Around the holidays, my family (my parents and siblings, that is) often tries to go on a “Christmas date.” That usually involves a movie and a stop at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. My mom decided that we should keep this family tradition alive the Christmas after Annalyn was born, and she assured me that my newborn would be “fine, just fine!” in the movie theater.
So less than three months after she was born, I bundled up my tiny baby and hauled her into a dark theater.
Rather than sit near the front on the end of a row, as I’d hoped, my dad had picked seats near the top of the large theater. In the middle. Annalyn and I gave it the old college try, but this arrangement just did not work. (Just like I expected. AHEM.) Just minutes into the movie, Annalyn needed to be fed (Who picked the matinee that fell during her afternoon feeding?) and then, as babies do, she immediately proceeded to fill her diaper.
I rushed to the bathroom and fumbled with the diaper changing table. I don’t remember for sure, but I’m fairly certain this was the first time I attempted to change her diaper in a public restroom. Flustered and frustrated only begin to describe my state of mind at that point. While my family enjoyed the mystery of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, I stewed on the bench outside the theater, trying to quiet my fussy baby long enough to hear a snippet of dialogue or two.
Fast forward three years, and this time I was the one suggesting a family outing to the movie theater – with my daughter in tow. Thankfully, bottle feedings and diapers weren’t an issue, but I was still nervous!
We decided to take Annalyn to see Tangled on Christmas evening, although I just about canceled on the drive to the theater. Little Miss Tired & Overstimulated was cranky and nervous about our outing, I shouted [empty] threats the whole way there. Amazingly, she calmed down as soon as we walked into the multiplex and behaved like an angel throughout the entire movie-going experience.
Here are a few things I learned:
1. Choose your movie wisely. Until the moment the animated movie began, Mark was convinced we were seeing Yogi Bear. We debated between the goofy bear movie and Disney’s latest film, but in the end I chose Tangled (and apparently forgot to tell Mark!). Partly because I suspected Yogi bear might be full of questionable humor (at least for my three-year-old) and partly because I know how bored Annalyn gets with live action shows.
Besides, my favorite actor from my favorite show was the voice behind one of the main characters!
2. Make sure the movie’s not too scary! Knowing how Annalyn has reacted to other Disney movies (they are long! and scary!!), I interrogated questioned all my friends who’d seen Tangled. They reported that the “bad guy” wasn’t that scary but warned me of a few frightening parts.
3. Take snacks. As we left my parents’ house for the theater, I poured trail mix into a ziploc, added some dried berries and grabbed a tiny bottle of water and sippy cup. Then I wondered if she’d notice if I got M&Ms for myself…
4. Visit the restroom before the movie starts. Remember that tiny bottle of water? Well, I was pretty sure someone’s tiny bladder couldn’t hold more than that! (Plus, I know well my daughter’s desire to visit every public restroom in the metro.)
5. Choose an unpopular show time. Our decision to go to the movie on Christmas night was sort of last minute, but it worked out well. We had our pick of seats and the small crowd meant I could relax. If the worst happened, at least we wouldn’t be bothering too many people!
6. Be prepared for inappropriate previews. I don’t remember exactly what movie’s trailer we saw that annoyed me, but one of the (many) previews showed characters using language that we don’t condone in our home. And another one was a little…intense…for a toddler. If I’d been on my toes, I would’ve been ready to distract Annalyn with her snacks or that trip to the restroom during the previews.
7. Remember her favorite blanket/toy/baby doll. Believe me. It’s just easier that way. (And warmer, if her lovey du jour happens to be a blanket!)
8. Expect questions. And giggles. And more questions. If you’re taking a preschooler to a new movie, just plan on whispering answers to a litany of questions that can’t possibly wait until after the movie. “Why is that horse running? Why is that lady mean? How long is her hair? Why are they kissing?”
9. Lighten up. Assuming you’re taking your child to a kids’ movie, you won’t be the only anxious parent there. And odds are, if your kiddo giggles too loud or wiggles too much, those other parents won’t even notice.
10. Have fun! There’s something magical about watching a movie – and especially your first one – isn’t there? The screen is so big, the music is so loud, and the characters are so life-like – even when they’re cartoon characters. This is a special moment that you’ll never forget. Plan ahead, be prepared and enjoy the moment!
What was the first movie you took your kids to? Or, if you can remember this far back, what was the first movie you saw in the theater?
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