I’m Really Good At Parenting Until I’m Not

This past Sunday, a friend mentioned seeing the film, The Greatest Showman. I had heard of the movie but didn’t know much about it so when I found the preview clip enthralling, I decided we HAD to see it.


It looked family friendly. Check.
It looked like it might make me cry. Check.
It had a catchy, inspirational theme song. Check.
It was a musical. FANTASTIC.

(The musical aspect was probably my favorite part. The last time I saw a musical with Bob was 2002, when we saw the movie version of Chicago. When that film started rolling and those actors started singing and most everyone started dancing, the confusion on Bob’s face was priceless. He had NO IDEA it was a musical. Consequently, he fell asleep about 20 minutes in. I was eager to recreate all of this.)

I found the showtimes for our nearest theatre and discovered that if we got our act together, we could see an early evening show. I’ll surprise the kids and Bob! We rarely all go to the movies! What a lovely way to spend a Sunday night! I am such a good and thoughtful parent! I’m one of those FUN moms!


My first mistake was trying to do something nice for my children on such short notice, with such little preparation and precedence. Any fun and spontaneous activity with the kids always turns out better in my head more so than real life. I always THINK my kids will be up for a last minute adventure and I always THINK my kids will be filled with gratitude for such treats but, in actuality, that’s never, ever what happens.

It’s no surprise then, when I suggested Sunday afternoon that we go see a movie that very night, everyone reacted with a mix of confusion and suspicion, which was really rather anticlimactic.

Bob immediately wanted to know what the movie was about. Not wanting to ruin the musical surprise, I just waved in his general direction and said, “I think it’s about the founding of the Barnum circus people.” He was satisfied with this response. As was Henry.

Then, when I explained to the kids that all of our Sunday night tasks – homework, dinner, baths and showers – would need to get accomplished in advance so we could fill our evening with FUN, they all immediately started negotiating down what I was asking them to do. Which is probably my least favorite thing that my kids do of late. The person that needed to take a bath, wanted to take a shower. The person that needed to take a shower, wanted to take a bath. But only a quick bath. No hair washing. And, did they really have to use soap at all? Then I got requests to just eat dinner at the theatre and a plea about doing homework the following morning instead and it was just all too much pushback.

“ENOUGH,” I yelled. “We’re done here! We’re not going to the movies. You are all ridiculous. I tried to do something nice and you are obviously not on board.”

This elicited tears from the most egregious offenders in the bunch which, was kind of the whole point. This is a classic parenting strategy in my arsenal. I take away something they never fully appreciated and then they get sad and cry and the tough love leaves an impression and they never, ever take anything you do for them for granted ever again. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

Once everyone had retreated mournfully to their rooms for a bit, they slowly emerged, much more eager to be complicit in my demands. Bob and I cheerfully announced that if they could uphold their end of the bargain, then, yes, we would go to the movies. Tub kid tearfully climbed into the tub. Shower kid tearfully climbed into the shower. Big kid started on his homework. Having imparted an important life lesson on my children, I started smugly working on dinner.

My second mistake was not checking to see if tickets were even available before suggesting that we all go see a movie because at some point, while prepping dinner, it occurred to me that I should probably buy our movie tickets online. This particular theatre gets busy and has reserved seating and we were, like, INVESTED in this experience at this point. I mean, the kids were discussing what kind of candy they were going to get from the concession stand. Better to not risk waiting until we get to the theatre to procure our seats.

So, obviously, when I went to buy tickets, sure enough, the show was sold out.


I went and broke it to the kid in the tub and told the kid getting out of the shower and hollered down to Henry that unfortunately and by the way I’m SO SORRY but we can’t see the movie after all because it’s sold out and yes, isn’t that ironic and no, Mama did not check first and I agree, this is all terrible and have I said I’m sorry?

Two of three children start crying. Again. At this point, Bob is giving me A Look.

I make one more half-hearted attempt to find tickets at a theatre that’s a little further away but, alas, they are unavailable as well. Once again, raising everyone’s expectations and then dashing them. Like the worst roller coaster ride ever. At this point, we all pretty much wish I had never tried to do something fun and spontaneous in the first place.

My third (and will not be my last by a long shot) mistake was agreeing to rent Despicable Me 3 as a poor substitute to The Greatest Showman. I think we can all agree that by the time we get to the third movie in any franchise, the quality has diminished quite a bit. Despicable Me 3 is no musical. Just one unending fart joke. But, I was desperate for a way out of this mess. Besides, the kids had been requesting to rent it so that seemed to brighten everyone’s mood a little bit. Also, everyone was fed and bathed and, at this point, it was only 4:30 in the afternoon. We still had daylight to burn.

When I explained Plan B to (a still slightly upset) Charlie, he looked me straight in the eyes, asked if I would make him some popcorn and said, “It’s the least you can do in this situation.”

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