People say the nicest things in my comments section:
“You’re such a great parent!”
“Your kids are so lucky!”
“Will you have babies with me?”
I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist. Just pure, sweet, huggy affection. When I read my blog comments, I’m filled with warmth, joy and hope for the future.
Then I kick back and go, “Hahaha, suckers!”
The truth is, I have you all fooled. Sure, I sound like an amazing dad in these blog posts. But guess who writes these blog posts? Yup, that’s right…
Well, I gave that guy the day off. Today you’ll get to meet the other me, the one my kids know very well but the rest of the world rarely gets to see…
Jerry the Bad Dad.
(Cue the sleazy 70s funk music.)
Jerry the Bad Dad doesn’t make “wise choices” for his children.
He doesn’t listen to Dr. Spock or the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hmph!
Jerry the Bad Dad makes his own rules. He goes rogue. He makes mistakes… but not apologies.
Jerry the Bad Dad… you so BAAAAAAD!
Just how bad is Jerry the Bad Dad? Well, get this:
I take my kids to McDonald’s!
(Record scratch, screams of horror and disgust.)
That’s right. My two-year-olds are no strangers to the sweet, salty seduction of McFood. I can feel you judging me already, but it’s worse than you think. We’re regulars there. We go once a week. They know us there.
McDonald’s is our Cheers.
If you’re not already rolling over in disgust or calling Child Protective Services on me, then allow me to tell you why.
I have some very BAAAAAAAD reasons!
1. My kids are always the best behaved children there. You want to feel good about your kids? Take them to McDonald’s. Have you seen some of the riff-raff toddling around that joint? Yeesh, instead of booths, they should have cages. There’s a reason they don’t give out nunchucks in Happy Meals – those little monsters would use them.
Sure, I’d love to take my kids to The Four Seasons, but there, the clientele tends to frown upon customers screeching out “Movin’ Right Along” at the top of their lungs while shoving Dora fruit snacks up their nose. At McDonald’s, as long as your little ones aren’t running around knifing cashiers, everyone’s coming up to you for parenting tips.
2. The meal comes with its own entertainment. There’s a reason my diaper bag weighs 200 pounds. It’s because every time we go out, I bring half the contents of our toy chest in hopes of keeping the kids happy for the duration of dinner. At McDonald’s, I don’t need any of that stuff, because the kids get a brand new toy with their happy meal. Yes, it’s always some piece of junk tied into a lame kids’ movie and it breaks as soon as we get home, but so what? It kept them busy while Daddy ate his McSalad, so it served its purpose.
3. It kills time. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this one to other stay-home parents, but sometimes the biggest challenge every day is just finding activities to keep the kids occupied. I’ll come up with a brilliant idea like hide and seek, and they’ll get bored with it in two minutes. You ever tried playing hide and seek with kids who refuse to hide or seek? It gets old fast.
That’s why I love eating out. Dinner at home might take twenty minutes, but a trip to McDonald’s, including putting coats on, loading them in the car, driving there and back, ordering and actually eating the food, can last a blissful hour and a half. We don’t even go to a McDonald’s with a play area. If we did that, they might stay all afternoon.
4. The zit-faced 16-year-old slaving over the grill for minimum wage is a better cook than me. I don’t know his secret, but his Angus Third Pounders are always fried, flipped and oversalted to perfection. McDonald’s is a welcome break for our whole family – for me not to have to cook… and for the kids not to have to eat my cooking. So whoever that is in the hairnet behind the electronic order screen, my compliments to you, young chef! And the red-haired clown out front, too.
5. It’s an excuse for me to eat McDonald’s. Seriously, have you tried those Angus Third Pounders? Damn, that’s the sweet stuff!
6. It’s cheap(ish). Have you been to one of those chain restaurants lately, like Uno’s or T.G.I. Fridays? These days, they all advertise on their kids menu that they use Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Well, guess what? I know what Kraft Macaroni & Cheese costs, and it ain’t $6 a serving. Sure, McDonald’s marks up their prices, too, but at least they don’t shove it in my face and make me feel like a moron. My whole family of four eats there for under $20, and I don’t end up giving my kids something I could – and do – give them at home for $1.29 a box.
