My son, Owen, has been excited for his friend’s birthday party for over a month. It was held today at this cool place called Arnold’s that has laser tag, go karts, and a million other attractions–all with blinking lights and raucous music. Earlier this week, Owen asked me who was taking him to the party. I said I wasn’t sure. “We’re going to play laser tag and it’s kids versus parents! I hope it’s you, cause I told all my friend how you are really athletic.” Anyone reading this post who knows me is probably laughing right now. Even I would consider myself “active” but certainly not “athletic”. Gotta love the mind of an eight-year-old boy.
When Pam arrived home from work that night, the first thing out of Owen’s mouth was “Who’s taking me to Greg’s birthday party (same breath)I WANT DAD TO!” Pam laughed and said,”Why doesn’t dad take you?” The rest of the week, Owen was bursting with anticipation for both of us: “Are you excited, Dad?” “Now it’s kids versus parents so I’m not going to be on your team–which means I may have to shoot you–but not in the face. Plus, it’s just a laser so it won’t hurt.” “Hey, Dad, the party’s tomorrow. Are you ready?”
Today, we began counting down at 7 a.m.–five hours til the party. Before we knew it, we were pulling in to the giant warehouse parking lot that housed Arnold’s Fun Center–a facility larger than some countries. Once inside, it was sheer mayhem. There were a dozen birthdays going on simultaneously. Owen was anxious to find his friends, and once he did, he left me in the dust. I watched them bounce from video games, to bumper cars, to junior go karts, to laser tag. And I noticed that most of the parents seemed to have disappeared, claiming these two hours as a chance to shop or catch up on work or listen to a game on the car radio. So much for parents versus kids.
I was relieved that my physical prowess would not be up for inspection. But then, Greg’s mom saw me walking around and (felt sorry for me?) offered me a card for the amusements. So, I asked Greg’s dad if he was going to play laser tag. He was reluctant, but my look convinced him. We rounded up the boys for another game of tag. As we waited in the darkened vestibule to be suited up, I said to Owen and his friends, “You know, I was a laser tag major in college.” Their eyes widened. Someone shouted, “Kill Owen’s dad first!” Me and my big mouth. Once inside the neon labyrinth, I ran around like I was just another kid at the party. I was terrible, though. Everyone shot me. Including strangers. But no one was interested in my athletic ability, just my ability to be here at a kid’s party and join in the fun. When our game was over, I was proud of my 2,640 points, until I realized that every kid scored double or triple that. Oh, well.
As I once again sunk back into my role as spectator, Greg’s dad now urged me on: “You have to try the Go Karts.” “Really? I’ve never done it. I’m not sure.” He was giving me the same look I had given him pre-laser tag. “Okay, I’ll try it.” I’m glad I did. Talk about a rush. I can’t wait to do it again someday.
After another hour of games then cake, we thanked Greg’s parents and wished him a happy birthday. As we walked out into the parking lot, the glaring sun reminded us that it was, in fact, a beautiful day outside. I grabbed Owen’s hand to walk to the car. “So, did you have fun, Dad?” “I sure did, Owen. I sure did.” Yeah, the mind of an eight-year-old boy. Gotta love it.