Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Movie Tradition

Summer movies have been a long-standing tradition around here.
Popcorn and a treat every week in a nice cool theater where kid noise and kid excitement is celebrated--kid heaven.

As we drove to the theater today, a memory from thirteen years ago came flooding back like it was last week. 

Thirteen years ago, Ben looked like this:

I'll never forget his sweet face and spiky hair.

It was summer 2000.  Lily was a baby, Ben was four, Tucker was eight, and Heidi was nine. We always went to the summer movie with our best buddies, the Coles--their three kids and my first three kids were raised almost like siblings.

There is no more commotion-filled minute it time than when a summer movie ends.  Kids are finding the remains of their treats, discussing funny lines from the movie, laughing with their friends.  It is a stressful transition for moms to get kids from the theater, through the lobby, and out to the car, especially when you're trying to shepherd your little flock around everyone else's little flock.

Karen and I were navigating the commotion the best we could, trying to get kids to hold hands and leave together.  Things had gotten a little more complicated for me with the addition of baby Lily, because she now took up one of my arms and limited how many kids' hands I could hold.

We made our way out of the theater and had just entered the lobby when we both realized that Ben was gone.  After looking in our immediate area, we realized he was nowhere close.  Karen stayed with the other five kids as I called his name, trying to find his tiny four-year-old body in the throng of kids.   He had been missing for almost ten minutes--and it seemed like forever--when I began to panic.

Where could he be?

I'm sure I looked like a crazy woman as I approached the nearest theater employee--hysterically shouting "My son is missing!" with a tiny baby in my arms.  The employee asked me calmly what his name was, how old he was, how tall he was, and what he was wearing.  I will never forget describing to this man a little yellow shirt with red and white stripes, thinking that this description was taking too much time--we needed to find him NOW.

He pulled out his walkie talkie to alert the management that a child was missing, and in that exact moment, I turned a corner and caught a glimpse of a little yellow shirt with red and white stripes, sitting in one of the tall video game seats.  Ben had been too small for me to see him before, but there he was--hiding in plain sight.

I rushed over to him, grabbed his shoulder and yelled, "Ben!!! Where have you been?"  Right here.  "You were lost and we've been looking everywhere for you!"  I wasn't lost, Mommy.  You just didn't know where I was.

He was right, you know.

That experience taught me two lessons:
1.  From that day on, I always dressed Ben in a bright or striped shirt whenever we went somewhere, so I could more easily spot him in a crowd. It came in handy more times than I can count with him, and  I have used that philosophy ever since, most recently when I took my little kids to Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken last summer.  Remember these cute boys?
2.  From that day on, our most repeated mantra on family trips would become "Where's Ben?"  and never did I reach the stage of panic I'd experienced that day in the theater.  Why?  Because I knew he wasn't lost.  I just temporarily didn't know where he was.  I learned that I didn't need to keep such a tight hold on my curious little son--that he always kept track of me, even if I couldn't always keep track of him.


  1. Oh, the joys of motherhood. It's great that we figure these things out as we go along, eh?

    And now our kids have to learn the same stuff as they become parents...

    And the cycle continues...


  2. I remember that day. Gotta love Ben. :)

  3. I think just about every mother has experienced that feeling of panic...certain their child is gone. Such a mixed emotion when that child is found...do you exhibit the anger you feel for them causing such a panic, or do you burst into tears finally releasing the fear that was welling up inside...or both at the same time?

  4. that would be my jace, and it's probably why his favorite color is orange :) thanks for the lesson. jace, too, always knew where to find me.

  5. i always make brennan wear orange to the zoo. life saver. loved your story. the way you write about your experiences through motherhood is one of my favorite things to read. it gives me a glimpse that makes me feel more calm about it all. i might even have the courage to take all three of my kids to the movies...woah.

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