Even before we became parents, my boyfriend and I talked a lot about taking kids to see movies in the theatre. This is because we like kids’ movies, and we’re cheap, so we see them as matinees when at all possible. So, you know, full of kids. We saw Tangled on Thanksgiving weekend, for heaven’s sake, and got to watch the interesting spectacle of people coming in during the trailers and expecting to find six seats all together. Sunday, we went and saw The Boxtrolls, which made me think about this all over again.
This is not getting into the “screen time” debate. If you decide you don’t want your kid to have any time in front of a screen, you shouldn’t take them to a movie theatre, which is just one big honkin’ screen. I mean, I guess if you’re doing it as an occasional special treat, that’s different, but that’s not what we’re getting at here. If you decide that your kid can’t watch any movies until they’re a certain age, that’s not the same as trying to decide when your kid is ready to go to the theatre.
What we’re talking here is when it’s okay to inflict your child on others. Don’t get me wrong—I love my son. I love him a lot. But I know that, to a certain extent, having him around anyone is inflicting him on them. (Except maybe grandmothers.) I also know that there are people who don’t like kids, and some of them still like kids’ movies. So yeah, they’re going to get frustrated with the worst-behaved kids and even with better-behaved ones. And even if you like kids, that doesn’t mean you want someone else’s kid to interrupt your movie.
I’ve got a lot of stories about this. And, yes, that does include the six-year-old (or so) who kicked my seat and talked all through Ponyo. Which bothered me most because the theatre was mostly empty at the time. But anyway. It means I’ve been thinking about possible solutions for years.
Here’s what we’re going to do. When our son is a few years older (he turns fifteen months next week), we’re going to start talking to him about proper theatre behaviour. We’ll talk to him about how you have to be quiet and sit still so you don’t disturb the people around you. It’s different when you’re at home, especially if it’s a movie you’ve seen a bunch of times (probably by then like Ponyo), but you need to be aware that a theatre isn’t home. Just like there are some things we do differently at Grandma’s or at Uncle Tim’s game store in the mall, there are things we do differently in theatres.
Then, there will be a test. We will sit him down in front of a movie he’s never seen before. Maybe that year’s Disney or Pixar. If there are words to be read, we will read them to him in a low voice pitched to avoid disturbing the (imaginary, I admit) people around us. And then we’ll see. If he has to go to the bathroom, he is absolutely allowed to tell us so in a quiet voice, but we won’t stop the movie while he does, because they won’t stop the movie in the theatre. If he gets through the movie okay, without being disruptive to the rest of our imaginary audience, we’ll take him to an actual movie. While we’re there, he gets one warning. If he can’t handle it? We’ll leave and try again in six months.
I can’t promise this is a perfect situation. Heck, as of now, I can’t even promise it’ll work. After all, this is a plan and not a thing we’ve done. But we’ve got to try something, because I don’t want my kid to be the one asking, “What’s that?” for an hour and a half.