When I found my toddler in a full-on lip lock with a 6-foot fiberglass clown, I realized it might be time to change the family eating habits.
Let me back up a bit. We don’t eat out very often, only when we travel. But when we do eat out, it’s nearly always at McDonald’s, because they have easy food for little people, and salads for me.
Sadly, Tom has learned to recognize the Golden Arches from miles away. Just a glimpse of the crest of a smooth yellow “M” and the chant echoes from the back seat: “Uncle Donald’s! Uncle Donald’s! Peeeeeease, Uncle Donald’s!”
I really don’t know what he finds fascinating about the restaurant. The first time we ate at a McDonald’s with a Play Place, he spent the entire lunch hour chasing around the attendant who was trying to clean the floors. He desperately wanted to help her mop. He was so enthralled with the string mop he didn’t even glance at the giant indoor playground in the next room.
A few months later, we stopped at a newly remodeled McDonald’s that had an indoor waterfall. I practically had to force-feed him his Crispy Ranch Snack Wrap because he would not tear his eyes from the novel sight of re-circulated water pouring over an etched glass “M.”
At one of these stops, I bought him a Happy Meal that came with a little blue plastic car driven by Ronald McDonald himself. Tom spent weeks driving that little car around, telling his deepest secrets and joys to Uncle Donald.
So it was not all that surprising that, when we walked into the McDonald’s last week and were confronted with a life-sized statue of the clown sitting on a park bench, Tom’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.
All through lunch he pleaded to go see Uncle Donald. In between bites of chicken and sips of chocolate milk, he gazed longingly at the bench, just waiting for a chance to climb up and meet his best buddy in person.
Once the last bite was gone, we headed over to examine Uncle Donald’s large, red shoes. Then Tom checked out Ronald’s bright yellow pants, brown eyes and red hair. “Sit in lap, sit in lap,” Tom chanted as he scaled the statue. Minutes later he had thrown his arms around the statue, muttering, “Huggins! Huggins!” Then he gazed deeply into the statue’s painted-on eyes, said, “I love you, Uncle Donald!” and kissed him right on the mouth.
From now on, we’re eating at Wendy’s.