7. It’s low maintenance food. It’s a tenet of dining out that the price of the food is directly related to how cold it’ll get before the parents get a chance to eat it. Take your kids to a steakhouse and you’ll spend half an hour carving their filet into pebble-sized portions they’re actually capable of digesting. Then comes the convincing. “C’mon, it tastes like a hamburger!” You know how to solve that problem? Just get them a damn hamburger in the first place. Done.
At McDonald’s, the kids recognize everything on the menu, and all of it is bite-sized. I don’t have to cut, coax or cajole. All I have to do is open the happy meal box and let them go to town. I may not get to eat prime rib myself, but at least I’ll enjoy my McChicken before its core temperature registers on the Kelvin scale.
8. They eat a full meal there. I often wonder why the kids don’t finish the meals I make them at home. Were they just not hungry? Or did my turkey meatballs suck?
At McDonald’s, I know they’re eating as much as they want. They usually finish everything, but if there is food left over, it’s not because they didn’t like it. Sure, the food is garbage, but honestly…
9. The food’s not much worse than what I serve at home. I know that what McDonald’s scrapes off the slaughterhouse floor to put in their burgers isn’t exactly Kobe beef, but then again, what’s in those hot dogs I buy at the supermarket? Are the chicken nuggets we heat in the microwave so much more full of vitamins and minerals than McNuggets?
Fair enough. When I’m at home, I can at least try to make things nutritious. Even Jerry the Bad Dad always puts a fruit and a vegetable on the high chair trays, and he does buy organic (well, you know, sometimes maybe he does). Overall, my kids are better off eating my dinners than a fast food dinner. But that’s why we don’t eat McDonald’s every day.
Which brings me to my final point…
10. McDonald’s teaches my kids the value of moderation. It’s not like I tell my kids that McDonald’s is healthy food. But by limiting the number of times we go there, I’m letting them know it’s a special treat we can’t have too often. Only by going to McDonald’s can my kids appreciate the value of not going to McDonald’s, which, after all, is what we do most of the time.
They rarely ask for it anymore, and when they do, I just remind them that fast food is OK once in a while, but we can’t eat it every day. It’s a special treat that we can only have when Daddy says so… just like TV.
Oh yeah, TV. I know the doctors all say that kids who are exposed to even five minutes of TV before they turn 2 will instantly morph into raging chain-tantruming paste eaters with droopy eyelids, but… well… you see…
Eh, I’ll save that for another post.
oohhh so that’s why they’re called HAPPY meals……
Shhhhh…tell no one…
My now-seventeen year-old, still-non-verbal autistic son…his first spontaneous request for something was McDonald’s….shhhhhh
My oldest? He came out of the womb crying out the words “Domino’s!!!! Pepperoni!!!!”
Pssst…guess what! I’m a bad parent, too!!!! Shhhhh…
Neither one of my kids had been overweight until the youngest started taking medication that makes him gain weight…and they ate McDonald’s every week. My oldest, in fact, probably has a hidden tattoo of the Carl’s Jr. logo somewhere!
Of course, since my husband and I are now scratching the belly of “being fifty,” we can’t tolerate Mickey D’s as we used to, but we sure love the smell of those fries!!!!
As usual, Jerry, you’re cool…so’s Jerry the Bad Dad! (cue funky 70’s music…)
You slay me…fixed my Monday morning, in fact. Thanks for that! 😀
Thanks, Lola! I don’t know what it is about McD’s that makes kids so happy. Even without the playplace, even if we don’t get a happy meal, they’re just so thrilled to go there.
I’ll join your bad parent club any day! 😀
I used to go once a week when my kids were that age too. I went for the same reasons you specified especially to get out of the house in the wintertime.
Once they get older and you are shuttling them everywhere, you won’t have time to go that often.
Good to know. I doubt I’ll miss it when we’re not going, but it’s fun for now!
It’s amazing how wonderful the concept of “filling up time” can actually be! Managing to get your kids to not go ADD and change their minds about what they want to do every 2 and a half minutes is worth it!
I, too, am a stay at home father, and I hear you.
Thanks for having my back. Julia Sweeney has a great bit about taking her young daughter out to IHOP for breakfast, then to the playground… basically, having a full day’s entertainment… then she gets home and realizes it’s 7:30. I love her.
