Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.
I kidsit on a semi-regular basis for a little boy who is the son of my advisor from college. Between my busy schedule and theirs, I usually only see him once a month, and sometimes less than that. He is a sweet, intelligent, imaginative, and wonderfully curious child who I sometimes wish I could ask to have a little chat with my ovaries so that my kids turn out as cool as him. I'm only slightly biased, of course, having been nearly his only kidsitter since he was about 18 months old. He's five now, only just; his birthday was on November 17th.
The Kid and his parents and MB and I were all at the same holiday party on Monday night, and his mom mentioned in passing to someone else that she and the Kid's dad both had separate meetings to go to the following evening, and that their plans for the Kid had fallen through. Because I'm one of those people who always has to be helpful, no matter what (I'm working on it), I offered to shuffle my Tuesday night plans around a little and watch the Kid. When I got home, I had a brainwave. The restaurant where I was supposed to meet some coworkers around 6 is about 100 yards away from a movie theater, so I checked to see what movies were playing around 6:30 or so. I figured this would provide a fun activity for me and the Kid, and would spare me the drive out to his house in the country. I emailed his mom, and she asked the Kid what he thought, and he reportedly said, "YES I WANT TO GO TO A MOVIE WITH VELOCIBADGERGIRL!" Hee!
We agreed that the Kid's dad would drop him off at the theater at 6:30, we'd share popcorn and a drink that wasn't soda and watch Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, and then the Kid's mom would meet us after the movie. I'm not too proud to say that I was really excited about our big date. I got to the theater right on time, and purchased our tickets after the Kid's dad called to let me know they were running just a little late. They arrived shortly after, and you guys? HE WAS WEARING A TIE. A very small striped tie, and a blue dress shirt. When I exclaimed with glee over this, his dad said, "Well, it is a date!" Then, mock-stern, he told the Kid, "Now remember, buddy, when the lights go out, it's hands off." Brandishing my left hand, I said, "Yeah, I'm a married woman!"
The Kid and I purchased our popcorn and drinks (bottled water for me, Hi-C fruit punch for him) and then headed for theater #4. The Kid announced that he could find the theater for us. Four, after all, was the number he used to be, though not the number he is now. We were exactly on time (the opening credits were rolling as we took our seats), and I think the manager was wondering if anyone was coming to the movie after all (we were the only ones to purchase tickets). The manager, a cute boy in a suit who couldn't have been much older than 20, did that quiet, breathing-out laugh that people do when a child is doing something really cute but they don't want the child to know they're laughing as we approached--the Kid tiny and blond and be-tied and announcing, "This is four! I'm not four anymore, I'm five!"
The movie wasn't the best film I've ever seen. It wasn't even the best children's movie I've seen lately, but I really did enjoy it. There's something about sharing even mundane activities with a child that can make those activities vastly more entertaining or amusing or interesting than they would be if you did them by yourself, I think. I sat there and I let the Kid's wonder wash over me, and instead of thinking snarky thoughts over whether or not Dustin Hoffman was doing a decent job or dissecting the plot or wondering about what time it was, I just opened myself up to the movie and let myself be entertained. There were even a few scenes that made me exclaim with joy, I have to admit. No disrespect to MB, but this was a great date. The Kid and I sat in our chairs and just enjoyed the movie, shoveling popcorn into our mouths and laughing at the silly parts, and occasionally discussing the finer points of the storyline.
After the show, we sat in the lobby for a few minutes waiting for his mom. There were two teenage employees nearby, but other than that, the theater seemed deserted. A few years ago, I would've been too self-conscious to act goofy around those teenage boys, but this time, the Kid and I talked about Star Wars and I imitated a TIE fighter (complete with elaborate hand gestures and pyew! pyew! shooting sound effects) and we talked about how I would not wish to fight a bad guy with four arms and four lightsabers, though we established that I might be able to outrun him if he only had two legs. When his mom arrived, the Kid was eager to act out his favorite scene from the movie, and then it was time for us to head home, with a promise that we'd try to get together again sometime before Christmas to play.
Driving home, I found myself remembering how hard it was for me to get into character and play pretend with the Kid when I first started sitting for him. I had been a ridiculously imaginative child, but hadn't really done much pretending since I was about 13 or so, and it wasn't easy at first. That has changed, thanks to him. In a way, I think we learned to imagine together, and I'm grateful to think of how easy it will be for me to play my parts with my own kids, when the time comes. It's true that sometimes being around kids can make adults feel old. But sometimes, being around them can remind us what it's like to be young and filled with wonder, and that is truly a gift, if we can just remember to hold out our hands and accept it.