Home > Parenting > Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Meet Chuck E. Cheese

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?

  1. KLZ
    March 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Kindergarten Cop! Oh man, I think I may need to rent that now.

    But seriously, kids birthday parties give me a massive headache. And Alex is ONE. I can’t imagine how bad it gets – but your 5 stages sound spot on.

  2. March 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I’m REALLY hoping my own hatred of the truly loud & hectic rubs off on my kids. “Why, CJ, do you want to go to that party? It will be too loud to talk to Suzy.” (my son’s first crush is always Suzy in my mind . . . I worry about my over-active imagination). And apparently the current craze is bumper-houses, which the paranoid parent in me will constantly be worried…so much so that I wouldn’t even consider drinking if I were there.

    I’ve hosted a single birthday and two baptisms thus far (though neither counted, as the guests of honor have barely been cognizant of the fact that there are other young people around), and have always had enough wine & beer to share…I know the hosting of birthday parties is an absolute necessity, but I really hope that I’m always in the “parents want to head to the party” group, even if the kids always think that the party blows.

    • Pop
      March 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      Bumper-houses? I just did a google search and it turned up nothing that seems to be what you are talking about, but I am scared.

      “but I really hope that I’m always in the “parents want to head to the party” group, even if the kids always think that the party blows.”

      You’re a good man, John.

      • March 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm

        Bumper houses (they’re probably called something else entirely and this is the name that I’ve given them) are, essentially, areas where they have entire cities made out of blow-up castles – imagine a Chuck-E-Cheez where, instead of video games and cheap items to be won, you have kids on the world’s biggest Moon Walk. These scare me to no end. (http://www.houseofbounceparties.com is the first I found via Google)

  3. March 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Oooh. ::shudder::

    We had my stepdaughter’s 5th birthday at the Chuckster’s. It wasn’t too horrible…well, until we all got a horrible Norovirus the following afternoon. Worst. Stomach. Bug. Ever. Incapacitated for 2 1/2 days.

    I now have a Pavlovian pang of queasiness at the very thought of Chuck E. Cheese.

    Thankfully? We’re cheap & anti-social, so the “big” birthday parties are limited to “big” birthdays…and unless I can actually identify by sight the kid who the party is for? We don’t go.

    I’m such a mean, fun-killing mommy. Plus? I can’t drink. So there’s that too.

    • Pop
      March 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      “unless I can actually identify by sight the kid who the party is for? We don’t go.”

      That’s actually a pretty good system.

      You’re not mean and fun-killing; you’re protecting your kids from terrible diarrhea. Also? Now I’m deathly afraid of what may happen to my stomach (and toilet) come tonight or tomorrow.

      • March 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm

        Well, of the like 20 people in our party who were there? Only my husband, son, & I got sick. But dear lord, it was awful. So your odds are decent that you’ll be just fine…as long as you aren’t the one who footed the bill.

        • Pop
          March 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm

          Uh oh. We didn’t pay a penny. Send toilet paper.

  4. March 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    POP- I LOVE this post! All so funny and true–love the 5 stages of grief, the negotiating with yourself “how close are we with these people” etc. Spot on hilarious.

    I hate bday parties. Can you tell?

    • Pop
      March 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      Negotiating with myself is a lot easier than negotiating with my wife.

  5. March 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I fear birthday parties. My daughter’s 1st birthday was this past Saturday and we skipped the party and took her to the zoo. On the way home my husband decided we aren’t going to throw birthday parties we are going to do daytrips or weekend getaways as a family to celebrate birthdays. He’s never had a better idea. Although we still haven’t worked out how to avoid the parties of friends… maybe we’ll teach her to be a loner.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      For D2’s second birthday party, we took her to Disney Princess on Ice and she loved it. Though we still had to deal with an even greater horde of kids.

  6. liz
    March 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I don’t think you want to hear this BUT I have NEVER had to take my kids to a Chuck E Cheese party!


    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      You’re very fortunate, Liz.

  7. March 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Strangely I like Chuck-E-Cheese.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      You must pregame. 😛

  8. March 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Oh that is hilarious! We have yet to be subjected to Chuck E Cheese, but it is ridiculous how many parties we have to go to and they aren’t even really in school yet. Sigh….

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Seriously. I figure most if not all of my Saturdays will be filled with birthday parties in the future. Not to mention the requisite birthday gift purchases.

  9. March 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    One of the great things about my kids getting older (13 and 10) is that Mr. E Cheese is now a distant memory for me.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      I’m looking forward to that day, Big Daddy.

  10. March 8, 2011 at 7:09 am

    OK, so Sunday I went to a birthday party for my 5 yr old’s kindy classmate. At a jump around place. Almost all of the parents dropped off. I was SO jealous. I wouldn’t have done it at Chuck E Germ, but this place was totally secure. I clearly won in the end, though, as I was the “fun” mom jumping around the bouncy shit and getting beaned by kids.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      Jump around places are fun. Though I’m not sure if alcohol would be a good idea.

      • March 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        Surely, you jest – I mean, when has alcohol ever not been a good idea?

        • Pop
          March 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

          *loudspeaker clicks on* Clean up in bounce area 2. Clean up in bounce area 2. We have a dad that threw up everywhere.

  11. TK
    March 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Chuck E. Cheese is a rite of parenthood that we must all pass through. Some will enjoy it and some will bang their heads on hard surfaces in a futile attempt to erase the haunting memory of it all.

    My kids are 7 and 5. I can count on one hand the number of parties we have let them attend. Yep we are birthday party misers. And proud of it.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      Rite of parenthood – that’s one way to look at it.

  12. liv
    March 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    HAHAHA oh right on there, brother. of course, i remember having such fun birthday parties there as a kid. but now, i just can’t stand it. i won’t let my kid have a party there as much as she thinks it would be a great idea…

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      Yeah, I went to one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese in 2nd grade and it was one of the happiest days of my life to that point. So I guess it’s worth it for the sake of the kids. I guess.

  13. March 9, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Yep. You’ve articulated the five stages pretty much perfectly. I feel a little lucky that my oldest has been there, done that with the Chuck-E-Cheese parties, and my youngest is scared to death of the giant mouse. I’m hoping that phase lasts for a while.

    And, just for the record, I serve happy juice for the adults at all my kids’ birthday parties. I figure it’s the least I can do.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      D1 used to be deathly afraid to, which was the saving grace. But this past party? She took a picture with the giant rat. I’m screwed.

  14. March 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Dude, in the next 4 weeks while my wife is recovering from a C Section, I get to go to a Princess Party. That trumps your Chuck E Cheese.

    • Pop
      March 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      Make sure you wear your prettiest tiara.

  15. March 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Pop :
    *loudspeaker clicks on* Clean up in bounce area 2. Clean up in bounce area 2. We have a dad that threw up everywhere.

    doesn’t @charliesheen call that winning?

  16. March 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Clearly you’ve discovered the one truly effective method of birth control.

    Well done.

    *polite applause*

    • Pop
      March 23, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Thank you, thank you. You’re too kind.

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