Since then, I've divorced my oldest daughter's father, been a single parent, remarried and had a second daughter. It was a few months ago, when I was in my last trimester of pregnancy, that I suggested to my husband we give the idea of Friday Night Pizza and a Movie Night a try in our family. I was on medical leave because my pregnancy had become very stressful to my body. My husband had just returned from South America after losing his father to a sudden death. My teenage daughter had been away for a month with her father and hadn't been home much at all. We were all a bit fatigued, drained, and generally in need of downtime to reconnect. We desperately needed to have some quiet family time.
We started with some movies we had around the house on DVD or recorded on DVR. Freaky Friday (the remake with Lindsey Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis), Men In Black and Beetlejuice. We loved it. It was great to get to laugh together.
The baby was born, the school year started for both my daughter and my husband. Things felt hectic again. So we continued to set aside Friday night for pizza and a movie.
We starting going for some serious films. Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman. I love the opening sequence, seeing the pristine school of the 1960s fade into the inner city graffitied school of 1987. To this day I think the use of the song "Welcome to the Jungle" in that scene is one of the best uses of a musical piece in film. While watching the violence and chaos ensuing at Eastside High in 1987, backed by Axl Rose screaming to cacophonic metal rock, my daughter couldn't take her eyes off the screen. After about half a minute, she said, 'OK, that is SO unrealistic. That would never happen in a high school." It was then that I realized that even though she had spent her entire educational career in Washington, DC and close to Detroit, she had no idea about the reality of inner city schools and neighborhoods.
My husband picked out Rabbit-Proof Fence. It's a 2002 film directed by Phillip Noyce (of Dead Calm and The Saint) depicting the true story of three girls journeying across the Australian Outback back to their home and their mother. The girls are journeying back because they have been forcibly removed by the government, a government who believes that mixed race people, half-aborigine half-white in this case, are members of an unwanted race, nature gone wrong. Such children were removed from their families and trained to be domestic servants -- until 1970. The movie is a bit too subtle for young children and maybe too complex of a topic for them to understand. But for my teenage daughter, it was perfect.
The next movie night was Baby Mama. The following week was my pick, a classic that I adore, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. For both of these flicks, we all laughed out loud through the comedy and antics of the SNL alums.
Aside from the selection of movie itself, our family has benefited so much since starting Friday Night Pizza and a Movie Night. Having a fixed time in the week set aside for family gives us a place to reconnect. Even more important, it's much better than a night out for so many reasons.
- It has a minimal cost, just the price of renting a movie, about $10 tops for a couple frozen pizzas ($15 is we order out, pick it up and use a coupon), and a few more bucks for the sodas bought in bulk and a salad made from scratch. I guess that the top price tag for the whole evening has never been more than $30 and sometimes that includes milkshakes and dessert.
- The night can go on into bedtime without the crankiness of still being out. If someone gets sleepy, they can just snuggle up on the couch with a warm afghan. The worst thing that happens is they doze off and watch the rest of the movie later in the weekend.
- Above all, the best advantage to being at home rather than being out is that we don't have the distraction of being in a crowd, having to interact with strangers, and interacting with the rest of the world. We get enough of all that during the week. By staying at home we get to focus on each other and enjoy each other's company.