Best laid plans

What happens when your plan to do nothing is thwarted by children who want to do even less?

Knowing the temperament of ourselves and our family, my wife, Kat, and I planned our last night of 2014 to be as gentle as possible. We’re homebodies who regularly retire to the bedroom around 9:00 PM, and our challenge was to watch movies with the kids until everyone fell asleep.

On December 30th, we prepared for our media consumption feast. Each of our two kids was allowed to pick a movie, followed by choices from the grown-ups. We’d even splurge on movies we didn’t already purchase limited digital licenses for and then we’d watch in the order we normally go to bed.

The four-and-a-half year-old-chose Frozen, a standby already a part of the digital library. She’s highly sensitive to the emotional manipulation of musical scores and is most comfortable watching movies she already is familiar with. We’d start this one early, and have a nice sing-a-long.

The almost-eight-year-old initially chose Brave, but through subtle parental manipulation shifted her pick to Matilda. The family has been playing the soundtrack to the Broadway show almost non-stop since Kat saw it a few months ago; we’ve also read the book, but hadn’t seen the 1996 film.1

Kat chose The LEGO Movie because it’s awesome, and she hadn’t seen it yet. And, I didn’t choose a movie because the likelihood of us making it that far was so small, it wasn’t worth having to make a decision.2

— ∮∮∮ —

Prepared to spend the day doing nothing, we woke up on December 31st all in relatively foul moods for no reason. There was a fair amount of fussing, yelling, and the need for alone time on all parties. We struggled with how to do nothing all day so we could do nothing that evening. After a particularly loud conflict, the girls were forced outside in the afternoon, which brightened their moods and gave us parents a brief respite.

When evening finally came, a dinner of hot dogs was prepared so that we could eat it while starting Frozen upstairs.3 The youngest goes to bed at 7:00 PM and we wanted her to have her pick before she crashed. However, when prompted that it was time to watch, she refused. Offering no explanation we could discern, the youngest refused to watch a movie.

So, we ate dinner downstairs at the table, and Kat called a great audible by offering to turn the youngest’s movie pick into a game pick. Choosing My First Carcassonne from the shelf, a Christmas gift from her aunt and uncle, we played with Meeples instead of singing along to Elsa and Ana. Then, the youngest decided she was tired and done, and was in bed by 6:30.

Our oldest, despite having a day of ups and downs, really stepped up before movie time. She got her pajamas on and helped tidy up without the tiniest resistance. We watched Matilda while eating popcorn and Cereal Snack. We cuddled and watched The LEGO Movie immediately after. It was great.

After Batman’s Dark Music signaled the end of The LEGO Movie, Kat and I were tired. It was about 10:30 and we decided to go to bed. Our daughter was not ready to give up the midnight challenge, so we compromised. We’d watch one episode of Annedroids (a delightful Amazon original show), and then pretend that 11:00 was really midnight.

As our “midnight” approached and the show ended, still not a quitter, we told our oldest daughter that she could stay up until midnight from her bed if she wanted. “But I’ll fall asleep” was her retort, but also the point, and she was asleep by 11:20.

Kat fell asleep fairly promptly, but I stayed awake in bed reading Ian Flemming’s novel Casino Royale until about 11:50 PM, when I turned off my iPad, closed my eyes, and said goodnight to 2014.

  1. The digital copy available on iTunes is “fullscreen” 4:3, not in the original aspect ratio of the film. Amazon’s digital copy is the correct aspect ratio. Aren’t most screens 16:9 now making “fullscreen” an anachronism? 
  2. If I was the only one awake and couldn’t sleep, I think I would’ve watched From Russia With Love
  3. We don’t normally eat anywhere other than the kitchen table, and this was supposed to be a treat, or at least a novelty. 
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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages five and eight) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

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