We are on semi-vacation this week, doing a lot of day trips and trips that involve being gone one night. We started this weekend by visiting my brother-in-law’s family in Maryland.
We had planned to leave relatively early Saturday morning. At some point in there, I found all this water on the kitchen floor, and assumed the toddler had spilled something. So I wiped it up. Then, when my husband was in the kitchen a few minutes later, he asked what all the water was. Again, I assumed it was residual spill, but we looked closer, and it turned out water was pouring out of the pipes under our sink, was warping the wood of the kitchen floors, and had already seeped through to the basement ceiling. Good times! We turned off the water and called a plumber, who could come see us early this week. We drove toward Maryland. Then, about half an hour down the road, the plumbing company called my husband’s cell and said they now had an opening and could come see us in about half an hour. So, we made a quick decision to stop in Wilmington, and put my husband in an Uber to go back to the house. I continued on by myself with the kids.
Destination: a Baltimore branch of Chuck E Cheese’s. When we were in the car I’d texted my in-laws to say we were on the way, and got back a response “Should we just meet at Chuck E Cheese?” Apparently my husband had had a conversation with them earlier about doing this. It’s probably a good thing no one told me because I have been avoiding that place for as long as possible in my parenting journey. Indeed, I had managed to convince my kids that there were no locations around us (not true; there are several). So now not only was I on my way, I would be sans partner (do I think my husband created the kitchen leak to get out of going to Chuck E Cheese? No. But that is an idea, now that I think about it).
The place was as chaotic and garish as I had imagined. The older three were OK, as long as we kept plying them with tokens (I charged the 9-year-old with finding his siblings to give them more tokens, as I could not keep track of them). The toddler went completely nuts. He would try to pull other people off their games, and he kept dashing off, and when I picked him up, he would kick and scream. On more than one occasion, he lay his little body face-down on that dirty carpet and kicked his arms and legs. Gross, gross, gross. Part of the anger was hunger. He refused to eat the pizza. I can’t say I really blame him.
Anyway, I lasted about an hour and a half before I loaded them all in the minivan with their candy prizes. The kids, of course, loved it. (Fun fact: my 4-year-old kept calling it “Chuck E Jesus”). Here’s hoping none of them figure out how to Google Chuck E Cheese franchise locations and notice there is one a mere 18 minutes from us, or I may be on the hook for three birthdays there in a row.
In other news: I’ve been pondering my negative reaction to Chuck E Cheese given that I kind of like boardwalk arcades. Maybe it was the absence of ocean breezes in that strip mall location?
In other other news: Photo taken about 90 minutes into the minivan trip home on Sunday. It should have taken less than 2 hours. It took 3.
20 thoughts on “Surviving Chuck E Cheese’s”
Ha. I have never been to a Chuck E. Cheese. Your post does not inspire me to want to visit one. Hope the plumbing problem got fixed!
I’ve also managed to avoid Chuck E Cheese the entirety of my adult life. This was the one saving grace of having kid 1 with major dairy allergy, and with kid 2 it seems to have gone out of fashion as a party place…
Ha! You brought back some memories of my son’s early childhood. We went to Chuck E Cheese a few times, and it wasn’t as bad as your experience (probably because I only had one kid to keep track of, and pizza was one of the few things he WOULD eat), but it was never my favorite spot to meet other moms.
When our kids were littler, sometimes my husband would take them there one at a time, and they seemed to enjoy that. My husband is pretty good at skeeball, so they always ended up with a lot of tickets, which is at least half the joy for small kids.
But I have NEVER been tempted to, say, have a birthday party there. 😉
Luckily, all of my kids are pretty much too old for Chuck E. Cheese now.
Chuck E. Jesus, indeed! I do think it’s the lack of fresh air and windowless environment that I really dislike about that franchise. Now, if we could combine the latest hipster aesthetics (and menu) of a beer garden, the lush greenery of Highline, the classic arcade games? A business idea for the ages, I tell you.
Sign me up!! 🙂
We have avoided it too, and it doesn’t seem to be a popular birthday party option here either, not as much as Pump It Up. But as a kid, we had ONE Chuck E Cheese about 30 minutes away, and I remember it being a magical place 🙂 I even had a birthday there. So I should probably not deny my kids the pleasure, but ugh. I hate places that are loud and full of kids so it’s on the same list for me as the bouncy places and Great Wolf Lodge. Avoiding as long as possible 🙂
I abhor the place, but have gone more times than I want to remember. My oldest two outgrew it pretty quickly being like me, not fans of chaos and noise. My youngest is completely under the spell. We live about 45 minutes from one so its a once a year type thing except for the party invites. I usually claim a headache and send daddy or a well paid babysitter.
I never thought it was that bad, as long as you go only for someone else’s birthday party. Once. But it’s not marketed to me, it’s for the kids.
Our closest ChuckE is about 20 minutes away. Calling for directions, they ended with “it’s right next to “(insert locally well-know. elegant French restaurant name here)”. I always wondered if the elegant French restaurant tells diners “it’s right next to Chuck E Cheese”. ChuckE certainly had a more visible presence: no French subtlety there.
Yikes! I’ve only been to Chuck E. Cheese twice: once for my little cousin’s fourth birthday party (she’s now 24 and a mom herself), and once I took another toddler cousin (who is now 18). I now have a toddler of my own who is close in age to yours, Laura. After reading this post I will avoid bringing him into a Chuck E. Cheese for as long as I can!
Only been once with my kids. The pizza is gross, everything is covered with some kind of spooge, disgusting. Blecch! And yes, my tot acts the same right now!
Worked there for an entire college summer, 30+ hours/week. Never will set foot again.
@Ana- yes, the only thing worse than taking your kids there would be working there. Wow.
I only take my kids to Chuck E Cheese for birthday parties…. I’m not sure they’re aware that you can just go there without being invited to a party! The trick is to go as early in the day as possible. My nephew had a party there that started at 10am and we practically had the place to ourselves. It was definitely my least traumatic experience of going there.
I have friends who’ve convinced their kids it’s only open for birthday parties! That is genius — the cover is blown for my kids because they go there with my husband for “boys’ days”, but I don’t go unless it’s for a birthday party.
I used to work there too, in high school. The bright side was that every job after that seemed really great!
Chuck E. Jesus – HAHAHA! You walk in there, survey the scene, and say, “Jesus!” I think I went with each of my kids for a friend’s birthday party, and vowed to never go again voluntarily. Chaos and noise. If you don’t have a headache before you arrive, you’ll have one when you leave!!!
I really thought my life was busy and hectic, and then I read this post. Wow. My heart goes out to you!
My mom actually never took us (3 kids, single mom) to Chuck E. Cheese’s when we were young, but she did take us to the park and a local pizza parlor similar to CEC called Crystal’s. I remember that she let us pretty much run around on our own while she took a break somewhere else in the building. Can’t say I blame her, and honestly, back then parenting wasn’t nearly as hands-on and helicopter-ish as it is now, God bless her.
Also – Chuck E. Jesus! Genuine LOL moment there.
I have LITERALLY survived Chuck E. Cheese. We went for a birthday party and there was a drive-by shooting. No joke. I saw the bullet hole in the wall. Luckily, no one was injured. But the floor you described – I had to lay on that with my daughter while we waited for the police to arrive.
@Becca – wow, glad you’re OK! Yes, you have the most harrowing Chuck E. Cheese story. Definitely!