A few months ago, I wrote a post wherein I asked my kids what makes them mad. Sutton’s response was quick and brutal: my singing. Well, I’d like to state that her opinion has evolved. Now when the topic comes up, she says, “I don’t like your voice!”
This is why it’s good to update old posts now and then. Things change. Sometimes, my kids grow firmer in their convictions, and sometimes, I ease up on mine.
I have to admit I no longer stand fully behind my post on why I love taking my kids to McDonald’s. At the time I wrote that, we were only one month into our cross-country move. I had discovered that the local McDonald’s had a family night every Thursday, featuring a nice magician guy. He made balloon animals for the kids, while I got to enjoy the snotty teenagers heckling him from nearby. It was a nice routine, at time when we really needed one.
That was eight months ago, and I’ve discovered more things to do around our new home. I’ve also gotten thoroughly sick of McFood. I don’t think I’ll ever become one of those fast food fascists who never lets their kid step foot inside the golden arches because it’s POISON — POISON!!!, but going there once a week is no longer something I proudly recommend. Here’s my point-by-point rebuttal of my prior post:
1. My kids are always the best behaved children there.
Still true… but also a source of concern. You know those balloon animals the magician makes? My kids ask for giraffes and flowers. The other kids get swords and guns. Then they battle each other to the “death” (if only).
Worse are the McDonald’s-es with play places. Now that my kids know those exist, it’s hard to get them to go to a location without one. Sure, that labyrinthine plastic apparatus lets them work off the ocean of calories they just consumed, but when you put all those kids together in a confined space, just out of grown-ups’ reach, it’s bound to turn into a miniature, neon-colored Thunderdome.
Adults have no jurisdiction inside those twisty, netted structures, because they simply can’t fit inside or even see what’s going on up there. There are always some little monsters quick to take advantage of the lack of supervision and go all Lord of the Flies on each other. It’s a Hobbesian state of nature, every pipsqueak for himself.
My kids mostly stay above the fray in this pop warner Hunger Games… but I wonder how long that will last if we keep going there. The day I see them with pig blood smeared under their eyes, we’re outta there.
2. The meal comes with its own entertainment.
My kids still love Happy Meal toys… unless they’re given two different toys and one of them gets a better one than the other… or they’re given the exact same toy but one of them still thinks the other’s is better… or they both get crap toys. I cringe when I first peek in the bags to see what the toys will be, hoping they will meet my kids’ approval.
3. It kills time.
It’s great getting out of the house for a while… but McDonald’s is not really a fun place for a grownup to be. If only the McAcoustics didn’t so greatly amplify the shrieking and stomping, maybe I could zone out a bit and forget that the chicken sandwich I’m eating is hastening my demise.
4. The zit-faced 16-year-old slaving over the grill for minimum wage is a better cook than me.
Hey, kid, ease up on the salt… or at least throw some beta-blockers in the Happy Meal box. Sheesh.
5. It’s an excuse for me to eat McDonald’s.
Nothing on the McDonald’s menu appeals to me anymore. When I wanted to be sorta healthy, I ordered a salad… which is basically just a chicken sandwich (you can even get it breaded and fried!) on a bed of iceberg lettuce instead of a bun. Eventually I realized that I could get a halfway decent salad by taking the kids to Panera Bread instead, and they could eat grilled cheese sandwiches instead of French fries. If one of us is going to settle for food they’re less-than-thrilled about, I’d prefer it be them and not me.
Panera Bread is about the same.
7. It’s low maintenance food.
So is Panera Bread.
8. They eat a full meal there.
Not anymore. The food doesn’t have nearly the appeal it used to. My son can eat a peanut butter sandwich every meal, every day and never complain. But even for him, one serving of McNuggets a week is sufficient.
Half the time, I have to beg them to eat a second McNugget just to make sure they won’t McStarve. Honestly, they eat more at Panera Bread.
9. The food’s not much worse than what I serve at home.
The food at Panera is better.
10. McDonald’s teaches my kids the value of moderation.
You know what teaches them the value of moderation even better? That three out of four times we eat out, we go to Panera Bread, instead of McDonald’s.
McDonald’s has become more of a once-a-month destination, and personally, that’s made my meals a lot happier.
When I think back on that original post, I still understand what I felt at the time, I’ve just grown since then. (Mostly, I’ve grown sick of the food.) If you’re still in more of a once-a-week mode yourself, more power to you. I would never judge anyone for taking their kids to McDonald’s that much. Hey, I’ve been there.
A word of advice, though: if they open a Panera near you, check it out. And if you have any other family-friendly dining suggestions, please let me know. I’m gonna be SOOOOOO sick of that place in a few months.
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