Last Sunday, Paxton attended his first birthday party. Not HIS first party because, well, he's two and a half. It was his best friend's party & the first party that Paxton has been invited to, outside of the family.
When we moved in here last year, I wasn't thrilled. Until I met John & Monica next door. They're great neighbors, awesome friends and their baby, Johnny, is six months younger than Paxton. The two of them quickly became friends and when Monica invited us to Johnny's second birthday party, I knew Paxton had to be there. I'm sure he doesn't understand or appreciate the significance of attending his first friends' birthday party but I do & I didn't want to deal with the guilt of letting him miss out on it, even if he won't remember that I did.
Then I found out it was at Chuck E. Cheese's and I panicked. 'Oh no,' I thought, 'this is going to be interesting.'
Chuck E. Cheese's is awesome. For kids. For parents, it's a living nightmare.
Kids running loose, screaming for tokens. Wallets & purses quickly leaking out those hard-earned dollars. Pizza that taste like cardboard. Frantic searches for presumably-lost children, who, in fact, were in the giant overhead tunnel system. The disappointment of never having enough tickets for that really wicked prize.
I've done Chuck E. Cheese's. I know what it's going to be like. I tried to talk Jay into going with me but it appears that my powers of persuasion aren't all that powerful. I couldn't blame him for not being totally thrilled at the idea so I took a deep breath, pulled on my Mommy Pants and headed out, prepared for battle.
I was lucky enough to walk in as Monica & John were ordering pizza at the front so after the boys & I got our matching black light stamps, they showed us where the party was set up. As soon as Monica handed them each a cup of tokens, it was ON. I let Phoenix go his own way. He's six; he can handle this. Paxton, on the other hand, is still just a toddler. He might look like a four year old but he's not. So I trailed after him for about 30-45 minutes, shoving tokens in games he'd play for about 20-30 seconds before losing interest and running off to find another one. I was sweating, panicking every time I lost sight of him behind a game. I was getting frustrated. I was NOT having fun.
Then I remembered -- I'm at Chuck E Cheese's. The place where a kid can be a kid. The place where a GROWN UP can be a kid. -- and they gave me these handy little black light stamps so NO ONE can walk out of here with my kids, EXCEPT ME. They're perfectly safe. I relaxed. I let Paxton run free and enjoyed myself. He didn't care if the game he was 'playing' was actually working. In fact, he freaked out when I stuck a token in one of the rides he was sitting in -- apparently, he was not expecting it to start moving. He was just overwhelmed by all the sights & sounds. He had to touch everything, had to keep going so he didn't miss anything. It was really pretty awesome to watch.
Phoenix was having a BLAST, playing with all of Monica's nieces & nephews and her little sister, Savannah. The kids were playing games together, running through the tunnel system, just going crazy. After a little while, we gathered them in for pizza & cake then opened up presents. Johnny LOVES Iron Man so it wasn't a huge shock to see just about every Iron Man toy possible in his haul. After the presents were done, the kids were back on the floor. John's dad, Big John, slipped me a five for tokens and someone was making sure the kids always had a few in their cups, which was beyond awesome.
I even forgot about the coupon I had in my purse for 20 free tokens.
Between everyone doling out tokens & the quarters I brought, I didn't need to use it OR spend any real money. By the time the tokens ran out, it was 6:30 and we'd been there for TWO HOURS.
I didn't lose a kid.
I didn't go broke.
I ate and enjoyed the pizza.
I. Had. Fun.
I rounded up the boys and we headed for the prize counter. We'd hauled in almost 400 tickets and they loaded up with inflatable mini guitars, slinkies and candy. We said our good byes and made it out the door with surprisingly little fuss. Phoenix skipped to the car, exclaiming how much fun he'd had & how much he wanted to go back.
We got home & looked over the booty they'd gotten with Dad then went up for a bath. The topic of conversation until we tucked them into bed was, of course, how awesome Chuck E. Cheese's was and I'll agree, it was really fun. So much fun that I'm pretty sure I'd be a horrible mom if I didn't have Phoenix's 7th birthday there, this December.
Looks like it's time to start planning. And saving...