We hadn’t been the movie theater since before kids. Movies are just so incredibly expensive! So when my parents gave us a Fandango gift card for Christmas, we knew we had to make it the best movie experience ever. That summer we saw that Toy Story 3 was in theaters and we decided that was it–the movie we’d been holding out for. Our oldest was two, my brother-in-law (who loves Toy Story) was in town visiting, and the gift card was starting to burn holes in our pockets. Now or never, we thought. We even invited Grandma. This was going to be so fun!
I had high hopes for this adventure. Being the first time we had gone in years AND being R’s first time to the movies, I was determined everyone was going to have a good time. The smell of way-too-buttery popcorn was thick in the air, R was enthralled at the monster screen just ahead, and we had our pick of the best seats in the house. The previews began and the first twenty minutes went off without a hitch. R was full of questions, but that came as no surprise. Suddenly, about ten minutes into the movie my motor mouth two-year-old went silent. Something had to be wrong. As I leaned over to ask if everything was ok, out of nowhere he got sick. Everywhere. The floor, his chair, himself, me, the arm rest, grandma…NOTHING was spared. No parenting book had prepared me for that. How on earth do you handle screaming, sick child, smelly, disgusting mess everywhere, in the middle of a dark, crowded room? Thank goodness grandma was in the next seat over because I froze. After a few dozen rolls of paper towels and apologizing profusely to fellow bathroom goers we had ourselves a semi-clean boy and a new reason wet wipes are a mom’s best friend. The guys met us outside the bathroom and explained how they’d tried to clean up the best they could by the glow of the giant screen, then went out to tell a janitor of our little mishap. I felt terrible. Terrible for my poor, sick son, terrible for Grandma and Uncle J having to help clean up a yucky mess, terrible for wasting that gift card, terrible for the janitors, terrible for ruining the movie for everyone sitting in that theater that now, no doubt had to smell it the rest of the movie (if they could even manage!). That night I will always remember as my crash course in toddler humiliation 101.
Here we are 4 years later and we have yet to set foot in a theater. The trauma of that night has lingered in the back of my mind, surfacing every time the suggestion of seeing a movie arrises. Parenting has a funny way of humbling you and reminding you that no matter how good you are at split-second solutions in sticky situations, your toddler can dish you a doozy that totally throws you for a loop.
I can think of countless times in my life when one bad experience has tainted my view of something, caused me to form an unfair opinion of someone, and ultimately prevented me from giving that someone or something a second chance. So many opportunities I’m sure have been lost. Having three lego-obsessed kids, I would have loved to take my boys to see the Lego Movie, but my fears of one spewing all over the audience held me back. Because something happened once doesn’t mean it always has and always will. In life we have those moments. Moments we stumble, or get sick at the movies, or offend, or terribly mess up, or are wronged. When that happens, when that humiliation ensues, when the pain is too much to handle, the easy thing to do is quit trying. To give up. But that’s what life is all about! Messing up, having a bad day, failing miserably. Then picking ourselves up and trying again. And again, and again. Life is about second chances, allowing ourselves and others to step up to the plate and take another swing. Where would we all be without that?
For all you movie-goers out there, don’t worry, we still haven’t worked ourselves up to going back. It could be a while. But when we do I promise I will have plastic bags, a bucket, towels, wet wipes, water bottles, a mop, extra clothes for everyone, maybe raincoats…you know, just in case. Cause if you don’t learn and change, what good is that second chance? 😉 Someday we’ll give the movie theater another try. We’ll sit in those big, bouncy chairs, smell that buttery popcorn, and enjoy more than the previews. In the meantime, I hope we can give other bad moments, other people, other failures a second chance. Cause that’s what life’s about. And when we fail, and I’m sure we will, we’ll pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and try again, and again, and again.