I have a weird thing about McDonald’s. We ate there occasionally when I was growing up, and I certainly did in my 20s. And then the combination of more awareness about healthy eating and understanding of exactly what McDonald’s “food” entails turned me off. I didn’t eat there for years and years.
Then when I was pregnant with my first son a few years ago I suddenly got cravings for McChickens. If anyone knows why this might be do tell – I can’t imagine what nutritional need that craving might indicate. (More salt? More calories in general? Who knows.) The cravings went on for a few weeks, but I resisted. I didn’t want to eat that crap, and I certainly didn’t want to feed it to my unborn baby.
That baby is now four and until a few weeks ago he had never eaten at McDonald’s. He had no idea what it even was – had no concept of Happy Meals or Ronald McDonald or McNuggets. We had never taken him there to play. We’d never even gone simply for ice cream.
And now I’m pregnant again and a while ago the craving came back. Part of the problem is that this pregnancy has been rough – I’ve been sick almost all the way along and have had food aversions involving just about anything you can name. I’ve been eating bland stuff and lived on Cheerios for months. I’m not sure why junk food (or fast food) would make the list of things I’m able to consume, but it does.
And so one day I found myself in the McDonald’s drive-through. And I will fully admit something to you: I scarfed down that McChicken, the fries and a chocolate shake.
And then I did it again a week or two later.
My willingness to eat this stuff this time is largely related to a decision to be just a little bit less anal with this pregnancy. With my first child I cut out Coke (my personal vice) not just while pregnant but all the way through 16 months of nursing as well. My attempts to control everything and create a perfect environment to bring a child into the world blew up spectacularly in my face with the onset of postpartum depression, so this time a bit of caffeine, sugar and icky syrup didn’t seem like the end of the world.
And yet I still wasn’t keen to feed Connor the same junk I was eating myself. Until one day we were out and I needed to eat something NOW.
The three of us — my husband, Connor and I — had driven across the city one day to visit Ikea. Those visits are normally an excuse to eat really cheap meatballs and mashed potatoes, but on that day I couldn’t do it. We checked out the other options in the shopping centre, but when it came down to it I preferred one option.
“I really kind of just want a McChicken,” I said to my husband.
“Really?” he asked.
In that one word he went from wondering if I was kidding to realizing I wasn’t to questioning whether to enable this craziness to deciding the safest course of action with a pregnant wife was just to go with it.
“What about him?” he then inquired, indicating the McDonald’s-free child in the backseat.
In the end we got him a Happy Meal with a hamburger, but chose juice, apple slices and yogurt instead of fries and a pop. (He still hasn’t had pop, and that’s one rule I’m not likely to break anytime soon.) We handed him the food and hid the toy to avoid him associating that meal with that toy and asking for it again in future.
He ate the food without complaint, but without particular enthusiasm either. It was just a hamburger – the same as he might have had anywhere else.
Feeding my child McDonald’s for the first time at age four didn’t lead to the apocalypse, but I’m kind of glad it was just another burger to him. I don’t really want him to see it as a regular option, or even as a treat.
I just wanted a McChicken. So I got one and smashed one of my parenting values at the same time.
He’s fine, of course. He’ll live. And I’ll live with the McShame.