Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about his life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!
Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.
In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.
It wasn't all routine at this point. Sometimes we changed which pizza place we called, and sometimes we threw in a dessert. (For the record, we're not a big dessert family, which is why the kids' dentist loved us.)
Mark at one point declared movie night his favorite thing about us being a family. I'm not sure what that says about the other 164 hours in the week, but it was nice to know that at least I scored with this idea.
Over the years, new variations came along. At some point, we started rotating the movie and cartoon selection, so that each of us took turns making that week's picks. At an even later point—probably when I realized that the kids weren't going to want to watch anything I picked for them—I dropped out of the rotation, and the kids took turns making picks on alternate weeks.
The menu varied up as well. We first added make-your-own tacos on alternating weeks with the pizza—my least favorite, because it involved the most prep and cooking. Later, we added a third option called "freezer food," which basically involved mini pizzas, mini hot dogs, mozzarella sticks, pierogis—all that healthy stuff. Which I loved, because I could basically just spill everything out onto a cookie sheet and pop it in the oven. Because I am lazy, I'm pretty sure we alternated pizza – tacos – pizza – freezer food – pizza, etc. This meant I could double up on the nights where my only jobs involved pulling out paper plates, paying the delivery person, and helping myself to Mark's discarded pepperoni.
As you might imagine, we watched a lot—a lot—of dumb kid movies over the years. I think Jackie Chan is a hoot, but boy, has he made some terrible movies. Because my kids are cool, we also watched a whole bunch of musicals. We also watched The Queen, as well as a fair share of stuff that was either funny or charming or quirky or some combination of the above.
Unfortunately, my kids decided they needed to grow up right around the time I decided single Dad should have a social life. So movie nights became pretty rare occasions around here. Somehow it always seemed to be Mark's pick, and aside from the occasional Pitch Perfect, we spent most of the time watching things blow up. Cartoons went by the wayside a while back. After exposing (or inflicting, depending on your point of view) so many of my childhood Saturday morning favorites on them—everything from H.R. Pufnstuf to The Bugaloos—about the only thing we could agree on was Scooby-Doo. For all of its inherent grooviness, Scooby-Doo loses some of its appeal when you've seen every episode so many times that you remember who the ghost is before the opening song is over.
Plus, when Daveon's no-gluten/no-dairy/no-anything-that-vaguely-resembled-anything-Dad-didn't-need-to-cook diet restrictions kicked in, pizza and freezer foods were off the menu. Oh well, there were always tacos . . .