When you mention Chuck E. Cheese to many parents, you get a groan and that look that says "DON'T SAY IT TOO LOUD! IF MY KIDS HEAR, I'LL HAVE TO GO THERE!" Yes, it is loud. Yes, there are lots of children around, and if you're like me and aren't terribly wild about other people's progeny, then, well, that can be an issue. Yes, there is an unfortunate teenager in a mouse costume walking around awkwardly. Yes, the food is not exactly gourmet. However. There is one absolutely wonderful thing about Chuck E. Cheese, something that cannot be contained on any menu, something that one would never understand unless they have verbal, inquisitive, wonderful little beings that they love and adore and want nothing more than to please and love and coddle.
And that thing is that if you go there, you can pry your adored little beings with tokens and pizza and you can eat your meal without having to answer why dinosaurs are not in the Bible. Or why Napoleon went into Russia that time. Or why Madison didn't invite you to a sleepover, even though technically it wasn't a sleepover because only one person ended up sleeping over. And, for that matter, why your mother won't let you stay at Madison's house because her parents let her watch Jersey Shore. And, while we're on the subject, what a "Snooki" is.
Every time my mother comes into town, we pick the kids up from school and take them to Chuck E. Cheese. I should note that it is an hour and a half away. But we drive, joyously. And we get there and we sit at the table and eat pizza (which is not nearly as bad as what you might think) and we talk. The kids run around and play games and talk to other kids and we talk. There are unlimited refills of Coke Zero and Diet Lemonade and we take advantage. And it is so, so nice. I mean, sure, I check on the kids every now and then. But if your kid has basic social skills and the knowledge of common courtesy, there are not many shenanigans they can get into in a Chuck E. Cheese. After all, the Chuck E. Cheese employees are guarding the door with this light and stamp thingie that makes sure that no one gets kidnapped or otherwise endangered. Chuck E. Cheese may be the place where a kid can be a kid, but it is also the place where a parent can gain some sanity. And you have to love it for that. Plus, there is Skee Ball. Show me someone who doesn't like playing Skee Ball, and I'll show you someone whose heart is two times too small.
I do have one beef with Chuck E. Cheese, and I'm just going to get it off my chest. Chuck E. Cheese knows that I do this--that I come into their establishment, tired and harried and that I just want to sit there and talk to whomever is with me and have my kids spend $20 to get a pair of stick on earrings and a rubber spider. They know that I am a mom, and because I am a mom, I like vegetables. Therefore, they sit this lovely salad bar in front of me, dangling it like a prize. But! That thing is like $6! For reals! For one trip, ya'll! And yes, I have $6 that I could spend on salad. But I'm also buying pizza and tokens and buffalo wings. And most likely, I have a coupon that enables me to get all this stuff for one, low price. But more importantly, it is the principal of the thing. I firmly believe that Chuck E. Cheese hikes up the price of the salad just to stick it us moms and that makes me very irrationally mad. So I absolutely refuse to buy a salad at Chuck E. Cheese. Not even if I win the lottery or write the Great American Novel or divorce my husband to marry a venture capitalist. I have now been bitching about the price of salad at Chuck E. Cheese for almost 9 years--I don't think it is physically possible for me to purchase the salad at this point. I will extoll the virtue of Chuck E. to any and all, but I will not buy your salad, Mr. Cheese. Take your $6 salad and suck it.
(When I was a freshman in college, I worked in the library. There were Starbucks everywhere on our campus, even at that long ago time. There was one right outside the door of the library, and it was pretty much a given that if you were going to the library, you were going to stop at that Starbucks and get a drink. Another student employee of the library set up a coffee pot in our breakroom and made a big sign that said "When the Revolution comes, Starbucks will close!" And he brought some of the nastiest coffee you've ever tasted for any and all to share. To this day, I believe that it was made out of pencil shavings, pocket lint, and marijuana detritus. Anyway, his name was James, and my husband says that I am "the James of the Chuck E. Cheese salad world." And I wear that label with pride.)
Anyway, though, if you are asked or forced or begged to take your child to Chuck E. Cheese, accept the invitation with pride. Go and sit and enjoy yourself--hell, bring a book (Matt and I have studied Biological Anthropology in a Chuck E. Cheese before--not kidding, but this takes a superhuman ability to tune crap out, one that can only be honed if you have a child very young and are very dedicated to your craft) or at least someone who you don't mind talking to for a couple of hours. Just go with the flow. Enjoy it. Just don't buy a salad.
When the Revolution comes, a salad for mom will be included in the combo.