Last night we went to the cinema as a family. The destination in itself is not unusual but if we go to the cinema we generally go in the daytime, or I go with T sometimes in the evening. K and I rarely go to the cinema on our own, preferring to watch a DVD at home or go out for dinner and actually talk to each other (which is hard to do in the cinema). So, last night’s sojourn was a first. We were going to see the final film in the Divergent series, which although it is rated a 12A we were confident that A would be OK with the content, as I have read the book and she has seen the previous two films with no upset.
On the way to the cinema it struck me how life is constantly changing and outings that were stressful or nigh on impossible when the children were small are now commonplace and we can do so much more together – and all enjoy it. Thankfully the days of sitting through a Pixar/Disney ear-splitting, nerve jangling horror (not literally a horror film, you understand, but the feeling of horror that these films induce) are becoming more distant – we still have the odd moment when A wants to watch something with minions in but we don’t all have to sit and endure it. The Saturday morning “kids club” hell is over: cheap tickets (we were always skint when they were small) but offset against screaming children and harassed parents pretending it isn’t their child. We can actually go and see a film that has a plot that takes a bit of following and that we can talk about together afterwards without having to pretend that the squirrel was my favourite character and that I found the bit where the lion was shot in the butt by a dart gun hilarious.
There are other things we can do now that the kids are older. For instance, go out to dinner later than 6pm. And not worry that someone will have a melt-down because they are sooooo hungry that they might die. We can leave the house in relatively good time and not have to go back in because someone needs a wee or someone has forgotten a teddy or…you get the idea. We can have conversations without having to feign interest. We can go into a supermarket and have real help not inverted comma help – teenagers can carry the wire baskets and go to another aisle and collect stuff for you while you get in the queue and you won’t worry that they will get lost or stolen. They may come back with stuff that you didn’t ask for, like tic-tacs or chocolate bars, but the ensuing stand-off generally doesn’t end with someone laying on the floor screaming. Eye-rolling yes but that’s easily ignored.
Of course, this all sounds great, but there’s always a pitfall to every new chapter. Yes, we can have decent conversations about interesting subjects – well, subjects that you can sort of get interested in if you can keep up with the jargon and can ignore the overuse of the word “like” – but this also seems to mean that they think they can participate in EVERY conversation that takes place within earshot. And sometimes even when you think they are not in earshot. Gone are the days of waiting when the kids are in bed to talk about something. Because they go to bed so flipping late. And even when you think it’s safe, because they are upstairs with their earbuds in and if you called them to come and lay the table they would not be able to hear you, the minute you start talking about how your boss was in an awful mood and the air in the office was blue due to his almost pathological use of the C word one of them appears like Mr Benn from behind his curtain and you have to break off mid-sentence. You think you will resume the conversation later but by then you have started watching The Good Wife and the moment is gone.
Making decisions is another area where things are not so cut-and-dried anymore. K and I would talk about what we might do at the weekend, throw some ideas around and make a decision. And no-one would put up any sort of fight. Now it’s all “do I have to come?” and “if he’s not coming why do I have to come?”. Or if they do deign to grace us with their presence we almost feel like we have to make it worth their while by going for a Costa or by buying them some tic-tacs. If we can encourage them to come with us for a Sunday walk around St Albans it’s not so much a matter of if we will be able to go and get a hot chocolate/frappe/smoothie (depending on the season) it’s more a question of where we will get it from. This makes them sound like spoilt brats – they’re not, in fact they’re generous, kind hearted people – they’re just not little any more and don’t want to spend every waking moment in our company.
Perhaps it is this change that has been the most beneficial in terms of our relationships in our family unit. We don’t live in each other’s pockets. Gone are the days when I dreamed of going for a wee on my own or of reading a book without someone lying across my lap. We see less of them now as they are out with friends; doing homework; in their rooms listening to music/watching YouTube/doing “stuff”. So when we do spend time together it’s good to see them and we like talking about what they have been doing. They have stuff to tell us because we weren’t there when they were doing it. And some of the stuff they do is quite cool.