McDonalds (any one with a play structure)

by Shawna

Like many parents, I have a love/hate relationship with McDonalds. I know, it’s accepted, even expected, by a lot of people that I wrinkle my nose in distaste at the mere mention of the golden arches. The fat, the salt, the sugar, not to mention the factory-like approach to food (excuse me, “food”), the promotion of monoculture farming, the contribution of the fast-food industry to obesity, both childhood and adult, the rampant, in-your-face commercialism of their cross-promotions, the inculcation of the disposable lifestyle mindset… well, you get the idea. I’m supposed to shudder delicately and assert that my precious snowflakes would never eat at such a place, what with their 100% organic, chock-full-of-whole-grains, locavore lifestyle. And yes, this is the ideal I suppose.

But here’s the thing: I live in the suburbs where choices for fast, kid-friendly food can be hard to find outside the big chains. We’re busy. And sometimes, well, we’re on the go, and it’s lunchtime, and we didn’t get a chance to pack those nutrient-rich kelp-and-brown-rice rolls that toddlers love so much, and it’s the middle of winter and hey, lookee there, a McD’s with a play structure, and our kids have spotted it too and know that playing and acquisition of toys happens there, as well as consumption of not-nutritionally-perfect-food, and they’re asking us to stop.

So we go in. We order a couple of Happy Meals (one cheeseburger with no pickles or mustard, one McNuggets) with milk, and ask for no salt on the fries of the first and compromise by swapping apples slices for the fries in the second. We ask for two different toys, but might settle for two of the same if one is a cool little car but the other is a mini plastic prostitot which we cannot condone in my daughter’s toy collection.

We head into the steamy pandemonium of the play area that is littered with wet winter clothes and boots and full to the brim with shrieking children (not mine of course, who are just the model of restraint I bet all the other parents wish their kids would emulate).  With a little luck we snag a seat and shovel food into the kids, and once they’ve eaten they scurry off to join the throng, leaving us with the other harried-looking parents to eat our own nutritionally-dubious choices. (Yes, I know they have salads and chicken fajitas, but darnit sometimes I just want a few fries and a Big Mac.  Or at least a cheeseburger with lettuce and a squeeze of Mac Sauce added.  And here’s a tip: if you ask for a packet of Mac sauce they don’t charge you, but if you order the sandwich with the sauce on it they do.) 

Really, we’re just happy that a few bucks have bought us some known food (my youngest has an egg allergy so it’s nice to know what doesn’t have egg in it — McNuggets, at least in Canada, have no egg — without having to take the word of the teenage staff), in a warm place where the kids can burn off a little energy. And when the weather warms up, we can balance it out by going to farmer’s markets for our culinary adventures.

Shawna is mom to 4 year old Sage and almost-2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  Like many parents, she has a computer stuffed with thousands of pics of her kids, and a ton of plastic Happy Meal toys underfoot.



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11 responses to “McDonalds (any one with a play structure)

  1. Teresa

    It’s like we were separated at birth.

    I like the way you think. I like the way you write. I like the fact that you recognize that the occasional trip to McDonald’s is not the end of the world. Many’s the friend who turns her nose up at McD’s, but I like it, we don’t go there every day, and I refuse to feel guilty about it.

    Power to the parents! (and pass the fries….)

  2. Seriously – McDonald’s is a known. It was a safe haven for me in countries far away when I was alone and didn’t know what to eat or speak the language, and it is a safe haven for me now on certain days when we somewhere to let the kid burn off some energy and I know I can safely eat certain foods.
    We certainly don’t go there every day – but I’m really glad it’s around 🙂
    Bit of a hot topic though – does anyone disagree?

  3. Stephanie

    As an occasional treat, I love McD’s. The weird part? My son does NOT! So on the few times we’ve gone, he’s eaten 2 bites of his burger, 2 fries, and then off to play he goes. So I eat 2 meals (oh, poor me).

  4. I have eaten there occasionally, but as a vegetarian it doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me. The kids have never gone yet. There is one near our house but it doesn’t have a playstructure. Maybe if it did I would be there more often. 🙂

  5. angela ( jhscrapmom )

    love/ hate with mcd’s here:)
    now it is an easy decision…the oldest two ( 14 and 10 ) have decided that subway is the god of all things fast food and the youngest is an allergy kid who can not eat the fries ( dairy, who knew…)…and chokes on the apple slices;).

    i have gone through stages over the years – and yes, when pressed for time and while roadtripping, i have definitely made my share of trips through those golden arches.

    but, really? in our family, the mcdonald’s enjoyment really is ours, the parents…my hubby and i LOVE a good big mac. have been known to crave a big mac and a diet coke combo. with fries. salted. i think it was just a bigger part of our childhood, than of the childhood my kids are having. this is probably a good thing…

    oh – and the prostitot comment? love it.

  6. well written shawna. i too have been know to head to the golden arches with the three year old in tow. it’s a matter of convinience, of having a treat (the latest toys are the dragons from “how to train a dragon”) and enjoying a little something from my childhood.

    i never fell guilty about a little “guilt-less” pleasure every once in a while. which is always followed by a green tea and grapefruit purge. of course.

  7. Word. Our son has multiple food allergies and it’s nice to know we can go into any McDonald’s anywhere and get the same food with the same ingredients. When we’re out and about, McD’s is one of the few places we can eat — so we do!

  8. Are there any other fast food joints that have playstructures? I know there is a DQ in Orleans that has one next door, but I have never ever seen it open. And I seem to remember a Burger King having a playstructure when I was a kid.

    If only we could find a fast food joint that served up HEALTHY food and also had a place for kids to burn off steam. Wouldn’t that be nice!

  9. Oh, and one other thing. Lara and I met at McDs one morning for breakfast with our kids. It was actually really nice! We got to sit and enjoy coffee in the (semi) quiet while the kids played. Also being there in the morning meant there weren’t as many kids.

  10. For me, it’s all about the indoor play ground! It’s an ingenius marketing tool and I wish more restaurants could offer the same.

  11. Pingback: ABC Challenge : Week 3 « Kids in the Capital

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