There are some things that should just never happen. You should never put your head inside a hungry lion’s mouth. You should never jump up and down on a precariously balanced rock overlooking a deep ravine. You should never take the remote control away from a man in the middle of a football game. These are no-brainers for most of us. But what about those that dare to walk on the wild side? Those persons who thumb their noses at danger? Well, one of them must have been working at McDonalds today.
One of the quirky little things that our family has been doing since we started our travels across the United States is to stop at one McDonalds in each state we visit. The reason we picked McDonalds is because they are easy to find in every state, they are not too expensive to feed our family of 7 and it’s one of the few places where each of our sons can find something on the menu that they enjoy. We have been called “McNuts” for this practice, but we have decided to wear that badge proudly.
Sometimes our McDonalds stop has been only for my husband and me to get an iced coffee from the McCafe, and sometimes the boys are overjoyed to find that we are actually stopping for a family meal. Today, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, was one such joyous day for our boys’ taste buds. At first, they were a little disappointed to find that there was no play land attached to this McDonalds, but that minor setback was all too willingly overlooked in the face of the toy that awaited each of our three youngest in their Happy Meals. Right now, Puss in Boots was featured in the meals, and though we have yet to see the movie, our little guys are enthralled with commercials. So, they happily began eating their meals.
Now, I don’t know how this works in your family, but in ours, I tend to set out the food for each of our little boys, and then immediately confiscate the toy. Then I keep reminding them that in order to get their toy, they need to show good manners and eat up their food. I know it’s not fair. The toy is technically theirs from the moment they get their meal, and they should be allowed to have control over their own toy, but I don’t necessarily play fair. I play to win. So it was that we found ourselves sitting in McDonalds, eating lunch and bribing our children with the promise of some really cool toy.
Then, I opened the little bag in which I had gathered the toys to take a look. The sight that met my eyes was one which would have felled a lesser mother of sons. Everything in the bag was pink! And not just pink, it all smelled like strawberries. A nasty shiver ran down my back. Did all my sons’ happy meals come with a Strawberry Shortcake toy? Oh, definitely this was one of the things that should be included in the list of things that should never, ever happen. I looked deeper into the bag and found that not only were all the toys Strawberry Shortcake dolls, but they each came with a pink plastic spoon! Was there no justice in this world?
I timidly asked a worker who happened to be walking by if there were any other types of toy they could substitute for us. He looked at the 3 pair of totally male eyes staring back at him and he winced. His reply was that he was just as sorry as he could be, but that was all they had at the moment. Then, he sprinted away as far from our table as humanly possible, never to show his face to my sons again. I turned to the boys and started to explain the situation with fear and trembling, but my youngest son, Chase, threw me a curve ball. “I don’t mind, Mom. I like spoons”, said Chase. He didn’t even seem to mind that the spoon smelled a bit like strawberries.
David and Brendan both gave him a look that clearly stated they were going to tease him unmercifully when they got him out of our hearing. So I decided to give him a little pep-talk before they turn on the abuse. I took him into the bathroom to “go potty” and while we were in there I reminded him that even if someone else made fun of him for liking something, he didn’t have to listen to them. I told him that I thought keeping his spoon was a great idea and if one or two of his brothers thought that was a bad idea, they were wrong. In fact, I told him, if he wanted to play with the Strawberry Shortcake doll, he could even do that. Chase looked up at me from the toilet with big solemn eyes and said, “Mom, you’re kind of creepin’ me out.” I smile....pink spoons are one thing, but a boy with a Strawberry Shortcake doll is probably still one of those things which should never, ever happen.