Great post! Ours “outgrew” the play areas when they determined that the other children were biting/scratching/kicking monsters that probably weren’t wearing shoes when they got there anyway. The youngest used to dump his nuggets and fries into the bag so that we couldn’t see how much or how little he was actually eating. He thinks he’s so smart.
I love the evil genius of little kids. That’s another good thing about McDonald’s. I don’t feel pressured to play that game where I beg them to eat just two more bites. I figure the food is crap, so if they don’t want to eat it it’s probably better for them anyway, right? 🙂
Hey, Jerry, great post as usual!
McDonald’s is also the best thing in the world when you taking long drives with your kids because A) you know the kids will eat the food, B) it gives you a goal for the middle of the drive (“We’re 40 minutes from McDonald’s!), C) they have a play area that you can run the kids around in before you get back in the car and D) a bathroom that you don’t have to wait in line for.
Hey Chuck! Thanks for writing! We’re going to be taking a road trip very soon (when Susie has her baby… basically any day now), so we’ll definitely use McD’s as our midpoint goal to keep the kids happy in the car. Thanks for the tip!
Hmmm, am I feeling a little inspirational today again? Could it be that my comment the other day triggered this brilliant post? If so, you don’t have to feel guilty and defend your decision to take the kids to McD. These are indeed compelling arguments you present here, and I am with you on most of them (especially #10). Although I personally cannot subscribe to #5. I mean, I get that children’s palates are inexplicably geared to salivate all over Chicken McNuggets (or was is the other way around?), but I just can’t find this stuff anywhere in the same region as ‘tasty’. Maybe I’m just weird that way…
Yeah, thanks… and can you give me some inspiration for my next topic? I’m drawing a blank! 🙂
We’ll have to agree to disagree as to the deliciousness of the food. I don’t know what they put in those McNuggets (and frankly, I don’t want to), but I can’t get enough.
Well, I’m honoured 😉 And a little flabbergasted you are asking ME for inspiration. Go play with those adorable kids of yours, they have yet to fail you when it comes to making a fantastic subject for your posts. And if all else fails, how about a post about TV for kids, hahaha.
Oh, I wasn’t kidding about that TV post. It’s in the works!
Now that the twins are older, it’s usually the drive-thru, but the weekend shift TOTALLY remembers us and sometimes slips us little packs of Grimace and Hamburglar cookies. It’s our Saturday lunch tradition, and it makes the weekend official!
Free cookies? I want to go to your McDonald’s! Our new weekend tradition since moving to NY is Dunkin Donuts. Wow, we really are bad dads. 🙂
Please help me.
I would like to go to McDonald’s once a week too, but I have no kids.
Can I borrow the twins to use as a beard?
Any time, Aunt Jennifer!
Thanks so much Jerry I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when I read this. Also I would add no.11- I managed to use going to Mc D’s as a threat for two days last week, it worked great with my two year old. Although the looks I got at toddler group when he announced he was ‘goin McDonald’s me’s been good boy’ were slightly uncomfortable lol.
Thanks for the laugh! I’ve been saying, “Goin McDonald’s me’s been good boy” all day. Adorable!
Lol that’s two year olds for you they hold all the power by being so adorable and you’ve got it doubled!
Ahhh! But there is nothing like the feeling of stepping on one of those McDonald’s toys in the middle of a cold winters night when you’ve got up to a sick child.
Yeah, the McDonald’s toys have a habit of “disappearing” when the kids aren’t looking for that very reason.
My god, you are funny! Your self-deprecating humor is McDonaldifric. Never having been a parent, much less a stay-at-home one, I can only imagine how the day might drag. And yet, as slow as it drags, I’m sure you’re postively exhausted by the time those kidlets are tucked in at night. I think you all deserve you Mcpoisen once in a while.
Here’s my dirty little secret. I love to travel. I love to eat really GOOD, expensive, fancy food when I travel. As the plane approaches the good ol’ USofA on the return trip, I find myself salivating and imagining a Big Mac. I may only eat at McDonalds once every 3 years…but it’s usually on the heels of an overseas adventure. Go figure.
