This is Gabe at chuck e. cheese for his birthday in 2009.
Sometime last week my facebook status read:
Saturday is Gabe’s first birthday party (with other kids)…. We’re BOTH looking forward to it…
…and we were. This was his very first social event amongst his own peers, some from school and some from the birthday girls’ other friends and family. I was so, SO excited. He talked about this party almost every day in the weeks leading up to the day. He’d say that him and (I’ll say Helen) were going to do this, were going to do that, until I realized that he never mentioned anyone else. So, I started to bring in the idea, “Honey, you know that there will be other kids there, right?” “Remember Gabe, this is a party. There will be other kids from your class there. Helen will have her family there,” and so on. He never gave me a hard time, never said he didn’t want to go, still talked about the party.
So, the party was held at Chuck E. Cheese. Gabe loves to go there and has been there several times, enough times to be comfortable there. We’ve been there mostly on weekdays, after school and the place is pretty tame. We’ve also been there on weekends when the numbers of running, screaming kids multiply like nobody’s business. Still, he never seemed to have a problem. THIS day, however, there was a problem. A BIG problem. I could kick myself in the ASS because I let myself be lulled into the illusion of normalcy.
On that day, Gabe started to say that he was going to sit near me. He said that he was going to play the games that were near me. I kinda did get the impression that he was getting nervous but I told him it would be okay and of COURSE I was going to be right there… which I WAS going to be right there. How involved I was going to be in his activities I was going to leave up to him. Then right as we pulled into the parking lot, he asked me if I had headphones. Again, I saw a red flag and I chose to ignore it because, well, we never used headphones for him, but I knew that he used them a couple of times in school. I just said, “You know we don’t have headphones.” I don’t know. I look back now as if I could have done something, but really, we would have still gone inside. I kept telling myself that he was really excited and looking forward to this party.
Oh shit. I know I shouldn’t beat myself up over this, but I should have known what it was going to be like inside this place, on a Saturday, at a birthday party for seven and eight year olds. I was so looking forward to this being a normal, great milestone for my kid. Okay, I will just list the conditions that awaited us.
- A very busy Saturday. There were kids running around, screaming and it was just too overwhelming, even for me. I did mention that we’ve been to chuck e. cheese on Saturdays but this was crazy.
- The reserved area for the party, nay several parties, was situated right in front of the stage and speakers, blasting music. I mean, BLASTING. This is something I did know. I’ve seen parties there before. Again, kick me.
- Flashing lights and several monitors going at one time. Again, I know this yet I didn’t think of it being an issue.
Any one of these is pretty annoying within itself, but I did not think of the effect on my son, let alone ALL of these at once. I feel like such a horrible mother right now. We’ve been getting really good, positive feedback from school and the social skills groups that I, plain and simple, let my guard down. I let others, Gabe, and my desire for just a normal life interfere with protecting my son. Monster Mom. I was actually looking forward to his next birthday and the possibility of being asked for a party… AND thinking that chuck e. cheese was a good idea. Oh Nooooo.
I found the table for the party and brought Gabe to at least show our faces and say, “happy birthday” to the little girl. I spoke with the parents and they were really understanding about the whole thing. I urged Gabe to say hello, but he was totally shut down at that point. Sigh. Attempting to teach manners through a sensory shut down? Yeah right, hello? Hello? Then we left. All he did manage to say was that he wanted to go to a “nice, quiet place,” so I took him out to the car and we sat there for a little while until he started talking more to me.
The blessing of children is that they will look into your soul and love and trust you no matter what. He just said, “I told you, mom!” Yes Hunny Bunny, you did. I assumed he was talking about headphones because, really I could’ve used them, too. I know that this is a learning moment for me and I am still soaking up that lesson. People will say to learn and move on… and I will do that. But part of that lesson is reflection. Absorbing how my actions or non-actions affect those around me, especially when I make decisions regarding my precious boy. It was our first such party and I guess that in the future I will need to do some research to scope out the situations…. Yeah, my kitchen will be my Situation Room where I plan my strategies.
My New Strategy
chuck e. cheese is not a good idea for Gabe’s next birthday…… period