La La How The Life Goes On

F$%@ E. Cheese

Posted on: March 21, 2011

So we spent two hours at a birthday party today for one of Bambina’s friends.  Sweet girl, lovely parents, stern Popos (Chinese grandmas).  Love them.  But why on God’s green earth did they have to pick Chuck E. Cheese for the party?!  I know; because some decisions have nothing to do with me and my tastes. Got it, as ludicrous and grossly unfair as that is.

Most times the parents just drop their kids off at the parties and come back at pick-up time, so I planned to do the same. But for some reason, none of the parents (except for one dad) were leaving.  So I asked what gives.  Almost simultaneously they all said that the place was too crazy to leave your kid alone.  And finally my distaste for this joint completely clicked.  Chuck E. Cheese is Abduction Central, y’all.  As you know I’m not a major freak about this kind of stuff (read my Target post from last month).  I think my kid is going to be okay in almost every instance.  But let us examine the beast that is a CEC party.

1. When you enter CEC, they dude at the door gives you a handstamp sight unseen. No request to show an invite, no ID check, nothing. Upon exiting, the dude at the door checks your hand for a stamp and then says, “Bye!”  End of story.

2.  There are 10 long tables, each full of kids attending a party.  So you have TEN parties going on simultaneously.

3.  The games and attractions are therefore JAMMED with wall-to-wall kids running, yelling and in most cases having a great time.

4. At the appropriate time, “Chuck’s” voice calls all the kids back to their tables for “the show” which features giant animatronic vermin lip-syncing to something terrible written by a Raffi wannabe.

5.  After the show the kids eat an Ellio’s or Mama Celeste pizza, after-after which they go back to jamming the games and attractions so they can “win” one silly band for 40 tickets.

Here are my concerns:

1.  The mystery handstamp.  The CEC website says it is their “Kid Check area where parents or guardians will have their hand stamped with a number that matches their child’s. This is our special way we try to assist you in helping that everyone who comes together leaves together. (This program is not a substitute for adult supervision.)” I call bullshit, because I walked in with Bambina early and OUT with Baby Sister, and BabyDaddy did the same thing, vice-versa (came late with Baby Sister and walked out with Bambina).  “Have a nice night with that little girl you’re abducting, sir!”

2.  The ten tables.  Hello, birthday factory!  I mean, even at the gymnastics parties, the gyms make the pretense that the kids in the gym are not about to be sitting right where you are in the cake room as soon as you all head out to where they are.  At CEC, there is no shame whatsoever in heralding that your kid is not that special. Again, I’m not buying Bambina a pony for her birthday, but I do want her to feel like it’s HER special day and not that she’s hogging a table for the next kid whose party is in an hour.  And don’t get me started on the communal happy birthday song for all 1200 people in the facility.

3.  Unbelievably, I have no issue with the kiddie chaos. If you book a party at CEC, you probably like and expect that.  Even Bambina was having a great time.  But…well, okay, I guess I DO have an issue with the chaos.  Here’s my beef: please understand that if I drop my child off at your child’s party, I hold YOU responsible for her safety.  Right?  If your kid comes to my house and goes missing, well I’m a shitty hostess, right?  I need my membership revoked, right?  So please tell me how you are ensuring my kid does not go missing or get molested in the bathroom at a CEC party, where you cannot even keep track of your own kid, much less 20 others in the crowd of hundreds.  What is your plan for handing my kid back to me in the same condition I left her if you are essentially sending them into a crowd of hundreds of strangers (most of whom, forgive me for saying, seem weird)?  Yes, I know Bambina knows all the rules about strangers and whatnot, but I don’t as a rule send her into the stands at Fenway alone for two hours.  Nor do I have her go to the Stop and Shop without an adult present and actively engaged.  She’s not a dummy, but she IS six.  I’d like to know someone knows where she is (and “over there somewhere I guess” is not the answer I’m hoping for).

4.  Not a kid at this party found this “show” to be anything but creepy, and worse (for them) disruptive to their gaming and talking fun.  Make the bad puppets stop!

5.  I think my “Mama Celeste” pizza says everything that needs to be said about the culinary aspect of this birthday mill.  I”ll leave it at that, except to tell you I feel bad that you spent $19.99 per kid on it. I want to say that the BabyDaddy and I catered our wedding for less than that, and no one (who didn’t want to be) was touched inappropriately in the bathrooms.

So no disrespect to this family. Their daughter loved it and that’s concern #1 for them, as it should be. But, as even the Chuck E. website says,  there is no “substitute for adult supervision,” and anyone who has even two kids knows that there is no such thing as “supervision” with one adult and twenty kids in a sea of hundreds of strangers.  It’s bedlam, it’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s so incredibly not fun to go, but from here on out I’m staying put at Chuck E’s.  You never know; I might play a few games,  might even have some pizza (Abbondanza!), and BELIEVE that I’m winning that silly band.

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1 Response to "F$%@ E. Cheese"

I knew I would love this post based on the title. We’ve done two CEC parties for our February girl, it’s helacious.

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