Thanks, Linda! I thought you were going to say that you like to eat McDonald’s on your trips, which would be a little sad. But to be honest, I’ve done it. The few times I’ve been overseas, I’ve always checked out McD’s to see how their menus differ. It’s kind of fascinating. Also fascinating that no matter where you go, the fries taste the same.
Some of my great memories of childhood car trips are at McDonalds! You can breathe a sigh of relief, your kids will cherish the experience and won’t judge you. I certainly don’t. Maccas is a favourite when I’m tired and just don’t feel like cooking 🙂
Yeah, I’m not too worried about my kids thinking I’m a bad dad. They have no complaints when I’m taking them to McD’s! 🙂
Nothing left to say that hasn’t been said. I liked the point that the food is as good/better than yours….my children were Mickey D regulars as kids becuase of many of the reasons above. No harm, no foul. They are both vegetarians, capable human beings who also happen to know that everything in moderation is okay.
I too am a vegetarian which means those fries can still be enjoyed….they are amazing.
Ha! I love that your kids turned out to be vegetarians after eating McD’s as kids. Thanks for sharing!
I guess I shouldn’t tell you about the post I wrote about what’s really in a McNugget… But I’m sure you already know.
Ps: We LOVE television, particularly Elmo. But you might have guessed this from our name.
I don’t know and I hope I never find out. I’ll be skipping that post of yours – no offense! 🙂
And I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love Elmo. I don’t get it, but he’s crack for toddlers.
I so wish we lived closer. Love this!
I get tired just cooking for myself so I can completely relate to you when you want a break from cooking! My boyfriend likes to go out to eat so I get a break on the weekends or when I’m with him. I keep thinking about what will happen with the cooking situation when we have kids (he doesn’t cook and doesn’t eat many things; I’m a future academic/researcher) and your blog is the solution to my (future) angst! 🙂
I do wish I could cook better for my kids’ sake – or that I enjoyed it more. But parenthood isn’t just for the culinarily inclined. The rest of us do the best we can. Best of luck to you! 🙂
First comment for me and a long time reader…
Let me get this bit out of the way first: I’m a lactose intolerant, vegetarian (so it’s off the cards for me anyway), social activist (lefty, green, whatever), anti-maccas, amateur chef and I laughed and laughed all the way through this post.
Being someone who is passionate about food and cooking, I don’t think I could personally take kids to maccas, but I sympathise deeply with your reasons. And I have really fond memories of going as a kid, also in moderation, rarely and when it was some other kid’s birthday party.
I also just love that you posted this under “super parenting”. Made my night.
Thanks for this wonderful blog, and the inspiration that it is for any family set up, two dads, one dad or none! I really appreciate it!
So it took some McDonald’s to bait you into commenting, huh? Well, I’m glad it did. Welcome! 🙂
Parenting is all about passing your values onto your kids, so if you steer your kids away from Maccas on principle (love the nickname – never heard that before), then good on ya. And thanks for not judging me for taking mine there. See, we can both be super parents. Hooray for us!
I’d like to be all high and mighty about the evils of McDevils since we never eat there, but we do take our 4 year old to an awful Chinese Buffet every Tuesday after his gymnastics class. This, clearly, is no better. I have yet to find a nutritional argument of the benefits of lo mein noodles soaked in soy sauce, and jello. But it makes him happy. And well behaved. And it takes up lots of time! All benefits you note, and I completely agree with. When weighing sanity vs. nutrition, nutrition can take the occasional backseat.
That, and you and your kids are adorable, and by all indications you are quite awesome. 🙂
Thanks – glad we found some common ground. 🙂
McDonald’s isn’t my first choice either, but in terms of kid friendliness, nothing else comes close. It doesn’t kill them, therefore it’s making them stronger… just like spinach! See, it is health food after all. Give in, you know you want to! 🙂
Yay for bad parenting! I hate their food, but my husband likes it from time to time, plust they have that kids’ area. A few fries and some free play time from time to time, I can’t complain I guess.
Good point – it’s not like when I go to McDonald’s I don’t see anyone else with kids there. Clearly, I have plenty of company. 🙂
my son loved the kid habitrails of McDonalds. I had all the best ones in a 30 mile radius mapped out around Seattle. Just so every meal is not from there.
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I like this post it’s exactly how I feel too.