Thursday, February 12, 2015

First Chuck E. Cheese's, then the world

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but my 3-year-old daughter Kate said something to me as we were driving through town recently that scared me a bit.

“Hey, look mom! It’s Chuck E. Cheese’s!”

Now I have nothing against Chuck E. Cheese’s. I like pizza and skee ball as much as the next person. But it’s always crowded. It’s noisy. And kids are running all over the place. It’s just not the first (or second or third) place I’d choose to go for dinner and a night of entertainment.

So like our vow to never buy a mini-van, my husband and I decided that we’d avoid taking our kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s as long as we could.

Eventually, we figured it’d be inevitable. Someone would be invited to a birthday party there or we’d forget the pact we made and decide to take him there on a whim some weekend afternoon. After all, doling out a small fortune for enough tokens so your child can win a few tickets to exchange for an eraser shaped like a heart or a handful of stickers is kind of a parental right of passage.

But I wasn’t ready yet. So I did the only sensible thing I could think of at the moment. I lied.

“Oh, you don’t want to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s. That’s not a fun place for kids.”

Kate wasn’t deterred. “But Chuck E. Cheese’s has games inside.”

Hmmm. She knows more about Chuck E. Cheese’s than I thought. But where did she get this information? We certainly weren’t singing the praises of the mouse and his overpriced pizza. I had to get to the bottom of this.

“Who told you about Chuck E. Cheese’s? Was it one of your friends from day care? Did you see a commercial on TV?”

I guess my interrogation scared Kate a bit. From the rear-view mirror, I watched her simply shrug her shoulders and say, “Chuck E. Cheese’s is cool.”

Whether she learned about the pizza and games from talking with one of her friends or it was some sort of wacky subliminal advertising doesn’t really matter. The point is, it was a great reminder that my husband and I can’t shelter Kate from the evils of the world – whether they’re as harmless as a noisy kids restaurant or as serious as the crime reported on the evening news. Sooner or later, she’s going to learn some things on her own. That means, it’s our job to make sure Kate has a good enough head on her shoulders to be able to separate the good from the bad.

What category she decides Chuck E. Cheese’s ultimately falls into, however, is to be determined.

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