updated 20 Jul 2013, 15:58
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Mon, Mar 18, 2013
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Escape from the Kingdom of Children
by Clara Chow

If you're single or kid-free, and you watch movies every weekend, then this column would be absolutely boring for you.

If, however, you are married with toddlers, then you'll understand when I say that catching a film in a place that is not your home is one of those rare luxuries that we occasionally, foolhardily, try to taste.

Nobody warned me about this visual-cum-entertainment deprivation before I popped one out.

Now, from zero films a year when our elder son was born in 2006 (we made do with DVDs which took six sittings to complete viewing, interrupted by milk feeds), the Supportive Spouse and I have managed to work our way up to about six cinema visits annually.

These film dates often have to be choreographed just right - and way in advance. After all, they require a commitment of at least two hours in air-conditioned darkness and being relatively incommunicado (who wants to miss crucial plot points when one's phone vibrates and one has to leave the hall to hear the seven-year-old whine about something the three-year-old did?), best experienced without the constant fear that the tykes would have burned down the apartment by the time the credits roll.

Recently, after about two months of living refugee-style, shuttling between our parents' homes with our entourage, the SS and I finally had some time to attend the Art-In-Film Festival At Dusk, art films on Sentosa's Tanjong Beach.

For the inaugural event, we booked a day-bed seat for Never Sorry, a documentary on Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who made news both for his bird's nest-looking Beijing stadium and detainment in 2011 by the Chinese authorities.

Hours before the 10.30pm screening, I was curating the kids in a performance art of our own: herding them into the bathroom for showers; liasing with a pizza- delivery company for reception refreshments; lining up educational activities (to be administered by our domestic helper); and specifying mattress arrangements for wee folk who wanted to fight to sleep and wait up.

Meanwhile, I was also trying to get dressed by stealth - washing the workday grease out of my hair and pulling beach-appropriate outfits from boxes in our just-inhabited home.

But our three-year-old, Lucien, seems to have a built-in radar to detect when I'm about to go out and have fun.

When I checked in on the boys before leaving, he took one look at me in a black cotton dress and pink shawl and decided he wanted in on the party I was going to - never mind where or what it was.

"Can I go, please? Please, can I go?" ensued for the next 10 minutes, as he tugged on my hand and made for the stairs.

The SS sighed and rolled his eyes. "I don't know why you had to go into their room," he groused, sprawled on the sofa.

Two minutes later, he let out a panicked yelp: "The movie is at 10! See wrongly!"

The time on the clock: 9.35pm.

I threw up my hands and declared that I wasn't going any more.

Ah, but it was just a smoke bomb. I sidled out of the house while the little one was distracted by a cartoon, fired up the Mitsubishi engine and put the pedal to the metal.

We made it to the beach with minutes to spare, after I pulled off my best impersonation of a Daytona rally driver.

As we settled onto our day bed, with the sound of waves lapping at the shore and ferry lights winking in the distance, I looked at the stars overhead and felt the drama of my life fade away.

In the documentary, artist Ai champions freedom of expression in what he deems a dictatorship of his beloved motherland, gleefully giving the system the middle finger.

For a few hours, I, too, escaped house arrest in the Kingdom of Children that I created and chose.

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