We started a new tradition last year – well we didn’t know it was a tradition at the time, but having done it twice, now it’s a tradition. We went to the cinema for the first time (as a family I mean, not the first time ever). And before the film, we went for lunch (not terribly noteworthy when you put it like that, but it seemed so at the time)
I wasn’t sure how either one would go – I was still at the stage of sitting through rare restaurant meals with my breath held, waiting for something to go wrong, and the cinema was a whole new departure. Taking a just-turned-two toddler to a feature-length film could have ended very badly. As it turned out, it was the highlight of Christmas. Maybe helped by the glass of white wine that I had with the lunch in Jamie’s in Dundrum. Possibly helped by the fact that the film was Frozen and all of us loved it. Perhaps aided by the toddler falling asleep in my arms for about an hour of the movie. But it was brilliant. And it was a milestone – we could now go to the cinema together as a family.
So this year, we had to do it again, and I was worried that it would be different. That we’d be making that mistake of trying to do the same thing as last year and feeling let down if it didn’t live up to expectations. Not in the least because the film wasn’t Frozen – there’s only one Frozen (so far).
We booked lunch in Jamie’s and followed the same routine as last year – chicken lollipops, shaker salads, parmesan chips, and a glass of white wine for me. The kids were busy colouring as I took a first sip and commented to my husband that it was interesting to be back in the same spot, a year later – comparing what had changed since then, and what was still the same.
“Isn’t it great that we don’t need a high-chair anymore,” I said to my husband, “And no big back of snacks to keep him occupied. And no buggy – remember it was annoying last year trying to get everything out from underneath the buggy so we could fold it up and store it in the lobby? He’s so much more grown up now, it’s all just easier isn’t it?”
My husband agreed, because he’s used to agreeing with me when I waffle on about high-chairs and snacks and buggies and nostalgia.
A few minutes later, the toddler knocked a glass of water and it smashed on the ground. He apologised and then proceeded to eat my chips. The ones with the parmesan crust, around which I had carefully based my entire meal choice. Then he got bored and started playing with the curtains behind us and running around the table. We decided to go. “Maybe the high-chair wasn’t such a bad thing,” said my husband, who was apparently listening after all.
The film we’d booked was Paddington. I wasn’t sure the kids would like it, but it’s what they wanted to see. Turns out they loved it. The outbreak of child-giggles all across the auditorium when Paddington’s uncle put a marmalade filled hat on his head was gorgeous. It’s a film full of slap-stick child-centered comedy – not so much of the parent-humour undercurrent, but maybe that’s how it should be.
The toddler is gone beyond falling asleep in my arms, but apart from a few very loud comments and sticking his head in between the seats on front, he was really good and seemed to get what was happening (“Lady is bad mum!” – that’s not a spoiler; Nicole Kidman’s status as the villain is immediately revealed through her spiky heels, severe fringe and black eyeliner)
Then the little boy beside him opened some raisins. “Me want raisins!” said the toddler loudly. I explained quietly that I didn’t have any with me. “Then me have grapes?” he said, not mimicking my whisper. I told him apologetically that I had no grapes. “So me have rice cakes?” he tried. I had none of those either. “What you have for me to eat mummy?” he asked, and I had to shamefacedly admit to him that I had nothing. My husband looked over. He didn’t need to say it. Maybe the bag of snacks we used to bring everywhere still has a purpose.
We had a few things to pick up in the shops afterwards, so I took the girls with me, and my husband took the toddler. When we met up an hour later, my husband look harried. He had no shopping bags, despite having a voucher to spend. “You didn’t find anything?” I asked. “I couldn’t really look – I spent most of the time chasing him,” he said, “What a pity we didn’t have the buggy”. Point taken.
It’s all transient. This year we can do more – go more places without worrying that we’ll upset other customers, and without bringing half the house with us. It’s not effort free; it’s not without its broken glass moments. But it’s getting easier, and small steps forward feel good.
Next year, it might be easier again, or there may be new challenges that I haven’t considered yet. But either way, and much as I’m enjoying these small steps forward, I’m not wishing time away. I’m determined to make the most of it – all of it – the noise, the chaos, the spilt drinks, the broken glass. All things I might miss the first time they say “You go ahead without me mum”. As sure as Paddington loves marmalade, that day will come.
From cinema to sick leave (no, there’s no credible link); what do you do when your child is sick and can’t go to creche? Or if you have a childminder, and she is sick? It has happened us many times over the years and we have a big mix of different coping strategies, none of which are perfect – here’s an article I wrote about it for new parenting site HerFamily.ie: The Diary of an Office Mum: The Working Parent Dilemma – When a Child is Sick