Last night, we took Che to see Moneyball during an ingenious “Diaper Date Night” invention created by the towns of Los Gatos and Campbell, CA. Every fourth and first Tuesday of the month, we are “allowed” to bring our toddler to a movie and join other parents with children ages newborn to toddlers to get out and watch a movie. Usually, there are only 3 or 4 couples in the movie, which gives Che (usually the only toddler) room to cruise around the entire theater. Last week, we saw Dolphin Tale.
Dolphin Tale was Che’s first experience at the movie theater. At first, my husband was optimistic about putting him in his own seat so that he could sit “like a big boy” and watch the film. However, Che quickly found it amusing to make the seat fold up and down...even if that meant that he eventually fell through it. Who knows how toddlers do these things, but Che managed to get his legs stuck in between the back of the seat and the lap support and of course, screamed because he couldn’t move. We got him out easily and unharmed and decided to put him on our laps. Again...short-lived, as Che decided to get down and start playing with folding the seat down and then letting it pop up on its own. Hilarious...for him.
When the lights went down and the previews started, the loud sound kept him quiet and he looked bewildered at the giant screen. What a trip it must have been to see a giant movie screen with moving pictures for the first time. To remember and go back to that moment as an adult is near impossible for me. I have no idea what my first movie was. But for Che, it was Dolphin Tale and every time he saw Winter, he would yell out “UPO!”, our dog’s name. Most animals have adopted the same nickname, according to Che.
Now here’s the funny thing for me. Obviously, Che’s amazement of the movie screen matched his short attention span and soon we found him wanting to run around the entire theater flipping every seat. Despite the fact that the occasion for going was in fact for the sake of bringing your child, why on earth did I feel so consciously aware of the fact that others (parents with babies, instead of toddlers) might be looking at me, wondering why I was letting my kid run all around the theater? There were only 3 total couples in the theater that night so clearly Che was not disturbing anyone, and though I missed half the movie, I found so much more amusement in watching him run freely and laugh and giggle as he ran around enjoying himself. It wasn’t until 3/4 of the way through the movie that he eventually knocked out in my arms, fast asleep.
But as parents, I don’t know about you, but I feel the stares at the back of my head every time Che gets rowdy or lets out a louder than “inside voices” peep, cry, laugh, or scream. Why the guilt? Why the paranoia of disapproving looks by the onlooking public , who clearly has perfect children of their own that are perfectly well-behaved? At least, that is how I feel. Am I the only one that feels that way? I do my best to maintain consideration for my fellow neighbor when it comes to bringing Che into public settings, but sometimes I just have to let my kid be a kid. If he wants to run and yell and giggle then I’m going to enjoy it. He’s not hurting anyone. If he’s going to have a breakdown because I didn’t buy him a chuck (truck) at Buy Buy Baby, then I’m going to hold him and tell him he has a million at home. And if he wants to throw a temper tantrum because he is over-tired and lay in defiance on the floor, then again, I’m going to let him, even though I’m going to move quickly to get him home to nap.
I appreciate the approving, “he’s so cute” comments, however the disapproving stares drive me batty. Don’t you have kids of your own with whom you went through these stages? Don’t you know that you acted virtually the same way in your own youth? Is it really just me that makes believe people are disapproving of my sometimes hyperactive child? I promise I don’t give him high fructose corn syrup, red dyes, or too much sugar. He merely has my and my husband’s high energy level and manifests into hyperactive euphoria from time to time. I’m sorry, but that’s my kid and I love him for it.
So let me ask you, my fellow parents of toddlers, do you go through the same feelings when you’re on an airplane flying cross country and your toddler wants to walk up and down the plane aisles? Do you cringe when your son/daughter takes a massive poop that stinks to high heavens at the grocery store and you know your fellow grocery shoppers get a whiff? Do you leave an extra tip at restaurants because your kid made a huge mess on the floor? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, then I know you’re in the same boat with me. So my advice for us is: Just enjoy your toddler - screaming, pooping, yelling, laughing, running, escaping toddler and be okay with him/her in public. You have every right to introduce them to the world. Just be courteous to your fellow neighbor and try to acknowledge their discomfort with the reality of toddlerhood.
At the moment...it's quickly approaching 9pm and my son is running up and down the hallways laughing his head off...I wonder what's so funny? Time to join him!