Growing up, my sister and I loved the theatre. We watched musicals at home for hours on end, knew all the songs and dances, and we were very fortunate to have parents who took us on theatre and cinema trips from a young age. I have these same ambitions for my own family, but I didn’t realise that along with anything else, a child has to learn to about these new experiences, and they can actually be big and daunting.
I’ve think I’ve been fairly ambitious with my two children and taking them to various cinema and theatre trips. I remember taking Lylah when she was about 2 1/2 for the first time. She was a real fidgeter, still is, and I did wonder whether she would still for nearly 2 hours in a really big dark room with a massive screen (the screen looks big to us, imagine it through the eyes of a 2 year old).
We’d not long had Malachy, but Chris and I wanted to take her as a treat for being a good girl at pre school and to celebrate the end of term. The film was the Minions movie, and the bribe for sitting still for long amounts of time was plentiful snacks and cinema ice cream. It worked for the most part, and I remember that trip being fairly successful, a good sign for cinema trips to come!
I still wasn’t convinced by theatre though. There is something pretty scary about the theatre. You go in, the lights are on, you’re chatting away and looking at the programme, and suddenly you’re in darkness and the orchestra starts to rumble! Our first trip to the theatre was with a friend and her also 2 year old. The girls (and mums) were excited to be seeing Chris & Pui live on stage! Lylah has always been a little bit wary of things in general. She likes to know situations and people well before she is fully relaxed, and to be honest is a trait that I hope sticks with her. However, in a theatre situation, when your heavily pregnant mummy is pushing through the laps of other attendees, telling you there us absolutely nothing to worry about while you’re screaming and crying, this trait appears to be more of a nuisance. Children at that age still don’t have the knowledge to know what to be afraid of and what is absolutely fine. Can we blame them? We teach them to be wary of strangers, and yet in a theatre situation, plonk them next to someone they don’t know in the dark. After sitting like a statue, staring at the stage for the entire first half, I wasn’t sure whether she was enjoying it, but she assured me she was. Her face said otherwise!
I left the next theatre trip to about a year later, and this time the show was Mister Maker! This one was a resounding success! Lylah was in love with Mister Maker at the time, and his arty party stage show was lively, colourful, and engaged the children. Maybe she’s turned a corner I thought?
I next took her to see a production of The Little Mermaid. Being Lylah’s absolute favourite film, and as she has an obsession with all things mermaid, I was convinced this would be a success. She brought her mermaid with her, sat like a big girl next to me and enjoyed the opening scenes. When Ursula appeared however, it all changed. She wasn’t just frightened, where a cuddle from mummy until Ursula exited stage right would do, she screamed and we had to leave the auditorium. She got herself in such a state. She wanted to go home. While I absolutely don’t want her to be scared or upset, I also want to try and show her that it would be okay, as I knew she’d absolutely love the rest of the show, and she’d miss out on so many fun outings like this if it became a phobia. She was won over by some gentle words, lots of cuddles and a tub of ice cream, and as we were stood near the door of the theatre, we could hear Ariel starting to sing her famous song. That was enough to get Lylah back inside, and by the end of the show, Ursula was one of her favourite characters!
When Malachy was about 18 months, Chris and I took both of them to see Trolls. I wouldn’t normally subject other cinema goers to a toddler in the aisles, but it was a weekday showing and it was practically empty. There was two of us to manage them as well; I certainly wouldn’t have attempted it on my own! All was going swimmingly until Malachy started shouting “poo poo” at the top of his voice. I took him to the baby change and proceed to change his nappy, but nothing was inside. He was squirming and screaming, obviously trying to shift something, For the rest of the time, he was a very unhappy little sausage, and as it was nearly finished, we put up with it for a few minutes, then I took him out. He screamed all the way home and it turned out he was extremely constipated – what timing!
I haven’t considered taking Malachy again, but might attempt the new Peppa Pig cinema hour – although whoever thought another hour of Peppa Pig was a good idea has obviously not watched 1200 of them in a row.
So, last night, I took Lylah to Peter Pan. She’s older now, I thought, if she’s frightened I can reason with her. I never mentioned Captain Hook. She was so excited, we were meeting friends, and she knew one of her little friends was going to be in the show.
Since the Little Mermaid experience, Lylah has been in a ballet show herself, so I thought we were well past any worries. In the car, she started listing the characters. “Oh no’ I thought! Then she says “Is Captain Hook going to be in the show?” I replied calmly and reassuringly “Yes, he’s in the story isn’t he? But he’s nothing to worry about, they are all pretend” Not looking too convinced, Lylah was noticeably worried from that point on. She was obviously trying to be brave bless her, and sat next to me and watched the first few scenes in silence. I braced myself when Captain Hook appeared, promptly handed Lylah a sweet and took a sigh of relief when all we had was a bit of a squirm and an extra squeeze of my hand. Lylah wouldn’t clap before that, but as soon as that moment was out of the way, she clapped and cheered through the rest of the show. My dreams of our West End theatre trips together aren’t shattered! She likes going to the theatre! It takes a little perseverance and faith that as children grown, they learn to know their senses and can differentiate between reality and play. Let’s just hope Malachy follows suit!