Parents Gone Wild at Chuck E Cheese

Today’s WSJ has a story on parents gone wild at Chuck E Cheese. That’s right, Chuck E Cheese…

In Brookfield, Wis., no restaurant has triggered more calls to the police department since last year than Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Officers have been called to break up 12 fights, some of them physical, at the child-oriented pizza parlor since January 2007. The biggest melee broke out in April, when an uninvited adult disrupted a child’s birthday party. Seven officers arrived and found as many as 40 people knocking over chairs and yelling in front of the restaurant’s music stage, where a robotic singing chicken and the chain’s namesake mouse perform.

Some law enforcement officials interviewed said they get less fights at bars.

Reasons for this bad behavior are many. This one I did not know…Chuck E Cheese serves alcohol at some of its locations! Why, why, why.

Also to blame according to experts interviewed, the “mama bear instinct.” You know, that feeling mamas get when you are going to protect your little cub, no matter what, even if it’s just from a kid hogging the video game (????).


Amid pressure from local politicians, some Chuck E. Cheese locations have stopped serving alcohol, added armed patrols, prohibited knives, chains and screwdrivers from entering the restaurant and making the machines more expensive to use.

The article has a whole “blotter” of incidents around the country, here’s an example…

This most recent assault, described in police reports, occurred after a woman in her 30s approached a 6-year-old boy who was playing a videogame. When the boy went to insert more tokens to continue playing, the woman grabbed the tokens out of his hand and told him to stop hogging the game. The boy went and got his 26-year-old mother, who walked over to the woman. The woman began screaming at the boy’s mother, and another suspect, a man in his 30s, grabbed the mother by the throat and pushed her against the videogame machine. CEC employees had to pull the man off the mother. Both the man and the woman fled the scene.

I’ve never been a big Chuck E Cheese fan myself, but not for these reasons.

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It’s Monday — UGH!

On Saturday, Ari had his first birthday bash, in which we invited the entire class. We celebrated his 4th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. (His choice!)

Twenty-two children, including close friends, classmates and neighbors, showed up. I wrote “No gifts please!“ on the party invitations of his classmates and neighbors, avoiding 30 new toys on his bedroom floor.

He still received plenty of presents, including a couple Gwen Stefani CDs from us (yes, he loves her music and always asks us to look for her on the radio, thinking we have control over it), a few other presents from close friends, a suitcase full of clothes and gifts from Abuela who showed up yesterday from New Hampshire.

And the best part for Mami and Papi is compared to the other venues Chuck E. Cheese is cheap. We paid $12 per child, which included pizza, cake, tokens, a performance by a guy wearing a Chuck E. suit and use of the venue. For the adults, we ordered a couple large pizzas and veggie platters. We had a grand ole time.

Wrong.

Actually, it seemed that everyone had a blast — except for Ari. I received some comfort photographing the other kids dancing around Chuck E., but Ari kept his distance. He spent the first half of his party throwing tantrums and sitting with me at the table ignoring his friends. He spent the second half of the party, playing the games with me — and ignoring his friends. I hardly said a word to anyone at the party.

I have vowed not to throw him any more large parties unless he specifically asks for it. He is a shy kid and does better in a setting with no more than two other children.

I was besieged by disappointment and mommy guilt as the birthday boy seemed tortured. At one point, I half-jokingly told a mom, “Great. Chuck E. is about to come out. Ari will be traumatized for life!“

“Nah. He’ll do his quick dance then head out back to make pizzas.“

Rather than beat myself over it — was this not the reaction I expected — I got in the car and told my husband, “You live and learn.“ I have vowed to respect my child for who he is and that means not pushing my expectations and idea of fun on him. Sure, I have fond memories of childhood birthday parties that included lots of people. But Ari is not me — and that is okay.

How do you celebrate your children’s birthdays, MotherTalkers? What are your most precious — and worst — memories?

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