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.
She wants these nights just as much as we want them for her. Let's face it, we have no family in the area and don't rely on sitters much, so a few hours without the kiddo twice a month is something my wife and I cherish. The nights before I always remind her of how she needs to be a good girl, do what mommy and daddy say in the morning and, in her words, "not cry." She always nods, says, "OK," and acts like this time around she'll get her act together and not give us any trouble.
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, turn off her white noise machine 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 when I enter the room I can see 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 filled with fun things to do, and that I need her help to pick out her clothes for the day. Silence, followed by a scowl that lets me know I need to slow my roll, back the f 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 let her sleep in, but it was up to me to get her into school that day and I had to leave in 20 minutes to get to work on time. Unfortunately, toddlers really don't care about the reasons/excuses you give them about what needs to be done. They want what they want, when they want it. They also have zero concern about your schedule because at this stage in their lives they have no use for them. In fact for them, every day is like the premise of the movie 'Friday' (minus the pharmaceuticals, of course): 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 trying to convince her to get ready for the day, 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 the fact that I was denying her Constitutional right to watch a movie at daycare with her friends. 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 or not. 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. No amount of pleading or convincing seems to be working. I finish getting myself ready for the day while mentally preparing for the impending struggle of getting Olivia out the door. 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, from inside Olivia's bedroom, 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) I somehow manage to get Olivia out the door in record time. She 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. We get back home, change her pull-up and are about to put on her pajamas when the Chernobyl of toddler meltdowns commences. She refuses to put on pajamas, screams, cries and won't do anything we ask her to. 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 them 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 some of the same scenes I did, or to get closer and put my arm around her when she feels like she needs protection. Hopefully someday she'll look back and remember those late nights we shared together, watching movies and talking about the things we enjoyed or didn't like about them. 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. Okay?