In the Midwest, spring break is often a casualty of too many snow days. When school has been cancelled more than a couple of times, due to ice or snow, the days are made up by eliminating part or all of spring break. This year, thanks to fairly light winter precipitation, kids in the area enjoyed a full week of recess from school. I’ve had the joy this week of spending time with all of my grandkids, at various times, and all my adult children too. Today, my sister Linda and I took four of the youngsters to that favorite hang out for children, Chuck E Cheese.
My son Nate, with Joey, Oliver and Aubrey in tow, met Linda and London, me, and my sister’s friend Tammy and her daughter Megan at the fun pizza parlor located at the Northpark Mall in Joplin. Because of spring break, and the cool, drizzly weather outside, the place was packed with boisterous children and patient, good-natured parents. We snagged two tables back to back, with the children occupying one and the adults the other. Fresh hot pizzas brought cheers from the kids, while the adults made trips through the salad bar first. (For me, being Whole30 conscious, the salad bar and an unsweetened tea was it for me. I didn’t even crave the pizza.) Greg surprised us by tapping on the window outside. He joined us for a quick lunch as he took a break from work.
As much as the kids enjoyed chowing down on cheese and supreme pizza, they don’t relish going to Chuck E Cheese for the food. They made one extra large pizza disappear very quickly. While a second pizza was being prepared, off they scampered, cups of tokens in hand. For that is the fun reason for being at this eating establishment…plugging tokens into a host of flashing, whirling, blaring gaming machines to win tickets. London and Aubrey, 5 and 6 years old, are more interested in running around, playing in the playground area and riding some of the small rides than they are securing tickets, even though they love the process of redeeming the tickets later for prizes. Megan, being older, struck out on her own, playing an assortment of games. Joey and Oliver, however, at 8 and 7 years old, have this gaming business down. They have a system of playing the same machine rapidly, and usually score big in the way of tickets. While the girls averaged about 200 tickets each today, Joey and Oliver hauled in 1200 tickets, together. I was impressed. They all had fun picking out prizes.
Nate spent time visiting with us and then time on the busy floor, watching the girls and playing skee ball with the boys. Even grown kids need some play time. I made sure he had tokens of his own. After a fun afternoon at Chuck E Cheese, Nate headed to a meeting at work and Tammy and Megan said their goodbyes too. Linda and I gave the kids the option of having ice cream and of course they said yes. We stopped at Andy’s for treats for the kids. We quickly discovered that chocolate ice cream and a group of kids…were there really only four of them?…make a fine mess. But that was okay. Napkins and face wiping took care of that….or most of it anyway!
We ended our play date at Linda’s house, affectionately known as Gigi. One of the things I love about my sister is that she doesn’t get uptight about kids playing in the house. I would have loved to have taken the kids to a park to run and climb and slide, but we will save that experience for another sunnier, warmer day. At Gigi’s house, it is okay to make a mess, to play hide and seek, to ride the scooter in the house. The kids did all those things, plus coloring and watching cartoons and setting up a mock restaurant. They had fun. Gigi and I had fun, watching, interacting, allowing the fine staff at the imaginary restaurant to take our orders for meals, over and over.
When Nate showed up to claim his kids, he joined in the fun for a bit. And then it was time for all of us to hug and say goodbye and go home. Kay Redfield Jamison said, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” I so agree. One thing we are good at in our family, is allowing kids that freedom. It is good for their souls. They learn to share, to create, to explore. I’m grateful today for spring break, Chuck E Cheese, Andy’s, Gigi’s hospitality, friends, Nate’s willingness to share the kids….and most of all, Megan, Joey, Oliver, Aubrey and London. Their play, their creativity, their laughter, is good for my soul.
Coloring at Gigi’s
The boys play “store”. While Joey set up, Oliver discovered that three balls lined up make a pretty good recliner. And yes, we all pitched in and cleaned up after play time!