Yesterday my family celebrated my nephew’s third birthday at the place where birthdays are a business, Chuck E. Cheese. Because my nephew’s birthday is in the winter and there are very few options for locations to have a party other than my sister’s house, I agree that having the party at the “House of the Mouse” seemed like a great, low-stress idea. The party however though could not have been more chaotic. It’s completely driven by the staff at the restaurant and is extremely impersonal. There were four other birthday parties going on at the same time my nephew was having his, so that meant there was a group “Birthday Song” sing and Chuck himself stopped by only to dance a little bit and have his picture taken with the birthday boy, as well as every other birthday child there. My nephew didn’t even open his presents there because we had to vacate the area at a certain time to allow for another party. But I digress, that’s just a general rant about the place.
Now, I have to admit, from time to time I do like to take Aidyn to Chuck E. Cheese so that she can run around and play without me having to worry too much about her wandering off. We usually tend to go during the “off” hours, on weeknights and early on Saturdays as to avoid the larger crowds and birthday parties which I now have discovered has been an excellent plan. You see, yesterday’s experience there was crazy. Kids were running around being kids and I totally expect that. It is touted as the place where “a kid can be a kid” after all. What I did not expect was the rudeness that I encountered from the parents.
Why is it that this place, supposedly a fun place for children, bring out the worst in us adults? For example, my husband, daughter and I were waiting in line to have our portrait drawn at a booth where a camera takes a picture of the subjects and the screen shows a hand with a pencil sketching the photo. There were a couple of acquaintances in front of us getting their picture taken and we were next. There was no one behind us. As we were waiting, a woman with her son came over and stood on the other side of the machine. She looked over at my husband and me and said “Are you in line?” When we said yes, for whatever reason, she huffed loudly and then came around to stand behind us, like us being there in line was inconveniencing her. Apparently the photo process was taking too long for her because she stood there impatiently tapping her foot, as if that would make us speed up, arms crossed and still huffing. Finally she walked away, dragging her child with her. We didn’t take any longer to get our picture done than any of those before us and did nothing to that woman to make her so frustrated. I understand that she was probably stressed out, her kid wanted their picture taken, and it was taking longer than expected for their turn but really, what did that little interaction tell that child, and my child for that matter? That if you don’t get your way right away you stomp off and drag anyone with you that you can? Maybe it shows that losing patience because you have to wait is the answer.
Another instance of rudeness, most likely bred from frustration, was at the counter where we were waiting in line to cash Aidyn’s tickets for prizes. Aidyn and my nephew were not so patiently waiting their turn to look in the cases at the prizes but my husband and I were doing our best to keep them contained. When space opened up to the left of us, the couple in front of us with their children moved into that space, freeing up space on the right. We moved forward, allowing the kids to look in the case and decide on which prizes they wanted for their tickets. Now, at the same time, both employees who were working behind the counter had disappeared into the back and because they had been standing there for some time, the couple to our left were visibly frustrated. When one employee returned, the male in the couple asked the employee a question, which the employee answered as he picked up his calculator. After answering, the employee began to head our way, telling the man, “Just one minute please.” When he asked us what we would like, the man to our left shouted and pointed his finger up into the face of the employee and said “We were here first!.” At the same time we pointed over at the couple and said “They were first.” It was not that employee’s fault they did not know who was next, although he probably could have asked. But did he deserve to be degraded like that, with someone’s finger in their face? No. A simple “Excuse me, but we were next” or even letting it slide would have been appropriate in front of the children.
I do not claim to be a saint but when I have my child with me I try to set an example of how to behave in public. I can understand that going to a place like Chuck E. Cheese makes adults frustrated and causes tempers to flare and rudeness abound, but being adults we need to realize that we are adults. Just because we are in a place geared toward children does not mean we act like children and throw tantrums and pout when we don’t get our way. And with so many little eyes and ears watching and listening (and children are extremely observant) it is everyone’s responsibility to be on their best behavior.
Although I was appalled at the rudeness that I experienced, it really wasn’t that terrible. For the most part people were kind and were just looking out for the best interest of their children. It could have been much worse. I leave you with this video a friend sent to me just the other day. At least when I was at the party no one threw punches.