When Ian began his latest deployment back in September, I decided we needed to establish a little more structure into our routine. Kids do better when things are predictable. Too often that means being disciplined about responsibilities, like practicing for weekly violin lessons or choir or being in a habit about when to do homework or picking up toys. So we added a new thing just for fun: Friday Night Movie Night. I realize this is not unique or clever of us, but it’s been one of the best things we’ve added to our lives in a long time. We love Friday Night Movie Night.
First of all, everyone looks forward to it. It’s good to have something coming up that’s never more than a week away that everyone is excited about. If the kids are down about anything, I can always ask for suggestions about the next movie night and they perk right up.
Second, it gets us all thinking about each other’s needs and tastes. The first rule of movie night is that we all have to agree on the movie. This is not easy, since we have to find something that’s not too scary for the three year old, but will still interest the six and eight year olds, and not bore this forty year old to death. I have vetoed Pokemon movies, they have nixed ‘My Dinner with Andre’ each time I’ve answered honestly what I want to watch, but overall we’ve had great success. Among the things we’ve enjoyed so far are: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Up, Monsters Vs Aliens, and Safety Last. I’ve discovered my kids love silent movies, and I’m hoping to talk them into trying out maybe a Shirley Temple or Lassie film sometime just to expand their cultural references a bit, although it’s harder to convince them that a non-cartoon movie is going to be fun.
Third, there is popcorn. Popcorn is big for a few reasons. Aden gets to make it (which just means pushing the button marked ‘popcorn’ on the microwave, but she is proud of her popcorn making abilities). She takes this responsibility very seriously. Also, we get to eat the popcorn upstairs by the TV, and normally there is a ‘no food upstairs’ rule, so the popcorn upstairs is very exciting. Plus, it’s popcorn. One of the first things I bought for my violin store was a popcorn machine, because the quickest way to make any business better is to add popcorn in my opinion. (I still have a little trouble justifying to people why a violin store offers free popcorn, but hey, it’s my store and I can do whatever I want as long as it doesn’t violate some code.)
And last, there is the group snuggle. We shut off all the lights (that’s Mona’s job), pile together under blankets, and cuddle up for the length of the movie. There is a bit of contention between Mona and Quinn about sharing my lap, but it’s usually worked out by the end of the previews. I love having them all so close. It’s warm and cozy and feels like everything being in a family should be.
When people come to visit, we lay out the rules of Friday Night Movie Night very clearly. No working on your laptop while watching the movie. You are either in, or you’re out. No hogging all the blankets. No blurting out bits of the plot, but Mona is allowed to announce if something coming up is ‘a funny part’ and Quinn will repeat bits of dialogue throughout the movie and we will like it.
I’m still surprised by just how fiercely the kids have all latched onto the Friday Night Movie Night routine. The few times we’ve had to move it by a day because of some conflicting event they’ve been very concerned. It’s not quite the same on a Saturday to them for some reason, so I do the best I can to not let things get in the way of actual Friday nights.
I’m looking forward to keeping this routine in place well past Ian’s eventual return from Iraq. I like the idea of watching more varied films as the kids get older. Movies and books are such a great way of launching discussions on important topics, especially about things that are embarrassing in the first person. If you can talk about fictional characters you can express opinions and pass judgments without feeling directly exposed or attacked yourself, and that can be useful. When we watched ‘Mulan’ recently I was able to talk to Aden about how lucky we are to live in a time and place where girls can do whatever they want. That she doesn’t have to get married in order to be considered valuable. Not that Friday Night Movie Night is primarily about teachable moments; there weren’t many deep lessons to be drawn from ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ other than every landscape apparently needs a moon. The real joy of Friday Night Movie Night has less to do with movies than it has to do with love. Sitting under a pile of kids and knowing they are happy and safe and warm is the nicest routine I can think of. (Plus there’s popcorn. Doesn’t get better than that.)
Any movie recommendations?