February 26, 2020

Chuck E. Cheese’s: Table For One

It is funny how I usually don’t have enough time to myself, but when I do, I don’t know what to do.  (Catch up on sleep, emails, cleaning, chores or something fun for myself?)  But of all things, Chuck E. Cheese’s ended up not being a bad idea for a mommy’s day off.

I am starting to think that I have forgotten what it is that adults do for fun.  A fun day in for me has became a day of Lego building and homeschool projects with my son.  A fun day out is trips to the Lego store or homeschool outings, errands and chores.  You can see why I have forgotten what I am “supposed” to do.

Yesterday I got a few hours to myself.  And what I mean by “got” is that my husband was home for a few hours before he headed out to a session (music, not therapy).  I had the choice of “me” time or family time.  The choice was a difificult one, but I was on my way out in no time, showerless and in sweats and pseudo-Uggs. (I slept in the sweats, sans Uggs, but don’t tell anyone.)  I didn’t want to waste any time.

Once I got in the car, the decision of where to go was not as easy as the actual decision to abandon my family.  I put the key in the ignition and let the car lead the way.  Unfortunately, my car must have gotten used to errands and chores, because my first stop was the library.  I decided to pick up some books and educational DVDs for my son .  I might as well do something for my son too, I thought.  It can’t be just about me. 

After the library, I started thinking of all the things I should probably pick up for home.  Napkins, toilet paper, dishwashing liquid.  I might as well get that out of the way before I start my “me” day, I thought.  I ended up driving around just to listen to my music in the car and not some band that ended in “bops” or songs sung by children for a change.  It was nice to listen to a song that had a long guitar solo and a double bass drum sound for a change.  I drove around and ended up in a shopping center with a Kmart, a Chuck E. Cheese’s and a Henry’s right across the street.  Perfect, I thought.  I will just quickly grab some things at Kmart.  (I never go to Kmart – I felt like I was cheating on Target, but it worked.)  I realized I had no patience in Kmart with all the after X-mas sale mess, and decided to just grab the necesseties in the “cleaning products” section.  (What fun!)  But not forgetting a small Hot Wheels car and some new washable recycled plastic crayola markers for my son. 

At the register, I thought, now I can start my “me” day.  But where will I go?  Well, since I was already across the street from Henry’s, maybe I could just get grocery shopping out of the way.  But then I would have to hurry home with the perishables?  After all , this was “my” day.  While my thoughts were racing (as they usually do), I remembered Chuck E. Cheese’s next door to Kmart.  I’ll just run in there quickly to stop in and use the restroom (since Kmart’s was out of order) and maybe even pick up a drink.  (It’s the only place I know that sells caffeine-free Diet Coke – I know this from the endless birthday parties we have been to there; too bad the pizza wasn’t vegan, because I may actually have eaten there as well.)

I entered through the gates of Chuck E. Cheese’s.  The woman at the door was preparing to stamp my hand.  (For those that have never been, Chuck E. Cheese’s stamps your hand and your child(ren)‘s hand(s) when you enter with the same number, so that when you are exiting, they make sure you are leaving with your own children and not someone else’s.  I guess that theory may have been tempting to some mothers.  A trade in?)  So first the woman looked at me, looked down and then behind me, for a sign of any little people with me.  “Alone?” she asked. 

I said, “Yes,” and felt I needed an excuse for entering Chuck E. Cheese’s.  “I am just grabbing a Diet Coke,” I said in my defense. 

She let me in, childless and stampless. 

Chuck E. Cheese’s was crowded and noisy.  I started to miss my son.  It had been at least a couple of hours at this point since I saw him.  I felt bad now that I had not brought him with me.  They had new games, even Guitar Hero.  (Not that I was looking, but I spotted them on my way to the restroom.)  The mother guilt kicked in. 

After the restroom, I checked the self-serve soda machine.  Yes, they had caffeine-free Diet Coke.  I must have cheered loudly, because the mother next to me refilling her child’s fruit punch looked at me and giggled – or maybe it was just my paranoia kicking in.

I lined up behind the children holding dollar bills waiting for their buckets o’ tokens.  It was my turn.  I purchsed one soft drink excitedly.  After I paid, the cashier handed me my empty cup and explained that just so I know, the Diet Coke is out of order.  “The what?” I asked, clearly upset.  “Do you mean the regular Diet Coke (I was hoping he would say yes) or the caffeine-free Diet Coke?”  And of course, it was the caffeine-free Diet Coke, a.k.a. the only “me” thing I had done today besides using the restroom.  Oh, and buying dishwashing liquid for my home.

As it turns out, it would be fixed in fifteen minutes or so.  I figured at this point, where would I go?  I still wanted to get to Henry’s across the street and I hadn’t even eaten breakfast; it was now lunch time.  So, I ordered a salad bar and figured it would not be so bad to actually sit down for a bit (in a crowded, noisy kid-filled small-space play room that smelled like pizza and lit matches from the simultaneous birthday parties happening there).

I loaded my salad plate with veggies and fruit and waited for the caffeine-free-Diet-Coke-fixer-uppper to arrive.  I took a seat next to the soda machine so that I could keep an eye on it.  I only drink water, tea, and on rare occasions, chocolate almond milk.  Clearly, I HAD TO wait for my caffeine-free fix.

And halfway through my salad (or plate of fruits and veggies), he appeared.  In his red and black striped suit and matching baseball cap, there was my knight in shining armor (with his tool belt and artificially flavored syrup in tow).  I waited anxiously, staring over at him.  He was done.  I headed over to the machine and filled up my cup.  It wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was cold and did the job.

I finished my salad and decided that I was Chuck E. Cheesed out.  (And I wasn’t even running after my son and his bag of tokens this time.)  I looked down at my watch.  It was almost time to return home.  I had just enough time for a quick trip across the street to Henry’s.  Perfect!

I waited in line again behind two families as their numbers were being checked under a black light to ensure there were no child trade-ins.  All clear!  I was up.  The woman looked at me.  I smiled.  “No children today” I said, embarassed. 

“No stamp?”

“No stamp!” I said proudly.  (Something about numbers being stamped on my arm that I don’t relate to well, go figure.)

She gave me a weird look (or maybe my paranoia kicked in again); I was released! 

I made it home with a car full of groceries, library books and cleaning supplies with barely enough time before my husband had to leave.  My son was thrilled with the library books, markers and toy car.  I realized that “me” days are overrated and it is the little things that I do for my family with just a few


caffeine-free Diet Cokes in between that make me happy.  The definition of “me” has definitely changed since the birth of my son and it’s the little reminders along the way that let me know that it is ok and I am really not “missing out,” but missing him when I am not with him.

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