Every two weeks our daycare hosts a movie night on Fridays for any younger children in the neighborhood. A few hours of fun for the kids, and some well deserved together time (and time off) for parents.
Every two weeks we use these nights as incentive for Olivia to get up in the mornings without fussing or fighting.
Every two weeks she is *this* close to not going because she is adamantly, overwhelmingly and undeniably not a morning person.
This past Friday our daycare was showing Rio 2. I’m not sure if there’s an “Electric Boogaloo” or “Rio Harder” subtitle in there, but I’m sure it has all the qualities of a good sequel (more jokes, more explosions and higher profile birds. By the way, have you heard what the toucan has been up to in the tabloids lately? Scandalous.). Regardless, Olivia had been looking forward to seeing the movie about the birds for some time now, and we were looking forward to a quiet evening at home. I prepped her the night before, reminded her about being good, got her to agree and hoped the next morning would be uneventful.
I go into her room and gently try to get her to stir. No dice. I figured it was still early, so I’d check back in a bit.
I go back in, give her a gentle back rub and use a light voice to try and wake her. This time I got a response: a quick swat from her hand to push mine off her back. I guess she’s not quite ready yet.
This time her eyes are open and that she’s tracking my movement, like a silent predator waiting for the right moment to break her stillness and strike. I try the back rub again and am instantly pushed away. I remind her that she has a big day. Silence, followed by a scowl that lets me know I need to slow my roll, back the eff up or whatever slang it is the toddlers use these days to say, “Leave me alone.”
I remind Olivia about movie night, and how only big girls who can get up and dressed are able to go. “I want to sleep in bed more,” she exclaimed. I wished I could, but I had to leave in 20 minutes to get to work. Unfortunately, toddlers don’t care. In fact for them, every day is like the premise of the movie Friday (minus the pharmaceuticals): they ain’t got no job, and they ain’t got shit to do. Just remember this about toddlers: never, ever let them borrow your VCR right quick. You’ll never see it again.
After wasting more breath, I was forced to bring out the heavy artillery: “OK, well, I guess if you can’t get up that means you don’t want to go to the movie tonight.” I expected her to attack. I expected her to lash out and cry and yell about how I was denying her Constitutional right. Instead I got more silence, a few blinks and no movement whatsoever.
I come back into her room and use a stronger tone of voice, letting her know that we were leaving for daycare in 10 minutes, regardless of whether she was ready. Nothing.
At this point I’m a little anxious, a little bit country and, I’ll admit it, just a tad bit rock n’ roll. I have no idea what I’m going to do to get her out of bed. I finish getting myself ready for the day while mentally preparing for the impending struggle. In my mind I can already see the other parents, who have just dropped off their calm and cooperative children, giving me judging looks as I carry my loud and flailing child into daycare. Why must we continually have rough mornings?
And then suddenly, I hear the words that were music to my ears: “Daddy, look! I’m not in bed anymore!”
Through some superhuman feats of strength (along with a little bit of black magic), we get out the door in record time. Olivia went into daycare with no other problems, and I got into work only a little bit late. Success!
+ + +
That night I pick Olivia up from the movie and, as usual after these long days, she seems like she’s ready for bed.
Then the Chernobyl of toddler meltdowns commences.
She refuses to put on pajamas, screams, cries and won’t do anything we ask. And, of course, there’s the rub to these late nights. She comes home cranky, overtired and making crazy demands of us, like purchasing a small island off the coast of Hawaii to store her toys on, or letting her become the first toddler astronaut ride a pony into space.
Every two weeks the movie night happens. Every two weeks since we’ve started letting Olivia attend we’ve wondered whether she’ll actually come home and just pass out like we think a kid her age should do after a long night. And while I’m not fond of dealing with an overtired toddler, I am looking forward to starting a tradition like this inside our household.
I want to let her stay up a little later to watch some of my favorite movies with me. To see her light up with joy at the same scenes I did, or to get closer and put my arm around her when she feels like she needs protection. I hope someday she’ll look back and remember those late nights we shared together, watching movies and talking about the things we enjoyed or we didn’t. I can’t wait to create those memories with her.
But first, let’s work on getting up in the morning without being an asshole, OK?
A version of this first appeared on Our Little Mixtape.