By Steve Kivel
I'm not looking for a medal. I consider my son's birthday party just part of my fatherly duties. After all, how much trouble can my son and five of his friends be?
My son was given several options on birthday parities, ranging from a birthday camp out, to a magical clown. He chose, "None of the above". He wanted to go to the newest Amusement Pizzeria. I'm sure you've seen them or worse gone to one of those places where A KID CAN BE A KID (as opposed to a kid being a salamander I suppose.) The first of these parental money extractors allowed your child to party with a man in a rat suit, while his automated animal buddies provided the music. By far, the most popular of these cash eradicators lets your child crawl through plastic tubes that are suspended over their parents heads.
All these places have two things in common. They all have pizza that tastes like cardboard. I'm not talking the regular tasty kind of cardboard. I'm speaking of a special dry, stale, soaked in rancid tomato sauce cardboard. The other thing they have in common is their arcade. The average child goes through about ten dollars worth of arcade tokens a visit. These tokens allow them to play games. The games are design to test your child's skill, speed and accuracy at putting as many tokens into a machine as they can in a minute. Your child's skill earns them tickets, hundreds of tickets, thousands of tickets, that he can exchange for 1 inch rubber balls, pencils, plastic cars or other useless trash. YES FOR ONLY 10 DOLLARS THE PENCIL IS FREE!!! Now I'm not complaining, okay, I am complaining, I'm pulling what little hair I have out and beating my head against the wall.
The newest of these wonder worlds offers amusement park type rides, bumper cars, roller coasters, etc. all located inside your local mall. The cost of this new stupefaction is 11 bucks per child plus a 10 dollar a kid token fee, plus pizza and pop, about 175 bucks for my son and his 5 friends. My parents never spent 175 bucks on me in the 18 years I lived at home. My father converted to Jehovah Witness every December to avoid Christmas expenses and circulated rumors that he was a serial killer near my birthday so most parents wouldn't allow their child to go to my party.
My son and his friends were explained the rules, no pushing, fighting, yelling, touching one another or having anything that resembles fun. This information was explained by a sixteen year old who quietly admitted to me later that she does not like kids. "Childhood too long ago to remember?" I asked.
At the end of the day my wife sent me to "get the kids". It was at this point it occurred to me that I didn't know what my son's friends looked like. I wandered around the building asking children, "Do you know me?" I gathered all my charges up about the same time that the security guards started following me.
I'm not asking for a medal. I don't think I should get a Presidential citation for positive parenting. However, when Father's Day comes this year I'm expecting more than a tie, trust me.