Why does a “crunchy mom” give her daughter a McDonald’s Birthday Party? The Urban dictionary defines crunchy moms this way:
Mother who supports homebirth, breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, etc. One who questions established medical authority, tends to be vegetarian and/or prepare all-organic foods.
When our older children (now 15 and 13) were little they saw the Golden Arches and called it McDowners. We were living on a large Mennonite dairy farm in Lancaster, PA. Locals knew a man that supplied beef to McDonald’s. He paid farmers for cows that were going down or had just fallen down. No one else would take those heifers. Thus the name McDowner’s.
Our children were raised on raw milk, grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, organic garden produce, and plenty of outdoors, country living. McDonald’s played no part in our lives.
When the oldest was turning eight, we traded our farm living for life in the Philippines. I birthed our daughter Hadassah surrounded by jungle and virgin waterfalls. As she grew, we kept traveling. Suddenly, everything was new. New foods, new smells, new culture.
In countries in which we have lived or traveled (that is, the Philippines, Japan,Taiwan and Mexico), McDonald’s has an entirely different perception. It is not a greasy, dirty, hamburger joint crawling with wild kids served by disgruntled workers.
Competition is fierce for a job at a McDonald’s abroad. It is not unusual for some college to be required for employees. Most workers speak more than one language including English.
The cost of going to McDonald’s abroad is greater than or equal to the cost of going in the U.S. Since the local economy in developing countries like the Philippines pales in comparison to the U.S., McD’s becomes an elite eatery. Servers may bring meals directly to the table. In some countries, no trash cans are visible; only bussers clean tables and handle used items.
Although we have always been concerned about our on-the-road nutrition, McDonald’s appeared familiar to us on our first night in a new country or as we were jumping on and off buses. As Hadassah grew, occasional stops at McDonald’s brought a sense of safety. McDonald’s is sure to have a cold a/c and clean restrooms abroad. When you’re with travel-weary children, fries or a soft serve ice-cream is a welcome treat. Knowing what to expect creates a sense of comfort.
Even with its familiarity, we’ve tried the international variations on the McDonald´s theme. We would try a pineapple hot pie in one country, a taro pie in another. Queso (cheese) pie appeared on Mexico’s menu. It was funny to see McRice in Asia and hot peppers beside the ketchup in Central America. In some countries, the McDonald’s delivery man weaves through traffic on the home delivery motorbike.
The play places in most McDonald’s we have seen abroad are outstanding. With different safety rules in place, lower cost of labor and supplies, the play places may weave a little more at the top and climb a little higher.
In some places, it’s rare to see children in the play place. Prices often kept away families with more than one child. When we did see children, they were usually a part of an elaborate birthday celebration. From the time Hadassah was about two years old, she would peek into those magical play places and stare with wide-eyed wonder at the little birthday celebrants bearing their Ronald McDonald balloons. To her, having a birthday at McDonald’s seemed like something dreams were made of.
Last week, we were in Guadalajara getting dental work done for our six-year old Hadassah. After the dentist visit, she had been so brave and wanted something to eat. Supper was not quite ready. The traffic was horrible. As we rounded the corner we saw a McDonald’s. Although they are in Mexico, they only appear in the bigger cities. We enjoyed a stop for ice-cream, a rare treat. There is no McDonald’s in our part of Mexico.
When we entered, I saw the large sign advertising the birthday package. I knew what we needed to do for our little girl. Brent agreed. I have always made the children’s cakes and done all the decorating for their themed parties. The idea of having someone else do it was a fantastic idea.
We didn’t say a word to the birthday princess. After we took her to the hotel, Brent and I made the arrangements. The staff at McDonald’s was super, even when we only gave them a day’s notice. They normally request a two-week notice.
The price was $1500 Pesos (about $100 US). That includes everything needed for a party of 15–happy meals, drinks, streamers, balloons, party favors for all of the children, a year´s worth of Happy Meals once a month (which we plan to give away), a gift for the birthday girl, the cake, and candles. McDonald’s even assigns employees as baby sitters who keep the children occupied, oversee the party, sing the songs, play games and clean up the mess afterward. The whole sha-bang. Honestly, if I tried to do it myself I could not beat that price. Our lil’ princess is growing up. We knew that if there ever was a year for a Ronald McDonald’s party, this was it. So we went for it.
In the morning, we took her to Guadalajara´s Trompo Magico, one of the best children’s museums in the world. In the evening, we showed up for a surprise party at McDonald’s. It was the simplest party we have ever done. The workers literally did everything. They had it decorated when we arrived and cleaned throughout the whole party. Our little princess was delighted; we were, too.
The highlight of the party was watching our birthday girl take all of the birthday lollipops and give them away to other children.
Hadassah Marygrace, happy 7th birthday, honey. Your mama and papa sure do love you. You are a giver and a smiler and our lives are so much brighter because you’re in it.
Tomorrow it will be back to organic chicken broth, fermented sauerkraut, and sprouted sourdough. For this birthday moment, we are at McDonald’s in Mexico and lovin’ it. Pass the ketchup, please.
Watch this great clip of the birthday fun at McDonald’s in Mexico.