Riley is my movie buddy. He likes watching movies as much as I do, which is to say a lot more than Dylan or John does. (Well, to be accurate, Dylan and John both enjoy seeing movies, but it has to be a movie they actually want to see, as opposed to Riley and I who will pretty much happily watch any flaming piece of hot cinematic garbage Hollywood can come up with.) One of our local theaters has those reclining chairs and lets you pick out your seats ahead of time, plus reasonable matinee prices; the two of us have gone there so many times we have an entire routine that involves hitting up the candy-dispensing machine on the way in and mocking the Bitcoin kiosk on the way out (WHO BUYS CRYTPOCURRENCY FROM A WEIRD ATM IN AN MOSTLY-ABANDONED MALL).

My favorite part of our moviegoing ritual — aside from the crafty expression he gets when he asks if I’ve got room in my purse to sneak in a Diet Coke, and the way he steadfastly refuses to refer to this practice as smuggling — is how we watch the previews together. We sit quietly during each trailer, then as soon as the credits roll we wordlessly extend an arm and pass judgement Gladiator-style: thumbs up, or thumbs down.

We are usually in agreement, with the exception of horror films (I am pro, he is deeply con). If a movie has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s an automatic thumbs up no matter how terrible it looks. If there is action, it’s a thumbs up, unless it looks like the overly-complicated political/spy type of action. Sappy romances, boring-looking period pieces, and painful slapstick comedies generally get a thumbs down; movies where we can’t quite decide get a sideways thumb and dual shrugs. For any trailer that’s instantly compelling — there is a giant monster in the first scene, say, or Deadpool makes an appearance — we lean forward and whisper, “I’M IN.”

It’s such a simple, small thing, you know? Just this little routine we do when we go to the movies. But this is a tricky age, full of emotional minefields and rolled eyeballs and this feeling that a puzzle that once fit together easily is now full of mismatched pieces and I don’t know where I’m supposed to help (or how) and where I’m supposed to butt out.

We get to leave it all outside, when we sit together in that darkened theater, and all that matters right then is the experience we’re enjoying together. It’s hard to accurately say how much that means to me.


19 Responses to “Thumbs”

  1. Penne Heede on March 16th, 2018 12:23 pm


  2. Carolyn on March 16th, 2018 1:29 pm


  3. Sandy on March 16th, 2018 1:45 pm


  4. Jennifer on March 16th, 2018 2:32 pm

    so touching. connecting is so important. I can guarantee you this is what Riley will remember about his child hood.

  5. Gigi on March 16th, 2018 3:04 pm

    How old is he? Those tween years were the trickiest for me – and funnily enough, the early 20’s are kicking my butt. But you are connecting and making memories – and this is what he will remember when he looks back. He will remember the ritual and sitting in the theater with his mom.

  6. Jessica V. on March 16th, 2018 3:26 pm

    I LOVE this. I have an almost 13 year old and our relationship is riding the struggle-bus big time right now. He goes from surly and screen-obsessed to a hilarious chatterbox so quickly these days that I get whiplash from the change. Last night he was in tears because he’s struggling in school and his #teentude is biting him in the butt with his teachers (TURN IN YOUR WORK CHILD!) and then was fine 10 minutes later (whereas I was teary all night because it kills me to see him hurting – but I have to watch him fail sometimes). We can generally bond over our ridiculous pets, satirical television shows and our shared love of take out food, but man it is tough! I so love the ritual that you and Riley share – so fun!

  7. Stacy on March 16th, 2018 3:57 pm

    This is soooo sweet! That age is really tough so having that connection must be so nice for you. And I would think having it somewhere that he won’t really ever be embarrassed is nice, (as in, dark theater so even if he gets the point of not wanting his “mom” around, it’ll still be ok)

  8. Tracy on March 16th, 2018 8:38 pm

    Love this. What a great tradition to have with your youngest. ❤️ Treasure it and keep it going as long as you can. Mom & son things are hard to find as they get older….sounds like you’ve nailed it with Riley! 💕

  9. Pete Haidinyak on March 16th, 2018 9:11 pm

    How memories are made

  10. Donna Plumley Brubach on March 17th, 2018 6:41 am

    This? This is the best thing ever!

  11. Deb on March 17th, 2018 7:50 pm

    Oh, maybe I’ll try this with my 13 year old.

    Tonight, I literally grabbed him by the neck and ACTUALLY SOBBED, “I miss you so much, baby,” while my tears dampened his hair. I could feel him rolling his eyes, but he squeezed me back and that will have to do.


  12. Mary Clare on March 19th, 2018 9:52 am

    Awesome way to connect! Filing in my brain under, ‘keep plugging away at this stuff with my tween and hope it sticks through the tough years’

  13. Jenny on March 19th, 2018 12:00 pm

    Do you have MoviePass? We just got it and are enjoying the feeling of All the Movies We Want.

  14. Barbara on March 19th, 2018 4:34 pm

    Beautiful. You will both remember these times forever.

  15. Farrrell on March 23rd, 2018 8:54 pm

    I love this.

  16. Christine on March 30th, 2018 4:55 pm

    That’s so perfect. I’m happy for you both.

  17. Katie on April 1st, 2018 6:38 pm

    This is the good stuff. We do this same thing, a I love it. And we talk about the trailers after the movie we saw and try to remember which ones look good. My favorite is when a trailer for a movie my 10 or 14 year old have been WAITING for and they are just so excited!

  18. Amy on April 4th, 2018 9:51 am

    Oh you nailed with the tricky age/puzzle analogy. My daughter is 10 and while we are still close, I look at her or listen to her and think I can hear the velcro slowly coming unpeeled. They’re getting older, and while I don’t think she can see it or feel it necessarily, I sure as shit can.

  19. LonLon558 on April 20th, 2018 1:28 pm

    “But this is a tricky age, full of emotional minefields and rolled eyeballs and this feeling that a puzzle that once fit together easily is now full of mismatched pieces and I don’t know where I’m supposed to help (or how) and where I’m supposed to butt out.”

    My oldest son is juuuuuust getting to this age and it is so sad to me. I really hope we can have moments like this.

Leave a Reply