Tales from the Crib: Chuck E. Cheese’s, Friend or Foe?

It’s a place where we can let the kids run wild while we seek refuge from them. This is my new version of partying.
Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager.
Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager.
Published July 18

Unlike many of my mommy friends, I actually like Chuck E. Cheese’s. It brings back happy memories for me. I celebrated many birthdays there as a kid and went on to become a party hostess in high school. It was the easiest gig ever. I dropped off pizza and drinks for tips. As a teen, I never understood why all parents were so elated to see me bring the beer pitcher.

As a parent, I get it. Chuck E Cheese’s is a place where we can let the kids run wild while we seek refuge from them. This is my new version of partying. It’s a good thing there is a two-drink max per person or things could really spiral out of control.

My mom and I recently took the girls to the store I worked at years ago. On this day it was packed, wall-to-wall kids in a sea of games and parties. There would be no R&R for me on this trip as I needed to stay on top of my threenager. There was a line at every game, so we had to practice patience.

There was a mom there who looked like she should be on American Ninja Warrior. She was built like Arnold and rocked the cute workout gear. Buff Mom was also competitive. She was in it to win it even though her competition stood 3 feet tall. Emme and I waited for her to finish the basketball game. She was hogging the machine — don’t you know there are 6-year-olds who want a turn? Geez.

I had to laugh as her husband encouraged her from afar. “Babe, put your shoulders into that shot — it’s a great back workout.” Yeah, I go to C.E.C. for exercise. I do curls with my pizza. I did manage to get in some cardio as I chased my kids. After a few hours, my heart rate was up and my patience was down. Time to cash out.

Kids never want to leave. Its like a tiny tot casino, really. We give them money to play games they are never going to win and spoil them with cotton candy. Two hours and $75 later, they can buy a 5-cent rubber spider. Or you can keep dropping cash until little Sally wins big. I chose to peel them off the games.

As we were leaving it started to pour, so we decided to walk through a few stores until the weather cleared. As soon as we walked through the door, I knew this was a bad decision. Addy was all jacked up on sugar with no nap. She broke free from my death grip and ran laps around the store like Flo Jo. She played hide and seek under the racks and in the dressing rooms. This is what over stimulation looks like.

By this time good old Grandma was over it too. My mom took Emme and said she would wait for me at the front of the store. A few minutes later, as I desperately tried to pick my child up off the floor of the shoe department, I heard my name over the intercom: “Lynn Cristina, please come to the front of the store. Your mother is waiting, Lynn Cristina.”

Seriously! My mom had me paged as if I was a lost child. Instead of coming to my rescue or sending the SWAT team over to shoes as I boxed in the Tasmanian Devil, she added to my public humiliation. Thanks.

I carried Addy kicking and screaming to the front of the store and gave my mom the stink eye as she yelled,“better put a leash on that one like I had to with you.”

I reminded Grandma that it’s not 1978, and that harnesses aren’t socially acceptable anymore. I glanced over at Emme and the look on her face was priceless. I am pretty sure she was picturing me wearing a dog collar. It will be a while before we visit the mouse again.

Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. The girls’ names are changed here so as not to embarrass their momma. She and her family love living in Wesley Chapel. Contact her at LCristina@tampabay.com.

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