If I could do it all over again, I’m sure I would have made a different choice. But they looked up at me with those big eyes, those impossibly long eyelashes only bestowed upon the very young.
“Can we go to Chuck E. Cheese, Mommy?” They even added, “Please?”
And I caved. I’m not proud of it, but I did. And that’s how I ended up in a sea of blinging, flashing lights, rings, dings, noise, screams of happiness and in tantrum, being pushed, prodded, stamped, and slimed by gooey hands covered in cardboard pizza cheese. Chuck. E. Cheese on a Sunday. Welcome to Hell.
Unless you’re six and three-and-a-half, respectively. Then you are in an overstimulating, germ-ridden paradise.
And if you think that granting two kids such a generous, awe-inspiring gift of an afternoon would buy two parents a ride home in relative peace, a calming quiet over the house as they play quietly and cooperatively to compensate for such fabulosity, then you are either not a parent, or your children are not six and three-and-a-half, respectively.
And I knew it. I knew as soon as Jacob refused dinner, then lay his head down on the couch that it was already happening. That all of the Purell that we had obsessively and fastidiously applied to their four little hands was no match for the disease that is Chuck. E. Cheese. Just a few short hours later, after baths, teeth-brushing, stories, and Motrin, I was positive that I put to bed a child sick with Strep throat.
But I was wrong.
I had put to bed one child with Strep and the other with a stomach bug. The kind that makes one throw up all over one’s bed after several sheet and pillow-case changes in a night.
This morning was a show in desperation, as Jacob tried to convince me with a croaking voice that he was okay, just fine, to go to school. He didn’t want to miss his Valentine’s Day party. Anna has a brand new tutu with little red hearts all over it. I didn’t want her to miss school. Not today when I was sure to win the Mom-with-the-cutest-kid award, let alone miss out in those precious, delicious, two-and--half hours of alone time. I had booked a pedicure as a Valentine’s gift to myself. We all sat with our uneaten heart-shaped pancakes in front of us, disappointed.
Eventually, we moved over to the couch. Jacob to my left, Anna to my right, each with a heavy head on my shoulder, Phineas and Ferb on the television in front of us.
And then Jacob, with a hand hot from fever, reached over to where Anna’s lay. He clasped it and held it in his.
“I love you, Jacob,” she said, one hand free to curl her hair, her eyes never leaving the tv.
Best Valentine’s Day.