When we were young free and single, a movie night meant going out, buying popcorn & nachos & candy and being able to stay up to watch the late showing. We’ watch the movie,  uninterrupted from beginning to end. Not a single question would be asked, not a single quarrel would break out, and there was nobody to take on an epic trip to the washroom at the crucial point in the plot.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and we’d need a personal loan, a Sherpa, and a professional mediator to visit the movies – that is if we could get everyone to agree to one film and one show time. Add to this two sons with autism, one of whom cannot stand loud sounds and bright lights, one son with cerebral palsy, one son and one daughter with ADHD and the total impossibility of attending the cinema without the world and their mother complaining about us and you can understand why movie night was a thing of the past.

Gabe with headphones to block out some of the noise.
Gabe with headphones to block out some of the noise.

The thing about having a home where the majority of family members have multiple disabilities that make going out almost impossible is that you become very creative when it comes to having fun. So although the traditional movie night is a thing of the past, we have created our own 21st Century family movie night – and it rocks – even if I do say so myself.

Our movie night happens whenever works for us, we’re not bound by the cinema’s schedule or what is showing locally. We frequently have our family movie ‘night’ on a Sunday afternoon, early enough for everyone to stay awake and to have time to run off all of the pent-up energy afterward.

I’d love to say that family movie night enables us to have homemade, organic, and locally sourced snacks with freshly squeezed juices, water, or vegetable smoothies. All to ensure we fuel our children with the cleanest, freshest, healthiest foods. I want to say that because that is what we are supposed to aspire to. But when you have a nine-year-old in diapers who still needs spoon feeding at most meals and a dozen therapies every single day, you celebrate getting any food prepared. Our kids are lucky they don’t get peanut butter on playing cards for dinner. Seriously.

So we shamelessly enjoy family movie night with popcorn fresh from our popcorn maker, a couple of family size bags of candy (although ‘family size’ is obviously for a smaller family than ours!) some nachos and jars of dip and, if we’re feeling adventurous and have planned waa-AAAA ay ahead, some snacks themed to the movie.

We don't all fit on the sofa to watch together!

Large cushions on the floor ensure the two littlest ones get a comfy veg out spot. Jim gets his reclining chair which isn’t really big enough anymore – with him having grown to 6 foot 8 inches tall!- but it beats the tiny cinema chair. Josh gets an entire sofa to himself & J, and I get to curl up together on the other couch.

Pajama pants, baggy shorts, and tee-shirts are the attire of choice at a Barnes family movie night supplemented the occasional small child with autism whipping all of his clothes off – not something you can do at your local movie theatre! Well, I suppose you could, but it would probably raise more than a few eyebrows, and we’d likely be asked to leave before the finale of the movie!!

So, that’s all of the easy stuff; the hardest thing is finding something we all want to watch (or can, at least, sit through to the end if we don’t really want to watch it! In our household, we have two adults who like; chick flicks, thrillers, crime movies & documentaries. One son who loves sports & graphic novel themed viewing, one who likes military films and the supernatural, a daughter who likes dragons, anything girly & family guy and a little fella who enjoys watching anything fast paced, especially if it involves transportation, machinery or explosions (include all of the last three & you’ve got yourself a hit!) So how do we choose something to watch together?

Choosing what to watch is a lesson in diplomacy, empathy, and consideration. We sit and discuss several things:

  • What kind of movie did we watch last time?
  • Who was happy with the choice? Who was disappointed?
  • How important is it that you watch what you want to watch?
  • Can everyone watch this movie?

Luckily, with Netflix, we have so much choice we always manage to find something to satisfy the majority. Our friends say Fuller House is the one to watch & we’re looking forward to it, despite the fact we didn’t live in Canada when ‘Full House’ was on and have absolutely no idea why everyone is so excited about it!