloakroom to buy our tickets, when the cloakroom lady asked, “What about your other bag? You’ll need to check that in too.” Our other bag? Oh, she meant #MuseumBaby’s little toddler backpack…

I generally consider myself a fairly ‘well behaved’ mum, but this is possibly the first time I have ever got into an alpha mum argument, and in a museum of all places. Well, when I say argument, I mean I talked back instead of just handing the backack over, I’m not really very good at arguing. Anyway, the thing is, some toddlers are attached to their dummies, or a blanket, or a teddy, that they carry around with them everywhere and will only be separated from if you pry it by force from their sweaty little fingers. My toddler is very attached to his backpack, which he likes to carry around everywhere. It’s not about what’s inside – in fact, more often than not it’s empty – it’s about the backpack itself. Though on this occasion Nokiasaurus happened to be along for the ride.

The conversation went something like this (I may be paraphrasing a little, especially considering as the conversation was in German):

Me: “Really? It’s such a small bag, do we really have to check it in?”
Museum: “It doesn’t matter how small it is, it’s a backpack. You aren’t allowed to take backpacks into the museum.”
Me: “But he won’t be wearing it on his back, he just likes to carry it around by the handle.”
Museum: “I’m sorry, but our rules say strictly no backpacks of any kind.”
Me: “But…” (run out of things to say)
Museum: “It’s ok, I’ll give you a plastic bag to put your stuff in.”
Me: “Oh, okay…”

I told you I was no good at arguing, and I had lost the nerve to try and explain about the whole “It’s not about what’s inside” thing. So she gave us a plastic bag, we transferred Nokiasaurus, and handed over the backpack. And all was well. Haha, no, that would not make a very good anecdote. This was followed by at least 5 minutes of trying to placate an anxious 2 year old who kept chanting “Mine! Mine!” as the cloakroom lady disappeared with his backpack. Eventually, between the comfort of Nokiasaurus and the museum attendant pulling faces at him at the ticket desk, #MuseumBaby was able to be distracted from the loss of his backpack (though thank goodness Nokiasaurus was with us that day, had it been an empty backpack day it may have been an entirely different story).

So why did this whole incident leave me shaking my head? Well, here are the two bags in comparison – the plastic bag we were given in exchange for the backpack we had to check in so that we wouldn’t knock down any exhibits with it (this is my interpretation of the ‘strictly no backpacks’ rule), and the backpack in question. Yes, indeed, the plastic bag is almost twice the size. Too big, in fact, for #MuseumBaby to carry around properly, so he proceeded to drag it behind him around the museum. I wasn’t going to take that bag off him as well, good luck trying that twice in a row, you’ve obviously never met a toddler before.

Am I just sounding like one of those obnoxious mums who thinks their kids are above the rules and everyone should make exceptions for them, or does this strike anyone else as common sense gone mad? It reminds me of our visit to a museum in New York, where they insisted I check my backpack but didn’t have a cloakroom, just lockers that were so tiny that had my backpack been able to fit inside, it would have been small enough to be allowed to take in!


(As I said at the beginning, my intention in sharing this anecdote with you is not to name and shame anyone, so I’ve substituted the plastic bag in question, that may identify the venue I’m talking about, for another one from our plastic bag collection that is exactly the same size^^).


One Response to “Rules are made…to be kept!”

  1. Sophie Travers Says:

    I love your site. I take my kids to museums all the time (boys- 9 and 7) and am using your Berlin resources now that we have moved here from Australia. I share your frustration at the attitude of the attendants here- it feels like they dislike kids- nay people- intensely. I like you, don’t want to have a stand up fight about it, but yes, there is an unnecessary frostiness that is very off putting. I hope it does not put you off as I will be refering to your blog a lot. Thanks so much


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