January 25, 2011

Happy Meals for Everyone!

Let me be upfront and clear: As a parent, I have (at times) grown to loathe McDonald's. Don't get me wrong; about once every 6-8 months, something in me just starts to crave a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and some of those salty fries. But that doesn't happen very often. So when my children make their weekly plea for that blissful culinary delicacy known as the "Happy Meal", they are usually met with a wall of resistance. I have at least 8-10 automatic alternatives at the ready at all times. (And of course, Chick-fil-A is #1 on the list.) But I'm no dummy. I know it's not those grotesque processed mystery meat nuggets that they're actually hungering for. It's the prize that comes with it! (Can I get an "Amen!"?) This is part of being a child and part of being a parent - and it's not about the eating right. When you boil it down, it's actually a "War of the Wants".

So last night I see on the news that a California mom has filed a lawsuit against McDonald's for deceptively marketing their unhealthy food to kids by dangling the toy in front of them. [Allow me to pause for a moment before I proceed with my initial reaction] Are you kidding me!? As a parent, I understand the frustration with the fact that fast food isn't piping my children with the nutrients that they need. I also get aggravated knowing that it's not ultimately the food they want, but the toy. But here's the thing lady: this isn't about deception or nutrients. This is about YOU stepping up and parenting! When asked by an ABC reporter, "You're her parent. Isn't it your job to tell your kids 'No'?" Her response was, "I DO tell them no, and this is where the challenge begins. I can tell them 'No' all day long, but they're still convinced that they've really got to have this toy." I would really love to put this lady's own words in front of her own face: "this is where the challenge begins". You're absolutely right. And the challenge - the battle that we fight daily - is teaching our kids that not everything they WANT is what they NEED.

I've known for quite a long time now that Jesus makes this clear. But the reason I knew this in the first place is because my Momma and Daddy taught me! The world is a constant commercial. Are we going to sue everyone? My kids watch the Disney Channel. It's owned by Disney, programmed by Disney, and advertised on by Disney. They don't make money showing Handy Manny or The Suite Life of Zach & Cody - they make money because they advertise Disney World in the middle of the show. And Disney owns ABC and ESPN as well. So it's Disney's fault that I really want to go to the Super Bowl? Jerks! Do you see my point? Not only is this simply advertising, it's a free market. Quite frankly, I don't WANT McDonald's to make the Quarter Pounder with Cheese healthier. Because when I do actually crave one once a year, I want it to taste like that greasy, nasty, juicy cheeseburger that it is. I know those fries are not helping my cholesterol or my children's growth patterns. It's FAST FOOD! 

And look at this from another angle. This is a picture [ABOVE] that I have to pull out sometimes when my kids start complaining about not wanting pork roast and carrots. Yes, it happens. Do you think the parents of these children would consider suing McDonald's for supplying their kids not only with some nuggets and fries, but a TOY to go along with it? Can you even imagine or comprehend the thought? Isn't this more about perspective & laziness than justice?

Here's the thing: As a parent maybe it's my job to turn OFF the stupid TV more often, get my butt in the kitchen, and fix my child something that's actually good for them. While I am still fairly certain that Chick-fil-A puts an addictive chemical in those waffle fries, I can't prove it. So my lawsuit will have to hold off for another day. And I would certainly like to hold Krispy Kreme responsible for that stupid HOT*NOW sign as well. We all know that there's a tractor beam in the sign that forces your car to turn into the parking lot. It doesn't even matter if it's 2:00 in the afternoon and you're not hungry - it calls out to you: HOT! NOW! Should we all get together and sue their deep-fried pants off? I don't think so.

This lady claims that money is not her motive. I have no reason not to believe her. But I would suggest that whether she realizes it or not, maybe part of her subconscious motive is that parenting is hard work - it's a CONSTANT BATTLE - and sometimes we just want someone to make it a little easier for us. And all I know to say to that is, "Sorry. It's not gonna happen."

*I would also like to point out a "Thanks" to McDonald's for offering alternatives to my kids like Chocolate Milk and Apple Slices. Jerks!

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