I’m realistic about my “momming” strengths. Word on the toddler street is that I’m quite fun. However, I don’t play cars well, I get bored with superhero games and the sounds of the voices of certain cartoons and youtube-famous-kids are like nails on a chalkboard to me. That said, I love my kid more fiercely than words can express and therefore I make concessions to my playtime preferences to spend time with him enjoying what he likes to do. Unless……it’s Chuck E. Cheese. That’s where I draw the line. Or, at least, drew the line.
Last week, when my little miracle child looked up at me with eyes like saucers, wearing a Puss N’ Boots expression, and said in a higher-than-usual-pitched voice: “Mommy, it would be so wuvewee if we could go to ChukECheeze togever, as a famiwee….” I knew I was screwed.
I decided to take one for the anxiety team and brave the wilderness of the moldy carpet that is governed by Mr. E. Cheese, a larger than life mouse, who, by the way, has definitely had some work done since I was a child. Before I entered the threshold, however, I knew I would need to get my arsenal of mindful tools in check. On this fateful day, where the recycled pizza flowed freely and cough with colds served as proverbial goodie bags to all patrons, I was going in prepared.
patience and persistence
I set a theme for myself with the two elements that in the words of Joseph Pilates are the stuff of any “worthwhile endeavor.” I knew that if I could stay patient, I would prevail. There would be no waiting to practice patience. I needed to go in with a patient spirit, persisting to be present throughout the time spent. When I found out that we only purchased a 45-minute pass, patience became exponentially easier.
A tricky element in the “E. Cheese Environment,” conscious breathing meant the risk of ingesting a cough from a nearby patron, mold in the carpet or a spectrum of diaper smells. I chose to challenge myself to take the least amount of breaths as possible, drawing in slowly and exhaling like a deep sea diver for time.
It turns out that maneuvering through an arcade-shaped pen of children sucking down Hi-C requires a great deal of balance. I chose a sort of “Birdbox” strategy of feeling my way through the crowd by shuffling my feet and listening for tweets that warned of a flock of toddlers coming straight for me. It worked… mostly.
When I finally relinquished my anxiety and chose to participate in a beloved childhood game of “Skee-Ball,” I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. I realized that because I was in a taller body, the child-size Skee (?) was so much easier to score in!! I was up 1000, 2000, 10,000 POINTS! HASHTAG WINNING! I waited excitedly to see the waterfall of tickets spill out of the metal slit below the game. And waited. And waited. Then I saw the sign that said: “This machine is out of tickets.” It took everything in my being not to smash it. That’s what I call control.
My second favorite game is the basketball toss. Little known fact: In elementary school, I was a starting forward. When we played our rival, the crowd used to chant “MARSHA! MARSHA! MARSHA!” as I stepped onto the court. I had a french braid and they thought I looked like Marsha Brady. Then I would score and there was no more chanting. It was time to show this game some Marsha Brady skilz. One ball after the other. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. It was precision at it’s finest. I could almost feel that long braid swishing behind me. HIGHEST SCORE!I waited excitedly to see the waterfall of tickets spill out of the metal slit below the game. And, well, you know what happened…
Watching my son light up when he showed off his skills of skiing or riding a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, lit me up completely. I was aware that while I didn’t truly want to be at Chuck E. Cheese’s, there was nowhere else I’d rather be than right beside him, eating up the excitement. I understood that sometimes, just being there to be there and managing your own ridiculousness behind the scenes is the most important part of being a parent. I have no regrets.
Going with the flow was entirely the name of the game. We had fun. We played together and laughed and got discouraged at the tickets and happy when we won. It was a true family day and while, not my favorite place to be, I recognized that I had all the tools that I needed to be present and enjoy this time. I flowed for 30 straight minutes and when I became overwhelmed with noise and smell, I flowed myself right on over to Starbucks and said: “pick me up when you’re finished!” And they did.
Humor is one of my best coping mechanisms. For those who sometimes feel like their mom-game is less than stellar, I see you, I honor you and I’m holding a whole mess of tickets for you because when you show up, you are absolutely HASHTAG WINNING!