Our oldest turns 4 next weekend.
The time has come for the obligatory rite of passage out of toddler-dom: the Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.
We talked about alternative party options. To date, we’ve always hosted something at the house. Since her birthday falls around spring break, we even thought about a family trip to the beach. But she kept finding her way back to Chuck E. Cheese.
I have to point the finger at dad for this one. What started as a well-intentioned daddy/daughter play date months ago ended as an obsession with returning to the cheesy mouse-king’s electric palace. A small plastic sack of brassy tokens sits on a catch-all table in the corner of our kitchen. Every time she sees it, she reminds us that we have to go back and use all of the tokens “soooooooon!!!”
My husband explained that she loved all the different games on her initial visit, but that she technically didn’t play with any of them. She thought all the fun was in putting a token into the coin slot. Never mind the actual game that followed. She was off to waste another token in another coin slot!
There’s even a photo taped on her bedroom wall from the Chuck E. Cheese car that takes your picture. It features her in motion, getting off of the car to move on to something else. And in the background is the figure of my husband running after the small figure of her baby brother. Scenarios such as this, plus a handful of “girls-only” invitees, foretell the inevitably eventful Saturday morning of our daughter’s upcoming birthday party.
I don’t think I ever had a Chuck E. Cheese party, but I know my two youngest siblings did. I was old enough to remember well the preschool squealing, laughing, adult not-quite-yelling-but-darn-close, and the inevitable tears during the ticket redemption process.
Do any of you ’80s babies remember Discovery Zone? I think I did have a birthday party there. I remember it being less about the arcade stuff and more about jumping and climbing and destroying and dog-piling. That was more my speed as a kid. I’m sure it resulted in just as much commotion for the parents, and probably a higher likelihood of concussions. Is that why it isn’t around anymore?
Since mentioning to more seasoned parents that we are doing the Chuck E. Cheese party, we’ve gotten some useful advice. My favorite: tell them that the tickets are the prize. This mom had her kids convinced for years that the goal of Chuck E. Cheese was to walk home with as many paper tickets as possible. What nerve-protecting ingenuity on her part! Unfortunately, our daughter is already aware of the prize shelf. I’m interested in making this a very early lesson in budgeting and spending within means.
Any advice from your own experiences with the Chuck? Should I expect one of these kids to start crying in terror when the robots come out and do their show? Wish us luck – our baby is growing up too fast.
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent contractor. Contact her at email@example.com.