I’m the Mom Whose Kids Eat McDonald’s
My kids eat McDonald’s. They clamor for it. Every time we pass those incandescent golden arches I hear 4-year-old Avery sing from the backseat, “Fries, Mommy?” and 9-year-old Camden start in with the “facts”, “Mommy, did you know that Happy Meals come with water and apple slices? Isn’t that such a healthy choice?”
As my own mouth begins to salivate thinking about the warm, salty goodness that are McDonald’s fries, I have a mini-struggle in my mind between Ease and Guilt. Ease makes me glance at the clock. Almost 5 pm. By the time we get home, I justify to myself, it will be 5:30 and then making dinner will take another half hour at least since I didn’t think to thaw anything out before work this morning. By then they will just be STARVING and we’ll have meltdowns and whining.
Not to be outdone, guilt pops in as the voice of those moms whose little cherubs have never had processed food, much less McDonald’s. “All those preservatives, ugh! Little Austin only eats organic food. And nothing fried. God forbid!”
“Oh, I know,” another mom croons, “Sophia thinks Kashi bars are cookies!”
Give me a break! Are these parents for real? Our deep fryer is one of our most used kitchen appliances (besides the can opener, of course). Should we do a once and for all detox and cut out McDonald’s all together? Should I actually learn how to cook from scratch instead of just opening a can or box?
I mean I have at least five Pinterest boards dedicated to recipes – everything from meatloaf to falafel. That’s a start, right? I’ve even attempted a few. I mean how hard can chicken covered in corn flakes be? The blog that hosted this brilliant recipe even had pictures to go with each step so a kitchen dummy like me could follow along easily. And I am a smart person; I graduated from my Masters program with a 4.0! Well, apparently I can write 90 page research dissertations with ease, but following five, illustrated directions in the kitchen is beyond my capabilities. I should have admitted defeat straight away when I realized we didn’t have plain cornflakes. We had the kind with the dried strawberries in it. Great for breakfast, not so great for coating chicken. I spent waaaay too much time sifting through the flakes to pick out those tiny bits of berries. Avery was very happy to help eat those bits and help crush the flakes into crumbs. And I patted myself on the back. Look at me: quality time, necessary skill, happy kid, child labor – I was winning motherhood in that moment.
But, of course, Avery doesn’t do anything lightly with grace and care, so cornflake crumbs ended up all over the counter, in her hair, on the floor… Once the flakes and Avery were cleaned up, I looked at the next step. It read, “Put all the dry ingredients in a gallon-sized zip lock bag.” I sighed; I only had quart sized baggies. But too late to turn back now. And my chicken breasts weren’t overly large. I melted some butter (per step three) in a glass measuring cup. Blog lady suggested then dumping that melted butter in another bowl in order to coat the chicken, but why should I make more dirty dishes when I could totally fit those chicken breasts in the glass cup? As I was patting myself on the back for my “life hack” moment and thinking about how I could make it viral on Pinterest, I realized that the chicken displaced the butter just enough to run over the sides of the cup.
I pulled the dripping breast from the cup and squished it into the ziplock bag with the crushed corn flakes, parmesan cheese, and ranch dressing mix. And let’s take a moment to appreciate that I actually HAD dry ranch dressing mix on hand, much to my surprise. I closed the bag and, in true 90s Shake-n-Bake fashion – shook that chicken like a polaroid. It actually worked! I pulled the chicken out and placed it in my pre-greased oven pan. On to the next breast.
Each time I dunked, squished, shook, and transferred, my hands got more and more slimy and covered in corn flakes. Between the amount I wasted by spilling and the fact that I didn’t have exactly two cups of corn flakes to begin with, there wasn’t enough of the dry mixture left in the bag for the last few breasts. I just plopped the chicken in the pan naked and tried to sprinkle the remaining bits of dry mixture on top. And by “sprinkle”, I mean smoosh. And by “on top”, I mean anywhere in the general vicinity of the chicken.
I shoved the pan in the oven (which I miraculously remembered to preheat – another small victory), set the timer for 25 minutes (per step five) and started to clean up my mess.
Twenty-five minutes later, time I spent Pinteresting more recipes since clearly I was now a domestic goddess, the oven alarm sounded and I sauntered over ready to present this homemade masterpiece to my family. But, it wasn’t done. So, I added five more minutes and shut the oven door. I turned around to see all three of my lovelies seated at the table staring at me and the oven.
“It’s not quite done yet,” I said slowly and watched their expectant expressions slide off their faces. Camden wiped the saliva from the corner of her mouth. I looked at my starving family (it was almost 30 whole minutes past our usual dinner time after all), and suggested, “Why don’t have some carrots and dip while we’re waiting?” My wonderfully supportive hubs rolled his eyes, but the girls seemed excited. They’ll do anything for dip.
Fifteen minutes and half a bag of baby carrots later, my culinary corn-flake covered masterpiece was finally finished. The crunchy cereal on top was only slightly burnt and the chicken was only slightly underdone, so overall it was edible and the kids didn’t complain too much. I was feeling pretty good about myself until my hubs asked, “Do we have any rice or potatoes or noodles or something?”
Oh well, at least they had carrots ahead of time.
Now, I looked back at my little cherubs in the rearview mirror who were by this time chanting, “Mc. Don. Alds! Mc. Don. Ald’s!” in perfect unison.
In the end Ease, who partnered with his buddy Fatigue, won out this day, but nagging Guilt was still pulling at my brainstem. “Okay, children of mine. How about a compromise?” They quieted down, and Camden, who knows how my compromises sometime go, looked apprehensive. “We’ll go to Chick-fil-a instead of McDonald’s.”
“Yay!” they shouted and the chant changed to “Chick. Fill. A! Chick. Fill. A!” And I gave myself a mental high-five for making such a healthy parenting choice while keeping the menagerie happy. And an added bonus is that our Chick-fil-a has a play place where they can burn off some energy before going home, too.
As I watched Camden follow Avery around the climbing element of the play place making sure she didn’t fall, and then Avery demanding, “Hold my hand, CeCe”, my heart swelled. So what if we eat McDonald’s sometimes? So what if we have Sweet Frog for dinner occasionally? My girls are not overweight, not unhealthy, not without fruits and vegetables (remember those carrots?), and most importantly, they are happy and love each other.
I pop another grilled nugget in my mouth and brace myself for having to tell them it is time to go home.