I would not describe our family as overly “health-conscious.” There are Yodels and Pringles in our cupboard, I LOVE Diet Pepsi, and for every organic blueberry and lowfat yogurt in our refrigerator there are equal numbers of ice cream sandwiches and popsicles in our freezer. Something we do avoid, however, is McDonald’s (and other fast food eateries). I don’t say that with any sense of nutritional superiority; it’s simply as a vegetarian myself (or, let’s face it, more aptly, a “carbotarian”), there has never been anything particularly appealing for me on fast food menus. Don’t get me wrong–if someone had a bag of McDonald’s french fries, it would be impossible for me not to ask for one; but overall the predominant offerings do not work with my preferred diet. So, as a family we have always tended to seek out other options (no less healthy, mind you, simply other) when we want to eat out–Applebee’s, Newport Creamery, Subway.
But today we caved in–or, more accurately, I caved in. We had a long day ahead of us, and I had spent the last two days running in no fewer than 400 different directions; so, I knew when I woke up tired this morning after a full eight hours of sleep that something had to give–and tonight it was dinner. I said as Oscar and Edgar got ready for school, “So, how about tonight we zip over to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal for dinner?”
Oscar looked at me incredulously–as he often does: “Mom, do you even know where McDonald’s is?” Edgar looked on, equally concerned.
Once I assured them that I did, the squeals of delight that ensued would have led the objective observer to believe that I had just offered them the LEGO Death Star. (Don’t ask . . . it’s a the stuff of LEGO fantasies.)
At precisely 5:03 PM, after we left our last port of call, we drove to the McDonald’s Drive-Thru. I placed an order for three Happy Meals, feeling a little guilty but not nearly as much as I would’ve thought. I paid the ten dollars and change for the three dinners, and then pulled into a parking space to divvy up the rations. Each boy got his own bag of food, his own drink, and his own toy. And it was at that moment, as I pulled out of the parking space, that I realized why they call these things Happy Meals. They were happy. I was happy. Everyone in the car was experiencing pure bliss.
Will we go back every Friday for a dose of “happy”? No, of course not. Even once a week seems like a bit much for fast food. But I don’t think I will hesitate if, once in a while, this is what we need to do. It reinforces the adage, “everything in moderation,” removes the mystique that would prevail if we forbade it completely, and is a treat that motivates three very busy boys to stay on their best behavior through a long afternoon. Happiness all around.