Yesterday started out a bit gloomy and overcast here at the beach. It did not look like a good day to go and park ourselves on the sand so we started making alternative plans for the day. The five boys and two dads decided they wanted to go fishing but the two girls had different plans. They wanted to go see "The Smurf Movie." Lisa and I decided their movie plan would fit in perfectly with our shopping plans. So the day was set ~ the boys would go catch all the fish they could, the girls would go to a movie and Lisa and I would restock our provisions.
As we were getting ready to leave to take the girls to the movies, I started feeling a hint of unease about leaving the girls at the movies. I don't know why I was feeling uneasy, maybe it was because we are in a different venue. Maybe it was because I am responsible for someone else's child but whatever the reason I needed to do something about my uneasy feeling. Or I would ended up sitting through "The Smurf Movie" with the girls instead of grocery shopping with Lisa. I gave the girls Lucas' cell phone...problem solved.
While we were driving to the movie theater I started telling the story of the first time I went to the movies alone. The memory is seared in my brain. I was probably seven years old, maybe eight, but no older than that.
I remember how old I was because it was the year my dad was stationed in Korea and my mom went to visit him for six weeks, leaving us with a revolving door of relatives. One of the relatives was my Uncle Beenie. He was a pilot for Pan Am. His schedule was flexible enough to be able to take the time to come and stay with my brother and me. Uncle Beenie and Aunt Cece had eight kids of their own so my aunt stayed home with their kids, who were all considerably older than I was. I tell you that they were older so you can understand why my uncle felt comfortable sending two seven or eight year old girls into the movie theater by themselves.
I am sure my uncle also had no interest in seeing the movie we chose..."The Slipper and The Rose." It was musical retelling the Cinderella story and I couldn't wait to see it ~ and seeing it alone, without a grown up, made everything seem so much more vivid and seared into my memory. I can completely understand why my uncle didn't want to watch it with us...it was not really a movie a grown man with older kids would really want to see.
My uncle took us to the ticket window, paid for our tickets, gave us money to get our snacks and sent us on our way. My friend and I settled in for the movie after stocking up on candy, popcorn and soda. Whenever we would finish up one thing we would come back out and restock. I remember seeing Uncle Beenie walking back and forth in front of the theater every time we bought our treats. It was his way of keeping an eye on us, all while making us feel a little grown up and a lot independent. The movie ended and he was right there to pick us up.
All of the snacks, candy and soda we ate during the movie proved to be disastrous to my digestive system and I ended up throwing everything up that night in my bed. I was so embaraased to have thrown up all over my bed I told my uncle the cat threw up on my bed. Uncle Beenie was a bit more savvy than an eight year old girl and he saw right through my cat throw up story. The reprimand was gentle but it was there...don't lie to Uncle Beenie. He knows, he has eight kids.
As I was telling Lisa the story we decided it would be crazy, and no one would ever consider ~ in these times ~ sending two eight year old girls into a movie theater by themselves. I felt a bit uneasy sending Claire and Molly into the theater by themselves and they are 10 and 10 and a half and they had a cell phone. When I saw my movie back in '76 there were no cell phones. It was just me, my friend and the concession stand ~ oh, and the movie too.
Lisa and I bought the girls tickets, walked them to the concession stand, got them their popcorn, snacks and sodas and I walked them into the theater. I settled the girls into their seats with strict instructions to not leave the building until we were back for them. I kissed them goodbye and before I even got out of the theater my phone blinged with a text from Claire..."Good bye mommy I <3 you". Claire went on to text me a couple more times during the movie and twice when it ended. We were back for them minutes after the movie ended.
I wonder if Claire's memory of "The Smurf Movie" and her first time being in touch with me with a borrowed cell phone will be as vivid to Claire 30 years from now as my own memory of the first time I got to go to the movies alone is to me. I am glad we can give our kids a little freedom and let them feel a little independent while we, as parents, can still feel connected to our kids with modern technology. Uncle Beenie did all of that, without a cell phone. He let two little girls feel a little independent and grown up all while keeping an eye on us by pacing back and forth in front of the theatre while we enjoyed "The Slipper and The Rose."
Oh, for the love of a little independence for our kiddos...