Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Meet Chuck E. Cheese
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I love being a dad. The last 3+ years of my life have been fantastic and my series, I’m A Dad, is proof. That being said, there’s one thing about parenting that is not so awesome: kid’s birthday parties. D1 is a little more than 3 years old, so the concept of a friend is about as clear to her as why it’s not actually amusing to pick your nose and fart or why it’s not really necessary to shout, “APPA! I PEED!” and running to give me a high five when she exits the bathroom. Despite not understanding the concept of friendship, somehow she has actual friends, which means she gets actual invites to birthday parties, which means our Saturdays fill up faster than my love handles at a buffet.
Some people think that sex education, contraceptives, or teaching on abstinence are effective birth control methods; I disagree. When my daughters come of age, I’m taking them to a little kid’s birthday party. When their heads are about to explode and they begin to lose their hearing and/or minds, I’ll ask them, “Is THIS what you want your Saturdays to be like? No. Then keep ’em closed, got it?”
But not all kid’s birthday parties are created equal. There’s the type where there’s a pool in the backyard, the parents rented a moonbounce, they serve hors d’oeuvres (yes, I had to google that and copy+paste to get the right spelling), and have top-shelf liquor for the parents – trust me, you want something to take the edge off. These birthday parties are kind of like unicorns to me – mythical and though I’ve heard they exist, I’ve never seen one in person. Then there’s the type where the parents host it at their home, serve the kids pizza, and the parents sit around with a plastic red cup, which is sometimes filled with happy juice but most often, it’s just a soda or Juicy Juice. There are other types of parties too of course but this isn’t a discourse on how most parents spend their Saturdays; this is a discourse on that special type of parenting netherworld known as Chuck E. Cheese.
Just the mere mention and parents *shudder* kinda like the hyenas in The Lion King when they hear, “Mufasa!” Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Chuck E. Cheese in and of itself, after all, it’s like a kids Dave & Busters – just replace the alcohol with sugar. And when I was a kid, I longed to go to Chuck E. Cheese, but often settled for the local rip-off, with some whack character running around (though I guess a giant rat isn’t much better). But it’s when the place is overrun with what seems to be a legion of kids when there’s a problem. Here’s a visual for you:
Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you that they’ve been tempted on multiple occasions to do like Ahnold and scream, “SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!” But we don’t, because we’re responsible adults, so instead, we secretly head to the bathroom and bang our heads on a wall until we lose all feeling – sort of like a quick and dirty lobotomy.
Anytime you have a large gathering of kids, you’ll always have crying, lots of screaming, kids who can’t wait their turn and especially bad at Chuck E Cheese: kids who try and steal your tickets that are being dispensed as you’re playing a game!
Before I go on, let me just tell you that several coworkers have told me that when their kids were little, Chuck E. Cheese served cheap beer. Let that sink in for a minute. Cheap beer and decent pizza. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday if you ask me.
So when I get an evite in my inbox with a birthday party being held at Chuck E. Cheese, I end up going through the Five Stages of Grief:
Denial: It’s no big deal. It’s just Chuck E. Cheese. How bad can it be? Ok, let me open up this invite and….uhhhhh, there are 46 kids attending?….
Anger: Well, this is just perfect! Why’d I open up the evite? Now they’ll know that I’ve viewed the invitation. Dang it! Where’s my debilitating disease when I need it?! 46 kids?!?! Not even a Costco-sized bottle of Purell is going to suffice! (I’m not one for salty language, but this is where most parents would lace their comments/thoughts with [BLEEP]s and [BLEEPITY]s)
Bargaining: Ok…how close are we to these guys? Did we invite them to D1’s birthday party? Couldn’t we say we’re busy? Could we come late and leave early?
Depression: *uncontrollable sobbing*
Acceptance: You know, I’m cool with this. The pizza and wings aren’t that bad and D1 likes places like that. And besides, I can own the kids in the basketball shootout thing. MOVE OVER KID!
How about you? Do you lament the loss of your Saturdays? Do you enjoy Chuck E. Cheese? What is THE worst kid’s birthday party location in your opinion?