Dear Daughter had her first experience eating at McDonald’s this weekend, and she thought it was pretty neat. Yes, it’s true that my just-turned-three-year-old had never stepped foot into a fast food restaurant until last weekend. You may think that’s “un-American,” but I say that in spite of loving what my country is about, there are more than a few “American ways” that I don’t love.
Nevertheless, we were out doing errands, and as I’ve mentioned before, Dear Daughter LOVES to go places. We were having fun lollygagging a bit as we shopped like girls do (I’m enjoying that part of Dear Daughter being three years old). Our errands ran into lunch, and we were getting hungry. I suggested we get some lunch, and of course she wanted to go to Applebee’s, which is just about the only restaurant she’s been to except TGI Friday’s once for her last birthday.
I didn’t want to spend that much time and money on lunch, so I suggested McDonald’s. Dear Daughter replied, “McDonald’s? What’s McDonald’s?” And that’s when I realized that Dear Daughter had never been there, nor had she been to ANY fast food restaurant yet. So told her they have chicken fingers like Applebee’s, and she was excited to go to a new place. After I placed our order I heard a little voice at my side timidly say, “…and a drink!” I think her favorite part of eating out is that we let her have Sprite, so she wanted to be sure I didn’t forget about that part. As I was grabbing napkins and ketchup at the condiment bar, she was visibly excited as she eyed the tray of food on the counter above her head. “Oh boy!” she squealed. “We are having a FEAST!” I laughed out loud and resisted an urge to grab her up in my arms and squeeze her.
We headed to a booth and scooted to together on one side of it. I sat part of the time with my arm cradled around her side, holding her close to me. She sat like a “big girl” on the bench, without a booster chair, and she seemed so tiny and lost at the big table. I was savoring the sweetness of the moment, and the image of the two of us pressed together on the bench bumping hands in the French fry box and sharing soda pop from the same straw made me feel a little like a love-struck teenager. I pondered the analogy of being in love with my little girl with all the intensity of a love-struck teenager at times, but with a love that goes so much deeper and is much more mature…and forever. Then I kissed her chubby little cheek and whispered in her ear half-teasing, but more than a little serious, “Please don’t ever grow up and leave me!” She looked in my eyes with all the reassurance a carefree, almost-preschooler is capable of mustering, and replied with the words I’ve said to her so many times, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’ll always come back!” And my heart hurt with that familiar bittersweet ache once again.