My daughter Zuri is the type of 6-year-old who sees a plane in the sky and wonders if she can jump out of one someday. One day she watched a Disney show where a girl who plays an actress scaled a mountain. As soon as the show ended, she excused herself. A few moments later I caught her scaling our staircase.
Every feat of bravery accompanies a weakness. For Snow White, poisonous apples from strange old ladies, for Cinderella, common sense and for Zuri it’s Chuck E. Cheese. It bothers me. A lot. I’m accustomed to talking her off staircases and tabletops. Now I argue with her and her right to be fearful of a mascot.
She knows her fear is irrational because she befriends other mascots and loves rodents. Last Halloween she took pictures with Hi-Five from the Emoji movie and hugged his thumb. She wants to adopt Stuart Little and cook with Ratatouille. Yet, the sight of Chuck E. turns her into an elite sprinter. The evidence didn’t convince her. She tells me it’s because Chuck E. is huge but I’m six foot four inches and 350 pounds. Give or take.
She loved going to Chuck E. Cheese when she was younger. On most Sunday’s if we found ourselves bored we’d take her. We went so much my wife loves their salad bar. I never understood why kiddie establishments serve food. The likelihood of catching airborne illness increases and I imagine germs dancing on my spinach.
Now Chuck E. Cheese is a punishment.
“Zuri, clean your room.”
“I want to do it later.”
“Chuck E. Cheese.”
“Okay! I’ll clean up!”
I know it’s wrong but I’m not perfect.
This past Monday I decided that we should go play games at the Chuck. The cool parents call Chuck. E. Cheese “The Chuck”. After seeing a movie we had time to kill before dinner. It was between Best Buy and the Chuck. We picked games. Zuri was on high alert as soon as we got there. Before being stamped she needed information on Chuck E.’s location. Without a concrete answer, she focused her attention, playing games as fast as possible. She never even took off her coat.
She played games near the exit. There was a new bumper car ride that looked fun, but logistics didn’t allow it. The furthest she’d go was skeeball, the third lane closest to the door. We had 25 percent of the machines available to us.
We were playing games, having a good time. Things were going smooth. When she swiped her play card and her balance was low, she wanted to leave. While counting her tickets Chuck E. came out. This was one of the few moments I was proud and disappointed as a father.
I thought when I stood next to Chuck E. Cheese she’d see I was larger. We’d take a selfie and laugh later. The experts call this modeling. I took a selfie but Zuri wasn’t in it. As the Mouse made his way near the exit games, my wife tried to stop her. She was unsuccessful. Zuri’s speed and elusiveness was awesome. When my wife got ahold of her, Zuri showed off her power. She escaped with a devastating stiff arm that almost knocked my wife to the floor. Next, she showed off her will and creativity. While my wife was holding her she unzipped her coat, just in case she had to lose it to get away. Her performance was reminiscent of a Barry Sanders run with Deion Sanders’ speed and Jerome Bettis’ brute force. I’m disappointed because I watched my brave daughter cower and unwilling to face her fear but I left impressed with her skill set. I even interviewed her after and she said: “I ran 100 miles.”
Here’s a not-so-scientific fact: 1 in every 10 children runs from Chuck E. Cheese. I’m basing this statistic on the other 9 kids at the arcade who didn’t run away or over their parents when Chuck E. came out. It turns out you can’t supersize every rodent to entertain kids. If you don’t trust my statistics go to Chuck E. Cheese this weekend.
I find 99 percent of parenting is trial and error. This is also a not-so-scientific fact. You will try things and if they work, you adapt it forever and celebrate. For methods that are unsuccessful, you discard them and regroup. I needed to throw this strategy away
According to a study in the UK, it’s possible to weaken fear in young children. In their study, children saw pictures of two uncommon animals — the Quokka and the Quoll, from Australia. Next, researchers gave information that was positive or negative. Then they asked the children to pet the animal. The children believed the animals were dirty and lived in dark caves. When the children heard the negative information, they were slower to pet the animal but, after researchers told the children Quokka and Quoll were friendly, liked sweet berries and purred when you pet them, the children pet the animals faster.
After reading this study, I realized I needed to become more of an advocate. This meant calling Chuck E. an awesome mascot instead of a super-sized rat. Zuri wasn’t impressed with my scientific findings. When I asked if it could work she shook her head. I questioned her more trying to figure out what would work. She said “Nothing. I’m never going there.”