Well, morning really. It was the first showing of the day....
The first time we took Super Toddler to a movie theater was last July. This is also the last time we took Super Toddler to a movie theater. For obvious reasons. Well, until today, that is. Thinking that perhaps the problem was that the entire family attempted that particular movie outing, I took the opportunity of Grandma's visit, and Super K.'s full day of school, to leave a couple of kids at home and take Super Toddler, solo, to a morning movie. We were the only two in creation not to have seen the Lego Movie yet, so I was hoping for an empty theater. Plus, she's nearly a year older, her behavior must have improved since then, right?
No, it has not improved. She still races through the aisles and talks at the top of her lungs and find the projection room miles more fascinating than anything going on screen-side. I did NOT buy popcorn, so at least we avoided the popcorn dumpage and the wearing the bucket as a hat while running down stairs in the dark that she so enjoys. But it still managed to be magical for me and I will tell you why. I would make a film and show you, but backers are in short supply around here and I have about 20 minutes before they get tired of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and find me here, hiding in the bathroom.
Super Toddler will always be herself; loud, fearless, and unable to sit still. What I think has changed is my expectations of her. (Also, a little planning regarding time of day and lack of food that can be turned into projectiles helps.) It was rather fitting that we were seeing the Lego Movie for my latest epiphany regarding parenting; a film that's message of truly being yourself and allowing your own creativity to shine truly resonates throughout my relationship with Super Toddler.
I really really like movies. So does Super Toddler. I love going to the movie theater to see a brand new movie. So does Super Toddler. I adore that moment when the lights dim and the previews start. So does Super Toddler. It is just that while I want to sit in the middle seat of the middle aisle in quiet so I can feel the energy and delight of the people around me as we all enter a magic portal to someone's imagination and hard work, Super Toddler wants to create her own energy and delight by running around the row and peering through the seats, all the time shouting her feelings and thoughts at the screen like it is her best friend and they are gabbing across a backyard fence. At the top of their lungs. During a tornado.
When I go to the movies with Super Kindergartener, he sedately sits next to me and holds my hand. He squeezes it when he gets scared. He shushes loud talkers and shakes his head sadly when people answer their cell phones. He eats his snuck-in-candy silently while his eyes grow to the size of plates at the wonder on the screen. He does not want to talk about the movie during the movie, so expect eye daggers if you try. He'll happily tell you his favorite part in the hallway, later. Super K. is more like me than is always comfortable for me to face.
Super Preschooler doesn't much care for the movie theater, as the films there can't compete with the visions in his own mind. He is just saving up to create his own movies, mostly likely sometime next year. When he does humor us, he watches the entire movie from my lap, arms tightly wrapped around my shoulders and his face cuddled into my neck. That way he can whisper all his ideas for improving the plot directly into my ear. And I have to say, the boy is usually right about what needs changing.
Today, I decided to just let Super Toddler be Super Toddler. There were 3 other families in the theater and none looked liked they were writing a review or anything. One little boy was quoting dialogue before the movie started, so I figured this wasn't their first showing by a long shot. I avoided the popcorn situation, let her have a little lemonade, settled in a seat near the end, and hoped for the best. I really wanted to see the whole thing, but was prepared to make a dash for it.
I have never walked out of a movie. I always stick it out, even during the bad ones, because my love of film and the movie theater experience is that strong. But I would have walked out of that theater for Super Toddler. It would have broken my heart to have my only daughter not love movies, but I was ready to have it break if that's who she is. Anyone who knows me knows how intensely I love movies, but at the end of the day, this is no Sophie's Choice. Super Toddler has my heart; I love her more than film.
But a wondrous thing happened instead. Given a little bit of room to roam, Super Toddler contained most of her wanders to our row and the few steps next to us. She peeked between chairs and used them to hide from the scary parts. She climbed in and out of my lap to be cuddled occasionally, but if I am being honest, it was really to steal more lemonade. Her shouting was all related to what was going on in the movie. Even her fascination with the projection room holds the promise of a future career in editing. It was all appropriate to the space and her age. I just had to let her enjoy the movie in her own way.
Because that's the truth, isn't it? We all like things our own ways, and watching a movie is no different. There are talkers and shushers and texters and sleepers. There are people who buy food there and people who bring their biggest purses to sneak in most of the fridge. There are people who like to shout support at the screen during the car chases and there are people who are driven mad by the sound of someone opening a cough drop. Some of us hide behind our fingers, some of us can't look away. Some of us gasp, some of us laugh, and all of us feel. And feel together. For a few short hours, we are a family; united in our commitment to seeing this story through. And like all families, we are wildly different and yet similar in passion. We are all moved by screen stories, and I just need to let Super Toddler be moved in her own way. Her own bombastic, energetic, totally unique, free-spirited way. And next time, I may even let her wear the popcorn bucket on her head. One step at a time......
Movies; the stuff that dreams are made of.
And all the best dreams (and movies) involve independent little girls born to set the world on fire.