Saturday, February 5, 2011

McDonalds, Subway and Being a Mom

I remember reading an article a couple of months ago about a mother who was suing McDonald's because they have toys in their Happy Meals. After googling it this evening I found one telling of the insane story here. The mother says in her own words:
"I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald's should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience. But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say 'no' to our young children so many times, and McDonald's makes it that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."
The first thing that jumped out at me in the quote above is that McDonald's is "getting into her kids' head" without her permission. If a person is so concerned that their child is being damaged and changed by what they see on television, and I think this can be a valid concern, there is another option: turn the TV off. Cancel your cable/satellite/whatever. If you are letting your child watch it, then in a way you are granting "permission" for them to see advertising.

And of course there's the whole Do-Your-Job-And-Say-No! issue that instantly comes to mind. If you can't tell your kid that they aren't going to be eating Happy Meals every day when they're six, you have a problem.

There is, however, a reason for this post (you were beginning to wonder, weren't you?):

The other day my family and I went to a national sandwich chain for lunch. We don't eat out very often. In fact, I'd say we go out to eat as a family around twice a month (Paul even brings brown bag meals when he's in SF for school for the weekend), most often when we have to go into the city to do our shopping. So it's a special occasion. A kind of big deal, if you will, that we all look forward to, even though it's usually a fairly inexpensive place.

I should say before I add the part that inspired this post, that everyone at this sandwich chain was very nice and polite and pleasant. So it wasn't the workers who I had a problem with (and they didn't even know I had a problem). I absolutely will be going back again to get a $5 footlong sandwich!

No, what bothered me was the store's policy as explained by the staff. When we got up to the counter to pay we each had a little bag of chips to go with our 12 inch subs (and Sadie's little turkey sandwich). Sadie had a little bag of cheetos. She doesn't get to eat them often at home, and she absolutely loves them. But when we went to pay we were informed that Sadie could have an apple or yogurt because the chain is now promoting healthy eating for children.

We've gone to this chain before and the choices in the past have included a cookie, chips, an apple or yogurt.

I think it's great that they have healthy options. But I think they should realize that parents should also have the option of letting their kid have a less healthy treat. The kids I knew growing up who had the most issues with food (and who had smuggled in junk food troves under their beds) were the ones whose parents never let them have anything from the "junk food" realm.

Apples and yogurt aren't really "special" in our house. We have apples constantly (it's such an easy snack) and I just bought another giant box of yogurt. We don't have chips here that I know of (mostly because this grown up is trying to lose weight!).

I don't need Subway, or any other restaurant helping me decide what my child needs to eat. And I find that sort of paternalistic mentality to be infuriating. Options are great, but let me be the mom and make the mom decisions. Even if that means saying "no" sometimes.

In fact, as a mom, it's my responsibility to say no sometimes. It's part of my job. And I don't need lawyers, judges or fast food restaurants trying to assume that responsibility for me.


  1. Maybe the store was just trying to make sure you knew the options?

    Yeah, I'm all for having options, but I'm their mother and if anyone loses sight of that I don't mind reminding them.

    I can't eat McDonalds anymore. I just can't bring myself to to do it. After the story about Taco Bell, I feel similarly about them. We do eat Chick Fila and will occasionally get Wendys or Five Guys. (I would LOVE to get a sub but I can't have lunch meat until this baby is born.)

    Funnily though, none of our children will ask or beg for a particular food chain. They might repeatedly ask for chicken and french fries, but they have no problem if we cook it at home as opposed to buying it from a chain. They might ask for treats often, but they know they won't always get them. Cecilia just had her 5 year check up and the doctor asked her how often she eats candy or treats and she told him not often. I had to laugh because she doesn't think it is often. I still think it is too often, but she doesn't. I suppose that is the peril of asking that question of a 5 year old though. LOL But seriously, as much as it might not always be fun to tell your children, "No," if anyone can't do it, it is simply ridiculous to try to shove that responsibility on to anyone else, even McDonalds.

    Personally I think such things are just a reflection of the larger problem of parents simply not accepting their responsibilities as parents, whether that comes down to their children's education, nutrition, sexual education or whatever. When parents do what they should do as parents, it shows.

  2. Different Subway franchises do this differently. I'm not sure why, but I've had this same experience where the kids meal at one location will allow different items than another. But I agree with you that I want to be my kids' parent.

  3. I agree with you about parenting. Let me parent my kids, thank you very much!

    And as for the woman and McDonald's, well.... everyone's out to get a quick buck, and she sees McDonald's has deep pockets. It's sad, but so many parents don't want to actually do the hard part of parenting! It's so frustrating to see!

  4. Dh just told me that chips have never been an option for the kids meals here. That's one of our fav places too. I hadn't noticed.. Kalila loves apples so it works out :-)

  5. Oh, the stories I could tell you about this issue with regard to our public elementary school! :) We just got the note about "healthy Valentines Day snacks" and the emphasis on "non-food treats." Sigh. One of the many reasons I will be SO happy to move Henry to the Catholic school next year is that we will be away from the reign of the food police. :)

  6. I love McDonalds but no one forces me to eat there. Life is crazy isn' it?
    You have donea great job with your page. Thanks for visiting.

  7. I'm not so worried about Mcdonald's but I do get concerned about all the advertisements on everything. They have disney on diapers and dora the explorer on sippy cups. It's a challenge just for me to avoid buying the simplest things without some tv cartoon character plastered on it.

    I think you'd have to basically keep your kids away from other people's children to avoid them seeing elmo or mcdonald's somewhere.

    But don't get me wrong, I'm not saying elmo or dora are evil. It's just that I want the option to not have dora or elmo around. I'd rather have shapes or rocket ships or dinosaurs on my kid's stuff. And I don't want to deal with the whine factor because dora's on the box of cereal so it must be the best cereal ever. And advertisers do that on purpose; that is try to get kids to whine for stuff that they recognize.

    A little bit of a subject change here: I can't find the statistic but I read somewhere that the average American child eats out 3-4 times a week. It's staggering. I think more restaurants are feeling the heat of parents (who eat out a lot) wanting healthier options. I think the whole "healthy" option thing wouldn't be a big deal if people ate healthy at home.

    I agree with you. What's the big deal about having a bag of Cheetos every once in a great while? After watching a friend of my punish his child for taking strawberries without permission, I vowed that I would not make food something my children have a love/hate relationship with. Food is essential to life. I don't want my kid to have an eating disorder.

  8. Great post Cam. I've not come in contact with any of that here in the midwest. Yes, we have the healthier options, but they are all options that that we can choose, not put upon us.

    It's sad but true that some parents don't have the courage to say no to their children. Sadder still when these children grow up and get told no in various other situations, by people other than their parents, and they don't know how to take no for an answer.


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