I was at the Guggenheim with my artist friend Chuck one recent day to see the Italian Futurism exhibit. We sat for a moment on a bench in the lobby to gather ourselves and get ready to head up its winding ramps to check out the art.

A woman was sitting on an adjacent bench. Next to her was a backpack, a large portfolio, some ceramic plates and a few other items. She looked right at me and I got the sense that she wanted to talk. Just as I was making my assessment, Chuck engaged her about the ceramic pieces.

“They belong to my son,” she said proudly. “He’s giving a presentation at Pratt later.”

She went on to explain that he was 17, very creative and was off looking at the art while she watched his stuff. She was beaming. Then, as Chuck continued admiring her son’s artwork, she told us how he’d planned this whole trip.

“I told him the budget and then left it to him to plan,” she said. “If my kids want to be world travelers, I want them to know how to navigate that world.”

What a terrific story. She was so lit up. When she mentioned that they’d gotten there on the subway, I knew the boy was off to a good start on his navigation skills.

Chuck wrote down the name of the drawing studio where he’s affiliated and gave it to her so they could stop by if they had time in their schedule. She was so appreciative. Chuck always notices the artists and the art students when we visit museums, so this was him in his element.

These days when it’s so easy to find “how-to” or critical articles on parenting, it’s a particular joy to be exposed to a parent-child relationship that feels so right on. She’s exposing him to learning; he’s absorbing it like a sponge. She’s encouraging his gifts; he’s reveling in using them. She’s giving him wings; he’s priming for takeoff.

I recall a friend who shared on Facebook taking his teen daughter to London on his recent business trip. She had a clear idea of sights she wanted to see and he left it up to her to figure out how they’d get from one location to another. He wanted to cultivate that independence in her for future travels when he wasn’t with her.

Simple. Common sense. But not always easy in execution no matter how well-intended.

What a kick to see young people become global citizens with awareness and curiosity outside of themselves and the place they call home. And how satisfying to witness parents who have that innate sense of wonder themselves and know how to encourage it in their children.

Chuck and I eventually met the 17-year-old and wished him luck on his presentation. He was gracious in receiving our compliments on his work, looked us in the eye when he spoke, and then went back to scope out more art before departing.

He’s on his way.

By Nancy Colasurdo

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