My son Ry is 6.5 years old and I’ve never been to “Pump it Up.” In my head, I fantasize people reading this thinking, “you’ve never been to Pump it Up?” I feel sorry for the kid.” The truth is my wife has taken Ry to several parties there, but I’ve avoided going. I’ve done the swim parties, magician parties, and bowling party, but I’ve been reluctant to attend another birthday party at a national franchise. The last one I attended was at Chuckee Cheese.
The place freaked me out. Most especially the dancing bears singing old rock songs. Who came up with that idea? There is no doubting the fact that the kids loved the place. But seeing my son walk around with a cup filled with coins in one hand and long streams of tickets in the other is just not what I imagined for him when he was a newborn. I remember thinking they should post signs around Chuckee Cheese for gamblers anonymous. As I watched the kids, I kept picturing them, in the not so distant future, rolling dice in Las Vegas. I remember going there when the electrical power went out. Trust me when I tell you that without electricity, the place is rather depressing and the Dancing Bears look creepy.
So, despite my concerns,Ryand I drove in the rain to the Pump it Up in Chicago. And despite my best efforts, we were early. Ry was sooooooooo excited, he was shouting, “pump it up ” in the streets. He wanted to race in. I however was trying to persuade him to go for a walk around the block. But no luck, we entered the bright yellow, blue and red room twenty minutes early. He was quite happy sitting in what I think of as the holding area. I couldn’t do it, so we walked around the area, over puddles and past new construction. Upon returning, the other boys started to arrive.
From what I could tell, they were all pretty loopy just anticipating going on the rides. Everyone except me seemed to know the drill included watching a safety video. I have to admit I was impressed that Pump it Up took the time to show it and gave simple rules to the kids. I was shocked at how well the kids retained the information. And then shoes were off and they were set free. And it was incredible!!
The boys raced toward every obstacle course, slide and bounceable ride they could get their socks on. Ry yanked me away from some parents so I could go down the slide with him. And then we raced through the obstacle course, with both of us tumbling down when we tried to climb up and over a wall. It reminded me of some program from the 70’s, “battle of the stars?” Once the boys were all sweaty and ready to rest, they pull a curtain into another room with a rock climbing wall and more rides. Ry strapped on his harness and shimmied up the rocks to the top of the mountain as every other boy waited in line for their turn.
As the kids ate their pizza and cake, I was more amused watching the adults eating their share, with their Hotwheel plates resting on their laps. The more I talked with other adults, the more I was convinced that the most commonly talked about topic at Pump it Up for parents of boys was, ” why didn’t I think of this?