The girls listen to 90.9 FM (Classical WETA) when they go to bed. Some mornings they ask about items in the news because the programming is interspersed with news and weather updates. One morning, I overheard the following conversation between them:
“Will we feel the bombs in Libya?”
“No, they’re in a different state.”
Usually, I know the news before them or am aware of current events. But, earlier this week they asked why Ronald McDonald was being fired. I was clueless (and pretty sure they were mistaken kinda like that whole Libya/state thing). Until I got to work and found this. While I understand parents’ desire to curb childhood obesity and to have healthier options for kids, this statement bothers me: “McDonald’s uses clowns and toys to sell unhealthy food to impressionable children.” Yes, they market the food and toys to children, but they know that it’s not the children who are the ones buying the food. Get a spine, parents. Say no. And before you get yourself all in a righteous indignation tizzy, admit first that regardless of marketing tactics, McDonald’s may make the food, but we are the ones buying the food.
This article about a class action suit against McDonald’s states that it “is being sued by a group of consumers and nutrition advocates who want to force the fast food chain to stop using toys to entice children to buy meals they say are unhealthy.” Again, it may market to children, even entice them into wanting their food, but it is not enticing the children to “buy.” Maybe this stems from my years of working with lawyers, but say what you mean because I’m taking these statements literally. The children aren’t buying anything. Also in this article, one of the parents suing, Monet Parham, says, “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.” Um, how many times a day do her kids see the golden arches? Is there a McDonald’s across the street from their house? While I know there seems to be one every five blocks, I don’t care how many times they ask for it; it is within our power as parents to simply say no. I’d bet you a Big Mac that her children hear her voice more often than they see, hear a radio ad, or watch a commercial for McDonald’s. She is in their heads way more than the desire to complete their set of Littlest Pet Shop bobbleheads.
It’s like television commercials. We don’t say OK to every toy marketed to our children. Isn’t the advertising and mass marketing of toy commercials “getting into kids’ heads?” It’s as simple as turning off the television and saying no. As simple as riding by McDonald’s and acknowledging that your children want it, but saying no. It’s as simple as setting limits. Have it once a month. Once every other month. Make healthier meals at home. But please stop trying to blame an entity outside your home for making your child fat and unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong; I am no McDonald’s advocate. Although we eat fries a few times a month and maybe even a Happy Meal here or there (I, however, am partial to the fish sammich, always have been), I am in no way trying to say that I think their food is 100% healthy (or 40% healthy, because I haven’t the foggiest idea how McDonald’s ranks percentage-wise in relation to healthy). But, as with anything we eat, I believe it’s best in moderation.
I am reminded of a Dr. Phil episode I saw years (many, many years) ago. There was a young mother who was having difficulty with her three- or four-year-old son. He wanted to watch TV all day. He refused to allow her to turn the TV off. Whaddya know — my face is just as screwed up at that statement now as it was all those many years ago. Dr. Phil, as though he were sitting in the living room listening to me talk aloud to the TV, offered the same advice I did: remove the TV. I am so qualified to be a psychologist.
Basically, he explained to her that she was in control, not the child. She was the person who put the TV there (and, perhaps, at times welcomed its presence), so she was the person who could remove it, tantrums be damned. Maybe she could take the boy outside or distract him with other interesting things — audio books, music, paints, etc. (OK those may be my suggestions seeing how I can’t really remember much else Dr. Phil said since his advice so closely mirrored my own and thereby thrust me into an intense “maybe I was meant to be a psychiatrist” cogitation).
The class action suit’s complaint also alleges that McDonald’s competitors aren’t selling their food with toys. Um, last I checked, Burger King has a kids’ meal. It has a toy. Wendy’s has a kids’ meal. It has a toy. Just because McDonald’s is bigger and more well known/associated specifically with kids’ meals doesn’t mean it is being deceptive or luring kids in. Again, regardless of how thought hijacked a kid is, it is still mom or dad who is driving the car, buying the offending product, stuffing it down the kid’s mouth. Choosing to feed fast food to our kids, then blaming the makers of the food, is ridiculous.
It’s the nonsensical equivalent of me suing over shoes I had to have but that squished my baby toe because they totally lied about that being a size 8, I KNOW THEY FRIGGIN’ MISLABELED THEM. Yes, the manufacturer created them, but they did not make me stuff, wait, primly nestle, my toes into them. I made the choice to buy them even after said nestling proved to be imaginary MY DAMN TOES HURT. Same goes for Mickey D’s. Don’t buy it, then buy it again, then buy it again, then whoa, Nellie, my kid is fat, then bitch about it. Nothing good can come from it for childhood obesity or my feet.