“There will be lots of seats all in a row, and a really, really big TV screen, and that’s where we’ll see Thomas”.
When I found out that there was a new Thomas film coming to our local cinema, I knew that would be Arlo’s first cinema trip. At just an hour in length, it was perfect for my train-obsessed toddler. I started preparing Arlo straight away.
The day I found out about the Thomas film was also the day that Sam badly cut his hand whilst fixing our oven. So, instead of starting the usual dinner and bedtime routine, I unexpectedly found myself loading both children into the car and driving to our nearest A&E unit.
At the waiting room, Arlo was in high spirits. He gleefully settled into the chair next to Sam, and seemed happy watching the news on the small TV screen mounted on the wall. Rory gurgled in his car seat. As Sam filled out forms and talked to various people, we responded to Arlo’s chatter on auto-pilot, absent-mindedly answering his questions, as you do when your mind is on other things.
When we decided Sam still had a long wait to be seen and it was better for me to take the boys home to bed, I briefly wondered why Arlo was so reluctant to leave Sam. It was uncharacteristic. Then, in the car on the way home, he kept asking when we were going back.
It was only later, once Sam was home and we were relaxing on the sofa, our hectic evening in the past, that it dawned on me. Arlo thought that A&E was the cinema.
The waiting room with its rows of chairs and TV screen on the wall. That’s why he’d asked me if they were going to put on Thomas. Poor Arlo had been so excited, thinking that we were there to see the Thomas film, and we’d completely missed it. In his toddler eyes, the tired old A&E department with glum faces, flickering halogen lights, and drunks slumped over chairs was this super exciting place I’d been telling him about earlier.
Fast forward to today, Arlo finally got to go to the real cinema.
I briefly toyed with the idea of leaving Rory with Sam and taking Arlo on my own, but in the end we decided we both wanted to be there for his first cinema experience, so off we all went. Rory in his car seat on one seat, Arlo and me in the middle with a bucket of popcorn, and Sam snoozing away on the seat nearest the aisle.
I had worried that he might find it too loud, or too dark, but if he did have any moments of doubt, he didn’t let on. And as soon as he got his first glimpse of the trains on the big screen, he was hooked. He looked so big sitting in that seat. A proper child. At the cinema. I don’t know if I remember my very first cinema trip, but as a small child I do remember the excitement, the feeling that everything was so big, and that it was special to see films at the cinema. I wondered whether Arlo was experiencing the same feelings as he excitedly skipped through the foyer, and as he cautiously walked into the screening room.
One of the best parts (for me), was that he knew it was all for him. It wasn’t about Rory. We were all there for Arlo’s special cinema trip. As someone currently adjusting to having more than one child, feeling the guilt that it sometimes seems like I’m only focussing on Arlo when he’s doing something inconvenient (Don’t be noisy, Rory’s asleep. Don’t start tantruming just as I’m sitting down for the first time today. WHY is he being a nightmare at bedtime when he’s been acting up all day. Etc), it was really nice to sit back and revel in the joys of having a two (almost three!) year old, and knowing that he knew that it was his special outing.
And Arlo’s verdict? “That was very very VERY much bigger than the ‘ospital TV”.