My husband and I lead walkable lives, with nearly every amenity we need within a few blocks’ radius. We’re two blocks from a charming string of independent restaurants and a shiny new movie theater. Before our firstborn entered our lives, we’d take advantage of the proximity, with the frequent weekend question, “Wanna go see a movie?”
We’d scroll through the show times online, make our pick, and take our five-minute stroll to the theater. In front of a glowing screen, we’d sit close. Afterwards, we’d hold hands on the way home as we chatted about the film we just saw. I appreciated the simplicity of it all, and knew a baby would change our movie-going habits. Would spontaneity be required on the sacrificial altar of motherhood?
I remember a month before she came, sitting round and pregnant in a darkened theater, wondering: When did they make these seats so uncomfortable? I got up six times during the 90-minute film, as she kicked from inside. Walking home that night, I gripped my husband’s hand so my bulging body wouldn’t slip in a fresh layer of snow after seeing, appropriately, “Frozen.”
Now, with a crawling 10-month-old, I still resist being one of those couples who lets their baby keep them from going out. Admittedly, sometimes my naiveté gets the better of my new mommy judgment. Then I pay for it. For example, recently I asked my husband about going to see a movie with me, later that same evening.
“We need a sitter,” he says, always the logical one.
“I’ll make some phone calls,” I insist. “I’m sure we can work it out.”
Three failed phone calls later, and our show time is quickly approaching.
“Let’s just take her,” I say. “She’ll be fine.”
“She won’t enjoy it,” he warns. “And if we go, you’ll have to take care of her.”
“Fine,” I say. “Bring it on.”
Ten minutes later, we’re on our way to the theater like old times, now with a bright-eyed baby in tow. This isn’t so bad, I think, as we get our tickets. It’s kinda fun to bring her.
Getting our seats, we strategically go for a quick getaway spot for the inevitable wiggles she’ll need to get out. She makes it through the previews like a champ, drinking her bottle while I eat my own snack. But within a few minutes of the movie we actually came to see, the whimpering begins. She wants to crawl.
“Take her,” he whispers. “She’s getting loud.”
I pick her up, and we make our way to the side hall. It’s dark and out of sight, so I put her down and let her crawl, capturing forgotten pieces of popcorn before she tries to eat them. I’m halfway watching Matthew McConaughey from the sidelines. He’s trying to save the world. I glance back to my crawler, and she’s covered three yards in ten seconds. Oh dear. She’s trying to crawl up the theater stairs. They’re lighted, which intrigues her. It wouldn’t be the biggest deal if she wasn’t so proud of herself. Still a newbie to stairs, she half sings a marbled song of pleased delight. I’m proud of her too, but as McConaughey launches into space, she’s getting really loud. I feel bad she’s distracting, and swoop her up.
We spend the next hour doing a dance between the exit hall, the drinking fountain outside, and empty chairs at the very front of the theater. At one point, she starts patting my face. She finds my nose. Fascinated, she jams her little finger up my left nostril so hard I wince.
“Oh, that really hurt mommy,” I whisper to her, trying not to cry. I check in the bathroom mirror. Yep, little lady made my nose bleed.
When we go back to theater 8, I see the lonely seat next to my husband. While I want to sit by him, our baby has no interest in being quiet, and I remember my promise to take care of her. So I sing softly in her ear as we sway back and forth near the exit. I keep one eye on her and attempt to keep another on the silver screen. As McConaughey explores a new planet, I plop down to baby’s level and see she’s a crawling explorer herself. Instead of frozen hills in a far-off galaxy, she’s got her full attention on rough carpet and neon exit signs. An older man is coming down the hall, and I swing my legs out of the way so he can pass by.
“Cute baby,” he says before he exits.
Tell that to my nose, I think.
Two hours into the movie, and she’s finally getting tired. It’s too risky to take my seat by her daddy. Instead, I take her to the empty front row, where she gradually falls asleep on my shoulder, heavier by the minute. She nestles deeper, kinking my neck.
I think: Who tells you this is what motherhood looks like? Popcorn duty. Skipped scenes. A bloody nose.
All the trouble she causes fades away under the weight of her trusting body. I kiss her sweet-smelling hair, and remind myself I’d do anything for this girl. Even give up my previous, entertainment-seeking spontaneity. Next time, I’ll plan ahead and get a sitter.
The credits roll. I find my husband next to the seat I didn’t get to use. He’s sorry about my nose. As we tuck a silent passenger into her stroller, he fills me in on scenes I missed.
And then we take our short walk home, still hand in hand.