Hello, Salvadore Vincent here again – back just for the day this time...
All three of us were quite excited to be going to see “Madagascar”. My girlfriend was excited as it would be the first time she had taken her 5-year old godson Simon out without his parents. I was excited from a mainly professional point of view to see if Dreamworks' animated features were catching up with Pixar's, but also quite excited about the film itself. And Simon was excited because all day people had been asking him if he was excited.
Our friends dropped us off and we arranged what time they would pick us up. We bought our tickets, bought our ice creams and waved goodbye to Mummy. Though neither of us said it, as we stepped away from the box office, just the three of us, I am sure that both my girlfriend and I were thinking that this is what it would be like to have a family. That the success or failure of this trip would indicate something important...
We'd all been out to a WWII Victory event earlier that day and Simon had been scared by a small and frankly quite crap dragon made out of cloth on a stick. We shall call this Ignored Warning Sign #1. Then, as we ascended the final escalator in the cinema complex, his little voice said, "It's dark up there." We shall call this Ignored Warning Sign #2.
Before we went into the cinema itself I asked Simon if he wanted to go to the toilet (as I didn't want to miss any vital plot developments half way through – I really was quite excited at this point). He did, so I decided that I would take him whilst my girlfriend held the ice creams. I had imagined us standing side by side at the urinals - not father and son, not technically godfather and godson, but I thought that maybe I could teach him some kind of helpful “using a urinal” tip that would make him feel like a man like I am.
Of course, the urinals were all too high so we headed for a cubicle. Then he started stripping off and said "I want a poo". This must have been what it felt like on Apollo 13 when, hundreds of thousands of miles from earth, they heard a big bang. I was alone, I was in charge, and I didn’t know what to do. Did he want me in the cubicle? Should I wait outside? I settled for hanging around in the doorway. I'll spare you most of the next ten minutes, but I did receive some quite graphic descriptions of what was happening.
He also told me that he was worried about the lion in the film. I was trying to explain that it was a funny lion who was more scared than scary, but then he decided that there was going to be a dragon in the film as well. No, there are no dragons, I confidently promised, praying that there wouldn't be a surprise guest appearance in the third act. Then he decided that he felt poorly and didn't want to see the film. I'd like to say that my first thought was for his wellbeing, but I'm fairly sure it was "Thank goodness he's already sitting on the toilet and we've got plenty of toilet paper." Then he said:
"I think I've got a tummyache because I'm allergic to the suncream."
This was about as convincing as him telling me that he couldn't go swimming because he'd got his period, but I sympathised with him. I used to try a similar (though slightly more plausible) trick and it was good to know that he wasn't actually ill. Perhaps we could get him in there after all. I reassured him that he'd be sitting between us and could hold our hands and that it wasn't real. I asked him about his only previous cinema visit and found out that he'd really enjoyed it, but had been scared beforehand as well.
Then he dropped his second bombshell: "Will you wipe my bottom?"
Sometimes what seem like inconsequential decisions have unforeseen ramifications. In much the same way that JFK probably thought “Why did we take the convertible?” my first reaction was “Why didn’t I just tell my girlfriend that I’d hold the ice creams?”
But even though he wasn’t my godson, I couldn't fail the kid at this point. So, despite the fact that I'd never done this before, I rolled my sleeves up and went in. We'd just about got sorted - perhaps we'd only missed the trailers by now - when he decided that he wanted to do another poo.
It was at this point that I heard my girlfriend shouting, "Are you all right in there?"
So, there were then three of us in the cubicle (with the added bonus of my girlfriend getting to see the inside of a gents' toilet) which I decided was far too overcrowded so I stepped outside and, holding three dripping ice creams, planned how to get him into the cinema. I was sure that once he was inside and used to it he'd be fine. Parenting Tip #1 - share information and present a united front. I'd taken my eye off the ball, and when he came out with my girlfriend they'd decided they'd like to go home.
I wasn't going to give up so easily though and tried a couple more things. First we went back downstairs to the promotional cardboard cut-outs for the film. The lion didn't look that scary, and the other animals all looked very funny, so we decided we'd have a peek inside the cinema, and could always get a taxi if we didn't like the look of it.
I’d love to be able to report that I won the kid round. That he went into that cinema a frightened child and came out a man (not literally – the film isn’t that long), held aloft on my shoulders as part of a cheering crowd (and that some of this cheering was for me for getting him into the cinema in the first place). And that maybe he would grow up into a famous movie director and revitalise the British film industry, and that when he accepted his first Oscar he would say, “I’d like to dedicate this to Salvadore Vincent – for getting me into that cinema when I was five, and starting a life-long love affair with movies. Sal – this one’s for you, big guy.” (He probably wouldn’t mention that I’d wiped his bottom before we went in.)
Unfortunately, the film had already started, so instead of being able to go into the cinema with the lights on and get used to that first, we were presented with a huge, dark room with really loud things going on inside. I crouched down next to him by the door to see how he was, and from his POV I could see that it was actually quite scary. Even I wasn’t too sure about the lion at that point.
We turned it around at the end by saying that we'd had an exciting trip out anyway - we'd had ice cream and we'd been in a taxi! And I explained that perhaps Mummy and Daddy could buy the film on video, then if the lion scared him he could just turn the television off to make him go away. (I thought it would be churlish to mention that perhaps Mummy and Daddy could lend us the video afterwards as the trip had cost us about a pound per second of film actually seen. i.e. 30)