When we were sleep training Kiwi, Eric and I slept on an air mattress in the living room. Peeper was enthralled with it: It was just like the bouncy castle, except in the house! As she jumped on it, her expression was all, OMG YOU GUYS! You’ve been holding out!
When we tried to deflate it, she deflated, too, into a heap of tears.
Eric and I looked at each other. “Would you like to have a sleepover on it later on?” Eric asked. Peeper immediately perked up.
Peeper talked about her sleepover the entire day. I was looking forward to it, too. I imagined a movie night with popcorn and snuggles and a toddler falling asleep on me. But all day she acted more like Meet the Fockers than a Disney flick—everything that could go wrong went wrong.
She refused to eat. She sassed. She demanded. She threw fits. She threw toys. I was ready to call off the whole sleepover.
Somehow Eric, whose job as a special education teacher should have depleted all of his patience, kept a cool head. We pushed through Peeper’s bad attitude and got set up for our special evening together.
I’m so glad we did.
Making movie night memories
Before we headed downstairs for the movie, we asked her which “friend,” aka toy, she’d like to bring downstairs. She immediately responded, “Kiwi.”
But her little sister was asleep, so just the three of us snuggled on the bed and cued up Disney’s Cinderella. We nibbled popcorn and pretzels as I sang along to “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” (I apparently still remember every single Disney song ever written. Good thing those brain cells aren’t wasted on something unimportant like Tylenol dosages or remembering to feed the dog.)
Peeper loved it. She adored the animals (“Where’d that dog go?” she asked about Bruno every few minutes). She nearly busted a gut when Cinderella squeezed Gus Gus into a tiny shirt. She loved the songs.
Eric and I both thought she’d fall asleep during the movie, but she was wide awake until the closing credits. So we brought her back upstairs and put her down in her own bed. She didn’t complain that we skipped over the air mattress part of the deal; I think the movie—her first-ever—was treat enough.
Remembering movie night
Ever since then, Peeper often asks to talk about Gus Gus. “Remember how he got stuck in a teacup, Mom?” she’ll ask. Or she’ll say, “Gus Gus is a little bit rotund, isn’t he.” (Seriously. She learned that word from Sandra Boynton’s A is for Angry.)
Between our jobs, caring for Maxine and the regular errands that clutter our time at home, we have few opportunities to spend quality one-on-one time with our oldest daughter. But making her feel cared for and special is a priority. That’s what her first movie night was all about.
Much of Cinderella was lost on her, I think. But even if she didn’t exactly follow the plot, or if she missed out on some of the dialogue, the experience will stick with her. For an hour, nothing else in the world mattered but her.