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.