As the parent of a child who loves to whack-a-mole and watch creepy, oversized cyborg vermin sing children’s songs, I was both amused and surprised to read an article written by Wall Street Journal blogger and writer Anna Prior entitled Food, Fun and Fights at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Apparently the longtime Mecca of childhood birthdays and rainy day excursions is coming under fire in some parts of the country for what Prior describes as, “…a surprising amount of disorderly conduct and battery among grown-ups.” Brookefield, Wisconsin seems to be leading the charge with 12 calls to the police to settle disputes (some physical) with one incident labeled as a melee and involving upwards of 40 people.
With 538 franchises around the country, it’s unrealistic to expect zero incidents requiring police intervention. And while Prior’s article is 2/3 Chuck E. Cheese police blotter (she literally includes a column that reads like your local crime log), the other 1/3 is what interests me. That being the psychology behind why parent’s are more apt to brawl in a Chuck E. Cheese than in their local watering hole.
Described as “Mama Bear Instincts” most of the conflicts arise when Kid A tells his mom or dad that Kid B has been playing a game for too long or called him Smelly Pants Nick so Parent A confronts Parent B …escalation… and melee ensues. I like to think I’m protective enough of my kid but I also understand that I need to teach him how to confront conflict in a responsible and non-violent manner. What in the name of Ronald McDonald’s “special” friend Grimace are we teaching our kids when we’re willing to come to fisticuffs over a slight delay in the wait for a swim in the bubonic ball pit or a session of Star Wars Jedi Master.
For the record, I would NEVER have my kid’s B-day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, I find their parties too contrived and besides, he doesn’t even like pizza. However, there’s something about spending $25 for tokens which ultimately nets you a bounty of crappily made glow-in-the-dark spiders, super bouncy balls and candy necklaces that keeps me and my kin coming back. My son will hopefully never know that Chuck E. Cheese’s is a cauldron of potentially violent adult over-protectionism waiting to boil over. And if he is upset that the kid with the drunk, 6’4, 280 lb. biker -dude looking father has been playing Batman pinball for too long, I’ll probably opt for the “patience is a virtue” lesson over “everyone should have an equal turn.”
Posted by: Nick B.