Our friends Nami and Gus just sent pictures from their birthday party at Malibu Grand Prix in Redwood City a few weeks ago. Here's one of Marco and I posed in front of the final windmill -- as daunting a mini-golf obstacle as there ever was.
For those who've never lived in the South or the West Coast, Malibu Grand Prix is a chain of small "family fun" theme parks. Nami and Gus are both childless and closer to 35 than 13, so you might question why they'd throw a party at a place designed for "family fun." That's just the kind of people they are. They enjoy the kitsch, and normally so do I. This time, however, I found that a trip to a place for large groups of children and their parents took on a whole new meaning.
I enjoyed the batting cages (although I wasn't allowed to bat because they had no belly helmets) and the miniature golf, but the game room left me very uneasy. It's not that I'm not a fan of video games. I am. What bothered me was that all the children there seemed concerned not with winning the games themselves, but with how many tickets would spit out of the machine so they could redeem them for stuff. And let's be honest here. When I say "stuff," what I really mean is "crap." Do you know that they actually call these places "redeption gamerooms?" Does that make anyone else think of church?
It's not like I was protected from this behavior in my own childhood. I remember earning tickets for skee ball and wack-a-mole at Chuck E. Cheese and some place in the mall in West Houston. And, of course, I can't remember what I redeemed those tickets for. But now that I'm on the brink of having my own child, it is totally different. I don't want Baby Morrone to want to win video games so she can redeem tickets for a bunch of plastic stuff she doesn't need. And suddenly the kitsch-value at a place like Malibu Grand Prix no longer exists.
I realize that while it's still several years away, I will soon have a child who will very likely want to go to a place like Malibu Grand Prix and she will not see the irony in it. She may long for those tickets and she might desire plastic crap and there is very little I can do about it, besides deny her. And do I really want to deny her a friend's birthday party because of some vague feeling I have?
I've heard that it doesn't much matter what kind of morals and values you tell your child they should have. They'll end up paying much more attention to the morals and values that you actually display. In other words, they watch what you do more than what you say. So with that I shall say no more.