Go ahead, do a quick search and you'll be amazed at what Chuck E. brings out in parents. What it is about this place? Do you go to parties there? Do you ever feel violent urges "where a kid can be a kid?" What about other necessary evils of the party circuit - indoor playgrounds, Monster Mini Golf, Monkey Joe's, and the like? This week, the parents yap about the birthday party circuit and the behavior of parents.
I am proud to say I have never set foot in a Chuck E. Cheese, and hopefully, I never will. If it is anything like the horrors I have experienced at The Kids Playground (now closed) or the dreaded Monkey Joe’s, I can see how a few hours of wholesome fun can make a person want to punch someone. I am not really a violent person and I have never been involved in or even witnessed any acts of parental rage in any of these party places, usually I just want to get out as fast as I can. Of course I can’t get out, because there is no way I would leave my kids in any of these places. I know that the party host would try to look out for all the kids, but most of the time, that just isn’t possible.
The first time I visited the Kids Playground, I was about a week away from my due date with my third child, so my girls were four and almost two. I went with a friend and her two young daughters on a slushy winter day when we were desperate to get the kids out of the house for a few hours so they could run around for a while.
The room was dominated by a huge, floor to-ceiling habitrail-like maze of tubes, ramps, tunnels, slides, and even a ball pit. Sounds awesome, if you’re a kid, but all I could think was that one of my kids is going to get up into those tunnels and won’t be able to find her way out of the maze. If I tried to go after her with my ginormous pregnant belly, they would have needed the Jaws of Life to get me out and we would have all been on the news. My friend also pointed out that there were bathrooms and an exit behind the two-story structure — completely out of view from the rest of the room. Not very comforting. I convinced the girls to stay on the lower levels and they played in the ball pit for a while … until I watched a coughing toddler spit a mouthful of chewed up goldfish crackers into the pit. Yuck. On to the dress-up area AKA the LiceFest. Double yuck.
As gross as this all was, it doesn’t compare to the loud, semi-dangerous, feet-smelling lunacy that is Monkey Joe’s. Now, I have been to Jump on In and other bouncy-house type party venues, and I like them just fine. Kids can jump and bounce and slide and play in a well-monitored area that holds one party at a time. Fine. Monkey Joe’s has all the bouncy/slidey stuff of ten Jump on Ins with no walls, no rules, hundreds of kids and no supervision. Add in blasting music, big kids running over little kids, no way to keep track of where your kid is, and a giant purple monkey walking around making everyone a little uncomfortable, and I want to run for the door. I might welcome fighting parents if it got me out of there a little sooner … kidding.
I love the idea of an indoor playground where kids can get their ya-yas out and parents can feel like everyone will have fun and the odds of concussion, infection, infestation, or abduction are all relatively small. There must be a way to accomplish this, but for now, I am glad my kids have mostly outgrown these places. I think my Chuck. E. Cheese record is safe. Phew!
Tasha Schlake Festel
Not all birthday parties are created equal. I've been to some kids' parties and had a nice time, but I've been to others that made me so miserable that folding laundry would have been more enjoyable. The venue of the party is not always the cause of my enjoyment or misery. I've been to parties in private homes that were lovely and some that were painfully dull. I've also been to parties at "party places" like Chuck E. Cheese that were torturous and some that were fun. As with any party, it all depends on the crowd.
I'd like to think I've behaved appropriately at the kid birthday parties that I've both thrown and attended. I hope I've used my manners and and did as I was told. I hope I've talked to the other guests, but not monopolized or stolen the show. I hope I've been a good example to the children in attendance. I've certainly never gone to fisticuffs. Well, not since that field hockey game when I was a senior in high school. OK, fine... Those two games. But I digress.
I've seen parents behave and I've seen them misbehave. In fact, I've seen more parents misbehave than children. Embarrassing, really. While I've never witnessed an actual throw-down, I can see how it would happen with just the right mix of personalities and classlessness. The poor behavior I see from parents is usually more along the lines of total rudeness. They talk and talk and talk over the facilitator of the party, making it difficult for the kids to pay attention. While I am not above blame here, I am trying to be more aware of my own behavior when it comes to this.
Luckily as my kids age, I'm able to drop them off more often than not. If it's a good friend that's throwing the party, I might stick around, or if my child is nervous for some reason, I'll grab a seat. Otherwise, it's SEE YA LATER! Time to myself!
As far as throwing a party for my kids, I have an unwritten rule that the venue must be somewhere that I don't hate with all of my adult being. That means no Monkey Joes, no Monster Mini Golf, no Jump On In, and hell no to Chuck E. Cheese. I have rented space at the Americal Civic Center and had a great "reptile show" party. I've also gone to Kidcasso and Defensive Edge. Both of those Wakefield businesses do a phenomenal job with parties.
Thankfully, we're reaching the end of the "big birthday bash" portion of childhood. My son will still get another year or two, but my daughter is in 3rd grade, and it's getting too hard to draw the line at who gets invited and who gets left out. She may have finally reached that stage of choosing two or three friends and do something a little more private and special.
And that will not be watching her mother kick some Chuck E. Cheese arse.
According to a commercial on PBS, Chuck E. Cheese is a place where a “Kid Can Be a Kid!” and that involves healthy things like dancing and sports and lots of fresh air, outside. Though I’d happily call “BS!” on this one, I have never been to one of these fine establishments to be able to disprove their claims of health benefits.
My kids have been to Chuck E. Cheese a couple of times, but it was for birthday parties, and my husband selflessly agreed to take them. Thank you, honey!
When I’ve heard other people describe Chuck E. Cheese in cautionary tale after cautionary tale, the only saving grace I could find was the fact that alcohol is served there. What better way to dull the pain of bunches of other people’s screaming, bratty children than a little drinkie-poo or two?
The real down side, of course, is that alcohol is served there. It’s bad enough to go to other indoor places meant for children’s entertainment and to contend with the scores of parents on their phones, Kindles and iPads ignoring their little darlings, but add alcohol to the mix and it just begs for trouble. In the case of the article cited, that kind of trouble can include crazy bee-otches brandishing cap guns, or some such foolishness.
Not that I am claiming to be above such shenanigans, but for the moment, I don’t pack heat, and the sheer number of kids in my posse makes the dream of idly perusing Facebook while they run around Chuck E. Cheese a true impossibility. No. Thank.You. I can ignore my kids while they play Wii and drink at home for free, without all the pesky negative stuff!