My explanation for why I haven’t seen any given movie is almost always “because we couldn’t get a babysitter.” Once the movie’s on home release, however, it can be because we’re trying to find a time to watch it together, with or without the kids. “Without the kids” is harder—sure, they go to bed, but we’re often too tired by that point to stay up for a two-hour movie. But even with the kids can be a juggling act of schedules of trying not to see the movie before the other person does.
Thus far, Simon and Irene have pretty varied tastes. Irene’s three preferred shows, which we’ve covered in this column already, are Trollhunters, Masha and the Bear, and Pocoyo, and Simon’s good with those as well though he’ll also ask for Hilda and Pokemon and an enormous list of other things. And I’m not sure Irene really cares about the specific movie, when she hands me DVD boxes and asks to watch whatever-it-is, but even there, she has certain preferences—things with Muppets on the cover, which she’s dubbed “Puhkee Show.” But they’re also still of the age where they’ll talk through literally everything, so watching movies with them for the first time still has its issues.
Simon is of the age, yes, where he’ll ask what’s going on. “I know literally as much about this as you do” is not, to him, a sufficient answer, and neither is “watch and find out.” He wants to know now. And you will tell him, or he’ll keep asking. The concept of “be quiet and watch the movie” is still not one he’s grasped—though we’ll see how he does later this month, when I try him with the theatre again for the rerelease of The Muppet Movie.
Irene is not ready to even try. She’s my placid kid, but “placid” does not, in this case, mean “will sit still for a movie.” Because, you know, she’s two. So watching most movies with her means being constantly distracted by her climbing on me or talking to me or what have you. There are some movies you have to watch more than once to get the gist of, but Ralph Breaks the Internet shouldn’t be one of them—and this weekend, it was, because we finally got to watch it. Heck, we’ve owned it for some time now and still didn’t sit down to watch it yet, but there it is. We couldn’t wait for her to be sleeping at just the right time.
And they do enjoy these movies; don’t get me wrong. They do have to deal with the fact that there are some things they don’t like—Irene watched an episode of Quantum Leap today and was deeply unhappy about it, because she wanted to watch Trollhunters instead—but it’s not as though I universally force them to watch movies because I want them to be watching them. I mean, I do share with them; they’ve seen the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. But also, I think they’ll like what I show them, and I’m usually right.
There is also the matter of movies they want to see, and that doesn’t change much. Simon’s trying to be up on the pop culture his friends are, including movies, and even those movies are ones he has a hard time watching all the way through without talking or moving. He’s five. He is how he is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that, you know, it can be really frustrating as his parent—and as the person who watches movies with him.
I know he’s not ready for a lot of things. Irene is ready for even less. But for now, seeing most movies for the first time means seeing movies with them for the first time. This will change as they get older, but at the same time, I’ll lose Simon’s utter delight when something surprises him. All too soon, he’ll be a teenager and too cool for it. Possibly too cool to watch movies with his hopelessly square mom, come to that.