Northshore friends, I would like to tell you a story. I’ve told this story in the past, but never to a public audience, so it’s almost like a coming-clean after ten years of holding in my dirty little secret.
Picture it: McDonalds, Mandeville, 2012
My oldest son, Lucas, is 2 and is an incredibly difficult toddler. I know all toddlers are difficult, but he’s pretty next level. I spend most days making sure laundry baskets aren’t accessible for him to stack under the door to access the top latch. Why? So that the next time I go to the bathroom, he doesn’t unlatch the door and flee like a bat out of hell, giving me no choice but to run after him braless and barely clothed while the neighbor’s painters openly gawk from their rooftop. (This is not a hypothetical example.) To make matters worse, my husband, Jonathan, is thick in his pediatric residency and I’m with Lucas nearly all day, every day, due to Jonathan’s schedule as well as the fact that we can’t afford any type of childcare respite at this point.
I spend my days trying to find cheap entertainment for the two of us. Before I had children, I was adamant they’d never eat at McDonalds. After two years home with Lucas, I was basically on a first name basis with the fry cook. Despite the questionable food and a play place that’s a cesspool of fluids spanning 3 decades (not an exaggeration since I played on this exact play place as a child), McDonald’s has become a haven for us. It’s low-key, never crowded and I’m not held to any high social standards. I’m typically wearing leggings with a 20-year-old high school spirit shirt and still feel a little overdressed.
But, one day, a curious thing happens. Seemingly all Mandeville’s upper crust have decided to visit our McDonald’s. I’m talking moms in tennis skirts, siblings in matching smocked outfits, people named Penelope.
Cool, cool. It’s all good. Maybe Lucas will make friends with Penelope’s brother Yates.
Lucas finishes his frankennuggets and I hand him a chocolate chip cookie. He eventually scurries off to play with his new fancy friends. I settle on my carefully chosen perch- the seat that allows viewing from the most angles since I’ve somehow become the proud owner of a child who defies physiology and routinely employs both fight and flight within the same ten seconds.
And that’s when I hear it. A blood-curdling scream.
“Mommy! MOMMMMMMYYYYY! There’s POO on the slide and *choking sobs* I SLID THROUGH IT.”
I breathe a sigh of relief because, while I question my parenting every day, I know I’m capable of checking a diaper. It’s not my kid. He just walked away and definitely was not poopy. I walk over to survey the situation to make sure he’s avoided the slide feces. I check his diaper and declare, almost smugly, “it’s not mine. He’s clean!”
All the moms are panicked and screeching/gasping/remembering whey they never come to McDonald’s. Poo-pants girl is streaked with brown fluid and she’s wearing white shorts. Her mom is gagging whilst telling her daughter to disrobe. Poo pants’ crying further escalates because she’s 6-ish and embarrassed to be pant-less in McDonalds. (She doesn’t realize this is pretty standard here.)
One mom reassesses and says, “I think maybe it’s chocolate?”
All the other moms whip their heads disgustedly and poo-pants’ mom declares, “I smelled it. It is POO.”
And that’s when it happens. I look at Lucas and see the smallest trickle of chocolate coming from the corner of his mouth. And it hits me. Hard. He has been squirreling food in his cheeks lately. I look from his mouth to the glob of brown on the slide to the streaked shorts and I just know that he has spit masticated cookie onto the slide and we are to blame for this crap-tastrophe.
I ready myself to say something. I clench and unclench my fists, watching the moms fret over the shorts. They’re all frantically checking their own kids for poo. One has gone to retrieve an employee and I can hear her at the counter exclaiming about the poo on the slide. The employee is gathering caution tape to cordon off the slide. I’m trying to picture how my apology will play out, but I’m having a full-fledged anxiety attack and I can’t think straight.
I do the only thing I can.
I scoop up my drooling child and I run. I run so fast that, as I’m burning rubber to my car, chocolate saliva is pouring out of his mouth and onto the ground. I run like Forrest evading his bullies. I run like Usain Bolt in the 40 yard dash. I run like I’m at a wedding and the cake just came out.
I get to the car, strap in my child and wonder how it’s possible we’ve now become pariahs at McDonald’s.
I start the car and head to the only place in Mandeville we have left…
I’m just kidding- we didn’t go to K-Mart (that day at least). I went home and replayed the scenario a hundred times. I came to the conclusion I should have confessed to my child’s inadvertent transgression. I could have saved a (likey very expensive) pair of shorts from a trash demise, a little girl from embarrassment, and an employee from a biohazard cleanup situation. At the time, I just couldn’t find my voice, but here I am, ten years later, trying to make amends. If that was you, fancy mama, in the Mandeville McDonald’s 10 years ago, I am so sorry I let you think your daughter slid through poo. Little girl, if that was you, I hope you weren’t too traumatized to ever slide down a slide again. Maybe you were only so traumatized you never wanted McDonald’s and grew up very healthy, perhaps? Either way, please accept my apology. I’d like to buy you a Happy Meal. And a new pair of shorts.