Friday

How to make a little boy smile. An ode of joy to McDonald's.




When it rains, he cries unexpectedly. When he's had a late night baseball practice, he's kinda cranky the next day. And although he has memorized the stats of every football, baseball, and basketball player in the universe – and I have memorized Pantone colors – we do have one thing in common:

A love affair with Chicken McNuggets.

"Luka what's wrong?"

Pout. Tears. Sad face.

"Sweet boy, I have these two McDonald's gift cards I need to use up. How about we go have some Chicken McNuggets?"

"Really mommy?"

"Yes, really."

Getting this complicated little boy to smile is sometimes a feat of Sisyphean proportions. But just say the word "McDonald's" and the sun begins to break through the clouds on his face.



McDonalds is pure enjoyment for Luka
This past weekend, I *think* I learned how to play golf. From a pro. One of Luka's favorite things to do at McDonald's (besides dunk his Chicken McNuggets in his drink) is to play the computer games at the table. He is crazy-amazing at golf. I'm sure he was exasperated at my failure to sink a putt. But he was surprisingly patient, and even complimentary when I did get one in occasionally.

It's like he's a different person at McDonald's. It's like he's been extracted from his everyday, rough and stubborn little boy self, and magically turned into a sweet, talkative, engaged companion.

Whatever it is, I'll take it.

His other favorite of the computer games is Brain Quest. You get to pick what "grade" in school you want questions from, and he like to start at least in 5th grade, although he's only a 2nd grader. Competitive, much? Of course I'm an glaringly an idiot in this game, having *cough* 40 years between me and 2nd grade, and he wins every time.

Which makes him smile really big.



It's more than just a meal for him
Boy can eat. A double cheeseburger and Chicken McNuggets are his usual. Yes, both. And the little apple slices are his favorite thing to save-the-best-for-last. I always add a crisp side salad to either a Filet-O-Fish sandwich, or Chicken McNuggets. This weekend, we decided we'd share a big box of nuggets, and try ALL the dipping sauces.

Every time Luka explained another golf term I stole one of his stash of Chicken McNuggets when he wasn't looking. (Shhh. Don't tell him.)

Do you have 15 years worth of McDonald's Happy Meal Toys at your house? I do. This make-a-little-boy-smile trick worked on Quinn too when he was little. Luka still plays with Quinn's Happy Meal toys, books, and gadgets, as well as his own.

My own local McDonald's of North Texas franchise group even donated a huge box of their custom written and designed children's books, that they produced with Reading Is Fundamental as Happy Meal inclusions this year, to the little Pre-K kids at Luka's elementary school. Our Pre-K is a HeadStart preschool, and getting books in the hands and homes of preschoolers is top of the list in our neighborhood. Thanks, y'all.



Talk about fun
One of the best parts of hanging out in our neighborhood McDonald's is seeing people we know. I don't think we've ever been there without seeing Luis, Ishmael, Phillipe, Bianca, Xavier, Benjamin, or one of our other little school, baseball, or neighborhood friends. And of course, Luka can make friends with anyone in about five seconds, so he's completely surrounded by chaos and laughter at McDonalds.

Once he gets into the giant play area climbing structure, I know it's gonna be squeals and giggles for at least an hour. I have a hard time getting him outta there once he's in.



So, my dear McDonald's, thank you for giving us a place to play when it's raining, a place to hang out with all our school friends, a place to learn the finer points of chipping and putting, a place to find out that no I am really not smarter than a fifth grader, and a place to share Chicken McNuggets and a laugh.

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Mommy's Wish List Disclosure: Compensation was provided by McDonald's via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of McDonald's. McDonald's asked me to write about my adventures with Luka at their place, because they knew that we go there all the time, and consider it one of our happy places.
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