“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!
Yes, that place!
(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.