This week, Miss J and M are on Spring Break. Some of Miss J's friends have boarded planes, bound for ski or sun destinations. Some have loaded into their minivans for family road trips. Our family is staying local and I asked Miss J if there was anything special she'd like to do over the break.
It was a simple request:
"Do you think we could go to a movie?" she asked.
"Of course honey! I'd love to take you to a movie."
Miss J is easy to please. She doesn't ask for much and she has always been a go-with-the-flow kind of kid. We'd go to the show.
But then....it occurred to me. This was going to be a challenge. With Mr. A working, I wasn't quite sure how I'd get Miss J and M to a movie on my own. When Mr. A is available, we tag-team parent. One parent stays with one kid and the other tends to M. I'd inadvertently backed myself into a bit of a corner: M might sit through the movie, and then again, he might not. Going solo may mean that I would have to leave, mid-movie, with flailing M and a disappointed Miss J.
My mother guilt set in when I thought back on how many plans for Miss J had fallen through because of her brother; how many times Mr. A or I had promised her things that never came to be. I'd seen the disappointment in her face countless times and I was determined that somehow, we'd to get to the show.
I made my plan:
I called my dear friend, mother to Miss J's best friend (and also a mother parenting a child with special needs) and asked if Miss A would like to join us for the movie. I told her that M would be coming too and that I had no guarantee if he'd make it through the entire film. I asked if she would be okay with me standing outside the theater door with M and allowed the girls to finish the film. We both agreed that at nearly ten and eleven, the girls would be fine to sit for the remainder of the film if necessary.
I picked a theater and showtime that I knew had the best chances of being quieter.
The show started at 3:30, which meant I had almost a full day of wide-open time before the movie. My plan was to run M ragged, hoping that by the time the movie started he'd be too tired to make any noise. I put on his coat and shoes and sent him out to play.
I had purposely brought my largest purse for the movie. The sole purpose of my gigantic purse was to smuggle in assortment of candies and raisins and other snacks. You see, M has a hearty appetite and when his mouth is full, he cannot speak: cannot speak, cannot whine, cannot complain, cannot cry, cannot insist he is done with the show and ready to leave. As a natural born rule-follower, I appreciate the fact that theaters frown upon this sort of contraband, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I required a full arsenal of supplies if I was going to make it through a ninety-three minute film.
We arrived at the theater and I was relieved to see it was only about a quarter of the way filled. Even better, not a soul was seated in the rear of the theater. I placed myself and M in the last row, in two seats that were just inches from the door. If necessary, a quick escape would be easy.
After giving the girls a short speech on theater etiquette, I allowed them to sit a few rows up from M and I. I told them that if for any reason I had to leave with M, I would be just outside the door. (Thankfully this is a tiny theater and not a megaplex and the one-door-in, one-door-out made it virtually impossible for the girls to get lost.)
The movie began. For the first ten minutes, M was captivated and still and did not utter a sound. Until he remembered the popcorn we'd purchased at the door.
"Popcorn?" he asked, not quite using the "quiet-whisper-voice" we'd discussed before entering the theater.
I hushed him and handed him the bag.
He sat, still and quiet (save for the sound of him munching on his popcorn) for about thirty minutes.
I produced a juice box from my purse. That bought me five minutes.
"I'm so hungry," he announced, in an almost-whisper, but not quite.
Thankfully the family sitting three rows in front of me did not turn back in our direction. I reached into my purse and pulled out raisins. (Raisins in particular are a favorite snack of mine for M. They take longer to chew and they buy me more time when I am bribing silence from my child with food )
I gave him the raisins, one at a time. When the box was empty, he decided he wanted to crawl into my lap. It is not the most comfortable sitting arrangement to have a five foot tall, eighty pound seven year old curled in a ball in your lap, but I was hoping that with his full belly, he'd drift off to sleep. His body stilled and relaxed. His breath was deep and even. I could no longer feel my arms or legs, but I was grateful for his silence.
Fifteen minutes later, he stirred and happily (and not in a whisper) announced,
"All done. Let's go home now, Mama!"
This time, the family seated three rows in front of us did turn around to catch a curious glance at the child who wanted to leave just as it was getting really good.
We were in the home stretch. There were mere minutes left in the movie and I was determined that we'd finish the film. (What I was trying to prove to myself, I am not sure.)
I pulled out the Holy Grail of snacks. Reese Pieces. These (and M&M's) are my secret weapon, my trump card. The one thing I can use to get M to do just about anything.
I handed him the box. Silence from M. A slight exhale from me.
The movie finally ended. I was able to keep my promise to Miss J. She was happy to see the movie and the entire experience was bumped up a notch because she could bring a friend. M made it through the movie and called surprisingly little attention to himself. I was working so hard at keeping M quiet that I can't really tell you what happened in the film, but in the grand scheme of our adventure, that is what matters the least.
And as I suspected, after a bag of popcorn, a box of raisins and a jumbo box of Reese's Pieces and a juice box, M had little interest in his dinner. And as a bonus, he didn't throw up. (Which I had absolutely expected.)
We did it.