Friday, May 8, 2009

Movie Trouble

I took off late Friday morning to catch a movie. Catching movies for me doesn't happen as much as it should. On datenight, for instance, the talk of going to a movie usually melds into just sitting down for dinner, somewhere, where the food won't be room temp-to-cold before we eat. Sleeping in movies is more my style if it starts at after 9:45pm. So, I don't see enough first run movies in theatres.

My seven year old son has been to the movie theatre maybe four times in his life. Usually it's a problem; too dark, too loud, too scary with insufficient warnings to transitions and, yes, surprises. I took him to Dumbo at El Capitan in Hollywood when he was five. A beautiful and ornate palace, it features a live organ in the orchestra pit for the preshow. Dumbo was being re-released prior to a DVD reissue. Thankfully, it was a slow day, the ushers let us sit up close despite no extra pricy reserved ticket. When the lights went down, Matthew's anxiety spiked. I put my arm round him and told him things were OK; that this is how it is at the theatre. (I'm sure I gave him some sort of pre-show prep talk.) We had prearranged to visit the concession stand for popcorn, and we were maybe twenty minutes in when I got summoned for that trip. It was a time to confirm that all was O.K., and that, no, they can't turn-on the lights to watch the movie. We made it through alright, and it was chalked up as an 'adventure.'

I next took him to the Egyptian for a new version of Lassie, and it was again a challenge to stay in the theatre. But I listened to him and was ready to leave at anytime, if requested. I tried for months maybe years after to get him to go back. All his friends would talk about movies like Happy Feet, or Ku Fu Panda and it hurt that he refused to go. Playdates got aborted, or redirected. Even school programs could be a challenge if a movie would screen in class that had bad guys or even a whiff of antagonism. We made it clear to his teachers and his B.I. that if it was causing our son to be upset, you can't force him to watch. You must let him walk away.

One bright spot came along with the DVD release of Cars. That's one he loves to this day, and gives me hope that maybe Matthew can someday enjoy movies. I know that when I see movies now, a part of me always wonders how he'd fare at whatever I'm watching. I thought, for instance, that Ratatouille would be great to see. It's Disney, rated G, it's a rat... Except, to my horror, within the first five minutes, the Hero was getting attacked by a shotgun-shooting Granny. This is rated 'G'?

Right around January during First Grade, we had to be out of the house during the evening. Carpets. So, Matthew and I went to the most family friendly restaurant near our place, Andre's, for dinner. Then off to Coffee Bean to do his homework and then because we still had to be out of our apartment, we went to see Chaplin's City Lights. It was playing at a neighborhood art/revival house and I had recently learned of on Facebook. I'm overly well-versed in Chaplin, but still I tried to run the movie through my head first to think of any possible problems that we might have. OK, I think. And, since we were just now trying to get more practice with reading, I felt like a genius that since it's a silent movie, we'd have the title cards to play with. We got our seats, then got popcorn before the show, and I flashed back to being a kid myself. I used to sometimes see old comedies with my dad. The popcorn guy, who may have been the owner of the New Beverly Cinema, had kind of a twinkle in his eye as my son was by far the youngest patron on this Monday night. Still, the theatre was dark. The title cards afforded us some lee-way to talk, even if I did try to keep it down. And except for the gun toting burglars at the end of the movie who overpower the good guys, we did fine. Better than we have. But man, how many movies today have the quiet sensibilities of a 1931 silent?

So this morning, when I went to the new Star Trek, I wondered: Could I possibly take him here? Almost immediately, I knew 'no way.' Maybe it was the rumbly soundtrack; maybe the explosions. It would have been over quick had I taken Matthew. Not that this is the type of film I would try. But any movie now, no matter what or where, there's a part of me that wonders, how would Matthew see this?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two Dollar Bill

Yes, they still make them, and a $2 Bill can be a fun incentive to getting to 'Yes.' Stop me if you've heard this one before. For compliance and validation, my son loves to have something concrete to pin his achievements on. (Who doesn't?) We've often gone visual to help him really see what to expect when simple transitions have proven difficult. Another entry, another time.

This time, it's the index card with, say, ten empty boxes. When we effectively get to Yes, he earns a Star or a Checkmark. Different colors from highlighters is what we've used lately. And when one is filled, it's onto the next card. In the past, he could trade (x) amount of cards for a prize. This echoes/reinforces behavior from Kindergarten and now, 1st Grade. When he delivers, he gets positive encouragement; something tangible.

Benefits include: discussions of the different U.S. dollar bills. Who's on what? It's fun and it opens things up that we both seem to find of interest. He can think money, while he's learning who's who. We've done the One Dollar bill, of course. But who's on the Two? And what's on the back of the Two? (And what used to be on the back?) It's fun to peel this onion. It's history, and it's a change of pace. Most fun is how it allows us to interact. Sometimes researching online and sometimes just jawing about what we learn while we get to the Goal. And this little adventure led me to dig out my old coin collection. He might not pick up on how the silver content changed in the quarters and dimes after 1964, but then again, he might surprise me in a month or two about this.

I hadn't look at it in years. It brought out stories of how I built my collection, how my mom helped spark the hobby. When we saw an old Peace Dollar that had gotten slimy from an old spongy holder, it was a great way to show how to take care of the coin. Ah, the family silver. The whole mini-adventure sprung from a calm, quiet place that started with him earning a reward. Here's to collecting more times like these.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Forty Digits

My kids often have long nails. I don't know if it's due to the California sunshine, or that they are eating machines that don't quit. Unfortunately, they have neither the capacity nor the will to trim their own nails. And, they don't want anyone else to give them a manicure, either. My wife is afraid she'll snip a finger off (or used say that when they were infants). Now, despite all my protests, I still have the job as the Chief Technician of The Salon.

I called it The Salon as a joke, but the name has stuck. I have discovered that they each are more responsive when attended to separately. Divide and conquer. My daughter is more pliable, and that's her nature. She's also less responsive to touch----so it's easier to get in, snip snip and be done without much fuss. My son, however, is a bit high strung----unlike, ahem, anyone, uh, I know. ANYWAY, it used to take a half hour (yes) sometimes. Now, the added time is merely the pre-amble to the action of the ten fingers and then, ten toes. The toes are the worst, but at times the most important, because if the toes scrape the shoes, well, that's pain that will last all day. Selling this point to him is darn near impossible. But usually (not always), usually I can get compliance.

It's like a piece of him is getting chopped off forever. He's very attached to himself. He hates change. And the whole touch thing, sometimes, is just too intense for him. Happily, he's come a long way. With tangible (if non-material) rewards, he will let me get to his nails. Just having some sort of acknowledgment like a star or a check mark will, almost always, carry the day. The only real pain comes about ten days later when I realize I never bothered with my own nails, which at that moment, are probably bending back on me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mother's Day

You know, it's not a bad idea to do something for Mother's Day. Call your mom, take out the mom of your kids, etc. My first Mother's Day as a dad (does that make sense?), we schlepped our son to a nice French Vietnamese restaurant, probably five blocks west of the Drake. Last year, as well as this year, it's to Joe's in Venice.

Meanwhile, there's seems to be some commercial advantage revolving around the holiday. Worth a look at least: