Last week a good friend of mine posted on Facebook about taking her young son to the pediatrician to get shots. Four of them. The thought alone of four shots in one visit made me cringe. I once passed out in a doctor's office while simply considering the possibility a tetanus shot would be included in the high school sports physical I was there to get. But my opposition to thinking about me getting shots has always paled in comparison to me thinking about our boys getting shots. That is a nightmare, whether I'm asleep or awake.
That's why I told my friend I'm grateful Katie handles 99% of the boys' doctor visits and the shots that come with them. "Moms rock," I told her. In a very me centered way - and believe me, when it comes to avoiding shots I can get me centered quick - I would contend Katie taking the boys for routine shots ranks right up there on the heroism scale with her quite un-routinely delivering our little pin cushions to begin with. Granted, I've had a couple of shots poked into my body before; never have I had anything weighing remotely close to seven pounds removed from it. So it's possible I'm not completely qualified to release the heroism scale rankings.
Today, though, all of my previous thoughts on my wife's heroism are mute and being re-written. Right this second, actually. That's because yesterday I walked into one of my wife's worlds I always knew existed but had no idea just how fearful and prayerful I needed to be for her when she dared to venture there. With one boy tightly squeezing my right hand and the other dragging me along by my left, yesterday I parted the doors and entered the world of Chuck E Cheese.
One of Ian's friends was having his birthday party there. Katie, who normally handles birthday party duties, was out of town with girlfriends on some sort of book club retreat. I initially found it an odd retreat for Katie since she doesn't really read books or belong to any book clubs, but three minutes into my Chuck E Cheese experience I realized she wasn't on a retreat at all. She was on an escape from Mr. Cheese.
I don't know how many of you have been to Chuck E Cheese. For those of you who have and survived, I am in awe of you. I count it among my greatest honors to join your club. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure to visit the home of the world's largest and most rambunctious grey mouse, if you ever have the opportunity to go I encourage you to schedule a book club retreat instead. Even if you don't like books or hanging out with people who do.
I'll be fair to Chuck E Cheese. It's a kids' heaven. Endless bright lights, noisy electronic games, herds of tiny human beings trampling each other to reach them, and the ever present promise of a riot as the tramplers turn to wrestling for the tickets spewed from machines to the winners of the games. And everyone wins these games. The winners stuff these tickets into their already bulging pockets or overflowing token cups until they've collected enough to fulfill the dream they came with that day. Going home with a set of green, plastic vampire teeth in their mouths.
When the boys and I first arrived I spotted a fellow dad at the far end of the chaos. By the time I reached him - dodging a kid or two and a dozen spilled drinks along the way - I was sure I'd earned a set of vampire teeth myself. The dad leaned over to me as if he were going to whisper something. But in reality he was positioning himself close enough for me to hear his shout above the screams of a few million 5 year old birthday partiers dancing around us to the tunes of a guitar playing mouse. When he knew he was just close enough he shouts, "I believe if I ever end up in hell, this is what it will be like."
That is a reality, not that this dad will go to hell, but that many things that are heavenly for kids are quite the opposite for adults. Chuck E Cheese is not a place I would go without my kids. Ever. But I was there with them. And looking around I couldn't help but notice them and so many other kids laughing and tagging along with friends - old and new - who were laughing right along with them. That made hell bearable, if not somewhat enjoyable.
As we were driving home, I looked up in the rearview mirror to see Elliott talking to me through his new vampire teeth. It was then I was most grateful I'd had the chance to share my first Chuck E Cheese experience with him and Ian. I won't lie, though, I think the next time there's a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, you'll probably find me on a weekend getaway with my book club.