This past Saturday night, once we tucked our little one in, and after a quick dinner, my wife and I took one of those very rare “nights off” that everyone calls Date Night. We have family in town so despite heavy eyelids and aching heads we could not pass on the free babysitting offer and decided we would go out. Just to be clear, the lobby of our apartment building counts as going out as long as it means that we are both there without child in tow, but it would only be a half victory to get that far and turn back. So, having mustered the mental and physical energy to spruce up and venture out into the dark, we settled on going to see a movie. You will appreciate the irony of our choice: Date Night.
We were so worried we would fall asleep on our way to the movie theatre that we abandoned our old tactic (which we used up until 2 years ago – the last time we went to the movies) of bringing our own popcorn and sodas and decided to take out a mortgage so we could hit the concession stand and get two watered down sodas and a small bag of stale and salty popcorn for the price of an apartment. The tickets themselves, we were happy to see, had undergone only minor inflation in our two year absence and were now about $20 each. We walked by the wrap around lines for Iron Man 2 and got to our deserted theatre just as the hour long preview reel was telling everyone to make sure to turn off your cell phone and hush your baby so as not to disturb others. I thought the whole point of going to the movies as parents was not to bring the kids (unless your masochistic side wants to attend a kiddie matinée) and how many kids do you see at 10:15pm projections anyway?
So we settled in and tried not to get too comfortable lest we dose off before the opening credits. The movie was funny and entertaining enough to keep us awake. I will, though, spoil the opening scene. An alarm clock displays a few minutes before 5am and the door to the bedroom frames a kids standing at the foot of the parent’s bed. Steve Carell’s character whispers to his wife, played by Tina Fey, “Don’t move!”. Pause. A boy’s voice is heard shouting “Pile Driver!” as the son vaults onto the bed and lands, knees first, on mom and in the same movement rips dads breath-ease band-aid from his nose (a very authentic description of parenting as opposed to those stock images of families clad in white linen with the parents smiling while the kids jump around on their bed). The reason I describe the scene is that there were exactly four sets of parents in the theatre and I know this because we were the only ones who laughed at the parenting scenes (not sure what the non-parents were getting out of the movie, other than being scared out of having children). It was that nervous knowing laugh that allows us (parents, I mean) to recognize and acknowledge each other even in a darkened cinema.
The rest of the movie had it’s moments and those that elicited the same laugh as mentioned above were the ones that depicted or referenced the more universal aspects of the daily parenting grind. It was scary how accurately it depicted (without over analyzing things) the need for the couple with children to make sure to maintain some shred of mental reserve for the relationship beyond wiping butts and picking up dirty underwear.
Why would any sane parent go to the movies, a place where you are supposed to get away, to watch a movie about parents (even when car chase scenes are involved)? Well, to start, parents are de facto kinda crazy – that’s just part of the package that comes with rearing kids. Seriously, though, the reason we went (aside from the fact that it was the earliest movie we felt we could get to without falling asleep – I know, it’s a recurring theme) was to find a way to laugh at and appreciate our new life since our son was born. We would not trade this life for the world, despite all the whining you’ll hear from us, but because it really is a new life with so many things to learn and experience (as well as mess up), we found ourselves always chuckling at the trailer and felt it was any easy pick. Date Night, both the movie and the real thing, allows us to step back and appreciate each other as a couple, before we have to step up again to put back on our parenting mantle in “real life”. I give them both two thumbs up!