#926: Happiness in a Meal

I’ve softened my stance on McDonald’s a bit over the years. While we probably still don’t visit one more often than two or three times a year, I know that it would be a bit unreasonable to bury the kids’ heads in the sand and pretend that McD’s doesn’t exist. So from time to time, we hit the Golden Arches for a quick meal.

What I love about my kids is that they know what McDonald’s is all about, but they never ask for it. And they know (the Girl more so than the Boy) about the Happy Meal and its little toy lure, but they’ve never been the type to grab at my elbow and whine, “Pleeeease, can I have one?” In fact, in all my years as a parent, I think I’ve only bought a total of four Happy Meals.

The other night was one of those occasions. We hadn’t planned on stopping for a meal, but at a late hour on a downtown street, when a kid needs to go to the washroom, McDonald’s is always the easiest option. Before I knew it, both kids felt the hunger pains for something McD’s, and I thought they would enjoy ending their day of amusement with something fun and unexpected. Indeed, the reaction I got was unexpected. Instead of excited oohs and aahs, both kids just looked at their Happy Meals and the simple toys (a Little Pet Shop kitty for the Girl, and an orange Lego truck for the Boy) with a quiet kind of joy. And the Boy looked up at me and said in the purest, most contented voice, “Thank you, Mama.” Then the meal was consumed slowly, but of course, the most interest was reserved for the toys.

I love that the kids derive a simple joy out of something as much as I did when I was a kid, purely because it is so rare. (To this day, I still cherish the Hamburgler pen that my grade three teacher gave me as part of a reward lunch, which my younger brother wore to school without my permission, and promptly lost less than 24 hours after I had received it.) I love most of all that they know about something that gives them such pleasure, but they never outright ask for it. It makes that item so much more cherished to them . . . and them to me.