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DADult Life | December 2, 2022

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My strategy for getting a 15-month-old through an entire film at the cinema

Cinema with baby toddler

Since becoming a dad I’ve always been of a “why wait?” mindset. We waited long enough for Roma to arrive during the pregnancy, so if it’s been a road trip or otherwise we want to do as a family, why wait? If it doesn’t run smoothly, we can only learn from it.

And going to the cinema with Roma when she was just two months reinforced my approach to just go for it. Of course, we went because I was eager to see War for the Planet of the Apes rather than any expectation she’d appreciate the beautiful motion capture or harrowing plot before her, but thankfully my plan to get through the experience paid off.

Over a year later and my cinema game is still slacking. I tend to go last minute when the opportunity presents itself, so I’ve been on my own numerous times in the past few months as a result. Seeing two films in a day was the norm before fatherhood and now I’m lucky to get to the cinema once a month – yet my £18 Cineworld Unlimited membership fee is still flying out of my bank account each payday.

So, with Roma becoming increasingly aware of the world unlocked by TV, which has resulted in her waving the remote in my face when she wants to watch her beloved Paw Patrol, I’ve felt more and more compelled to take her back to the cinema – only this time to watch a film together. And this weekend I finally gave into that urge and put my plan into action.

Saturday morning rolled around and I checked out our options for films: Aladdin at 10am and The Incredibles 2 at 11.15am. Decisions, decisions.

I went with The Incredibles for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there was no way in hell we were going to make a 10am screening in time without the help of a magic lamp. Secondly, I really wanted to see The Incredibles. Plus, I thought it would be the one Roma would be most likely to sit still for, since most animation on TV these days is CGI – kids today, they just don’t know.

After going ahead with the trip I’m over the moon to say it was a success! There were no banshee-like screams, no desperate attempts to wrestle out of my arms and no running off along the aisle to steal snacks from other customers.

Trust me when I say, I’m as surprised as you. After all, she’s only 15 months now and after the way she had a meltdown on our recent flight from Ibiza – more on that soon – I was generally expecting I’d have to do the walk of shame out of the screen.

But given things went so smoothly, I thought I’d share my strategy for getting through it just in case you, like me, are feeling the lure of the cinema with your little ones but fear being shunned if they decide to erupt mid-film.

The Incredibles 2

The steps I took are…

(1) Timing

As I mentioned, the film was on at 11.15am. I’d really recommend going to as early a showing as possible, whether this time or slightly before. Aside from the fact the screen is likely to be emptier than later on in the day, the lobby is likely to be quiet too, therefore I thought that meant less chance of Roma getting riled up.

(2) Pram or no pram

The internal debate I had was A. Put Roma in the pram and wheel her in? B. Carry her in? My logic was, if I carry/let her walk in then she might get a taste for the freedom and refuse to settle for the film, so I opted for the pram in hope that would keep her calm(er).

(3) Seating arrangements

As much as I prefer sitting in the middle or at the back under regular circumstances, I thought sitting near the front would be prudent. I said as much to the girl at the till, adding “just in case I need to make a quick exit” and she kindly put me on the aisle of row C. My other thought was that she’d be less distracted the closer we were to the screen, therefore less likely to go running off. Originally, I left Roma in the pram right next to me but she soon wanted out after a trailer and a half. I thought that was game over but after sitting her on my lap she was immediately more than content to carry on watching.

(4) Fidgeting

It’s hard enough to stay in one position for an adult let alone a toddler. And while Roma was largely engaged and static, there did unsurprisingly come points when she had a slight wriggle. To begin with, when moving her from the pram to my lap I made sure to give my legs a light rocking. She slid down my lap a couple of times but at no point made any real committed effort to try and do the off ­– crucially I didn’t let her feet touch the floor – as she complied with me sitting her in my lap once more . At times she was so still I had to check to see if she was awake but she indeed stayed completely conscious the entire time. It was just the once that she took her eyes off the screen as she snuggled into my chest briefly for a cuddle before deciding the film was a better option than a snooze.

(5) Snacks

I packed a pot of cocktail sausages, a bag of baby rice cakes and, crucially, a bottle of milk. She’d eaten/covered herself in Weetabix for breakfast which was not long before we left, so any chances of her getting hangry were minimised. What I didn’t want to do was cave too early and feed her straight away in the screen, so I tried to bide my time for as long as possible so she didn’t become more interested in the food than the film. With that in mind, it was a good 45 minutes or so before I got the sausages out. Then at around the 75-minute mark I broke out the rice cakes and as I could tell the film was drawing towards its end, with us on the home stretch, I pulled out the bottle of milk to make her feel right at home.

(6) The film

Picking up immediately where the first film left off, Elastigirl is now in the spotlight and saving the day as she attempts to restore the good name of superheroes with a lighter touch than the clumsy ham-fisted methods of Mr. Incredible. This leaves her heavy-handed husband playing the role of stay-at-home-dad to their three superpowered, super-energetic kids. So for any mums or dads watching this, there will definitely be more than a few relatable moments – especially where the sleep deprivation is concerned. It really couldn’t have been a more apt film choice to see with Roma and as a PG it was perfect.

There was one thing I failed to consider though. With Disney Pixar films come the short movie before it, so I was sitting there in panic as it started, worrying it would eat into little lady’s calmness – thankfully that wasn’t the case. To have sat still for over two hours without erupting, it’s clear that she was enjoying herself. Or at least just really comfy.

All in all, the trip was simple but unforgettable. Sure there were a few things to bear in mind in order to try and make it run smoothly but if you love films and sharing new moments with your little ones as much as I do and don’t fancy waiting a couple of years to take your tikes, why not give it a try? The joyful look on her face from the trailers alone was enough to make me want to give it another go.

There was just one thing missing. In my haste to be as prepared as I could for Roma to stay calm, I neglected to take snacks for myself. I won’t make that mistake again – cocktail sausages and rice cakes don’t hit the spot quite like a huge bag of popcorn.

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Key takeaways from going cinema with a newborn baby

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