A little over a year ago, Princess Rapunzel was invited to her bff’s birthday party. She was so excited to show me the invitation when I picked her up from daycare. Her friend was turning 4 and we were invited to celebrate with her! At McDonald’s… For Happy Meals and the PlayPlace… In the middle of flu season… All I could think about was plastic slides and jungle gyms covered in germs. And processed chicken. I didn’t want to go, but couldn’t bear to kill PR’s happiness.
At the time, McDonald’s was a place that I hadn’t ever brought my kids to. Indoor play areas make me twitch, just thinking of the runny noses, drool and dirty hands that have been there before us. Plus, we don’t eat fast food. While I’d love to say that we eat 100% local and organic foods, the truth is that we don’t all the time. My kids love pizza as much as they love my roasted vegetable quinoa. Well, they might love pizza more. But I do have certain things that I don’t give to them. They are still so young and can make their own choices when they get older. I hope that by feeding them a variety of different healthy foods, they will be able to make their own healthy choices when given options. Anyhow, fast food and Kraft mac n’ cheese are at the top of my list of things we don’t eat. How was I going to manage to take both girls to this party and avoid the food?
Does anyone else feel awkward around parents that they don’t know? I do. And this party would be only parents I didn’t know. Great! At least my own friends would lovingly roll their eyes if they saw me whip out a packed lunch for the girls while the other kids happily ate their nuggets and cheeseburgers. Oh well. I had decided that we were bringing our own food. What’s the best way to fly under the radar in front of a bunch of people you don’t really know at a McDonald’s birthday party? Bring a packed lunch. Right?! I made PR a peanut butter sandwich, but only had one kind of bread. Purple whole wheat with raisins and dried apricots in it. The only thing that could draw even more attention than bringing food to a restaurant… bringing weird looking food!
When we got there and got settled in, we were asked what kind of Happy Meals the girls wanted. “Ummmm, oh… I brought their lunch.” I tried to say it as if I was taken by surprise that they were offering food. Like I thought it was a bring-your-own-lunch picnic of sorts that only happened to be taking place in a restaurant. The girls were 2 1/2 and 13 months at the time, so they didn’t bat an eye at the fact that they weren’t having what the other kids were having. Little Boo was just a baby, but I thought that PR might notice. She didn’t seem to at all. And she did have cake with the other kids because I’m not a total weirdo!
I was able to overcome my germ anxiety for about an hour and PR had a great time with the other kids in the Play Place. LB happily snuggled with me in the Ergobaby as I nervously watched her sister’s every move, hoping that she wasn’t licking anything in there and that she wouldn’t get trampled by a bigger kid.
I made it home with two tired kids and had only gotten a few weird looks. PR is still good friends with the little girl and we were invited back to her birthday party this year. It was pizza and bowling this time and I didn’t pack a lunch!
So the point is not that kids shouldn’t eat McDonald’s. The point is that your kids should eat whatever you want them to. Awkward or not, as a parent, you should feel comfortable making your choices and standing by them. From big things like vaccinations to small things like what type of baby shampoo you use, the choice is yours and the motivation is the same no matter what. Whether I was declining a cup of coffee or a glass of wine because I was still nursing my two year old, or packing a lunch to bring to a birthday party, I was standing by my choice because I felt that I was doing right by me and my kids. And I feel good about that!