Out of respect for my fellow man, I've largely kept my children out of public (as it turns out, the general public doesn't appreciate being called "grandma" or solicited for cheese every 30 seconds). After all, being the major celebrity we all know I am, the paparazzi would love to get pictures of them and sell to the highest bidder. I respect my family's privacy far too much to allow that, especially if I'm not getting a cut.
To protect the children I've had to give them cool aliases ("Sausage Face" and "Bullet Tony"), even though my wife has repeatedly said aliases "aren't necessary," "those are awful," "you're not a celebrity" and "give me back my sunglasses and get my handkerchief off your face you look ridiculous." This shows you the lengths she goes to try to maintain a "normal" life.
Lately the 3-year-old has proven she can handle the responsibility of being a human being and not a dinosaur in public. This good behavior has its share of privileges. So my wife thought it'd be a good idea if I took my daughter to a movie - in public, with other people around, by myself.
I was on board from the start.
"Why do you always give me the suicide missions?" I said, encouragingly.
"Here we go," she replied, rolling her eyes. I pressed on.
"Science tells us she's not going to remember it," I said, factually. "Her brain isn't developed enough."
"What's the last movie WE went to?"
"It was ... um ... well ... I don't see how that's relevant," I replied as she gave me a satisfied look that made me want to mush her face in pie.
"It'll be fun."
"That's what you said about going Christmas shopping with you last year and you know how that turned out."
"I can't believe you knocked down all the mannequins."
"You KNOW that one mannequin reminded me of my eighth grade math teacher! He had it coming."
"Just go to the movie."
"Maybe when she's older. I'll make up for it by going with her on all her dates."
So when we got to the movie theatre, I needed to make a decision on what movie we'd ignore. Apparently you're not allowed to take a toddler to the movie "12 Years a Slave." Excuse me if I think 3 years old is a good age to learn about the horrors of slavery.
"Fine," I said to the judgmental ticket agent. "But somehow it's okay for you to sell kids tickets to a movie where a man's wife is brutally murdered by a serial killer, the attack leaving his son physically disabled. Then that son is kidnapped and the father has to chase the kidnapper thousands of miles with the help of a mentally disabled woman. And that's OK."
He just looked at me.
"That's Finding Nemo."
No response. I sighed.
"Two to that animated movie 'Frozen.'"
I quickly found it's a lot more difficult for a man to sneak snacks into a movie theatre than a woman, as I don't carry a giant knapsack like I'm some kind of trendy hobo. Evidently a briefcase looks suspicious, particularly if there are Twizzlers wrappers sticking out of it. Before we left, my daughter said she wanted pretzels with cheese. I'll be the first to tell you how difficult it is to smuggle liquid cheese in your coat pockets, but there IS the added benefit of your coat smelling delicious for weeks.
I quickly discovered taking a 3-year-old to a movie is a great way to spend $30 to sit in a dark room with a bunch of other easily-distracted children hopped up on candy while the parents try to listen so they can get their money's worth, spending the entire time answering impossible questions about a movie you've never seen related to how a teenage girl voiced by a 41-year-old Broadway singer is able to shoot ice from her fingers. Below is an excerpt from a conversation I had with my daughter when she should've been paying attention to the movie.
Daughter: "What's her name?"
Daughter: "What's she doing?"
Me: "Making an ice staircase."
Me: "From magic."
Daughter: "Why does she have magic?"
Me: "Um, because she was born with it."
Daughter: "How come I don't have magic?"
Me: "Because daddy didn't marry a witch or elf."
Daughter: "Momma's a witch?"
Daughter: "Momma's a witch."
Me: "No. Please stop saying that."
Daughter: "Momma's a witch!"
Me: "This will go over well when we get home."
Daughter: "Are you magic?"
Me: "Well, I've been told my eyes are mesmerizing, but that's about the extent of it."
Daughter: "But you can make traffic lights turn green and the garage door open."
Me: "My powers only work on minor electronics."
Daughter: "Can I dip my pretzels in your cheese coat?"
Me: "Of course."
What I learned:
Children will dance in public whenever there's music, This includes the aisles of a movie theater. Moviegoers find this cute. Attempt to dance with various children's moms will not be met with as much enthusiasm - even if you give the sexiest lap dance during the film's opening song.
Your child will leave a 4-foot area of his or her seat 250 percent stickier than you found it.
The little stage area in front of the giant movie screen attracts children more effectively than a dead mule attracts mosquitos. It's not polite to boo their dance moves. It's less polite to remove them from stage and hand them to an adult that is clearly not their parent.
Your child will talk during the movie, likely a lot. The projectionist will be entirely unhelpful when you request he rewind several spots so you can hear the punch line over your child's many queries.
Instead of feeding your child pop and candy, give him or her warm milk or Children's Benadryl. If the child questions your choice of movie refreshments, simply reply, "Everybody has medicine at movies, silly." Once they fall asleep, carry him or her to the movie you really wanted to see.
Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by kicking the back of his chair and sticking your tongue out at him when he turns around to glare. Follow him on Twitter @pancake_bunny or he'll spoil the endings of your favorite movies.