Friday, April 16, 2010

A Small But Satisfying Victory. And Some Vomit.

Today was chilly and gloomy. I got some writing done while the Mau-Mau took in a bit of quality ABC kids TV. Then we played the harp together for a while. No - I'm not kidding. I own a small Irish harp. I'm not particularly good, but it's nice to play, and I'm introducing the Mau-Mau to it because a) she loves her some harp music (her favourite bedtime music is Arianna Savall) and b) her small hands suit the delicate instrument more than mine, and c) she can sing with it, and d) she likes playing it with me.

A lot of laundry got done too. And a very unfortunate amount of back-and-forth to Scottsdale. Delivered the boys to school in the morning, with their instruments. Went back at lunch to get the shopping done, and check the post - and deliver unto Elder Son his forgotten school bag, complete with lunch. And finally, late in the evening, yet another trip all the way through Scottsdale and out to Bridport, to collect the boys.

You see, they had one of their orchestra days today, and orchestra practice is in Launceston. But we've discovered another local parent with a kid in the orchestra, so we're dividing up the inevitable trip-back-and-forth routine. So I had to duck down to Bridport (where the other parent lives) when the boys came back.

The Mau-Mau stayed at home with Mum. But because Mum was on-call, we had a couple neighbours over, just in case Natalie got called away while I was off collecting the boys. This is the kind of convoluted nonsense one has to go through to have a life when one is married to a country GP - but that's just how it is, so no complaints.

Anyway, I drove off and reached the designated house about ten minutes before the Other Parent made it all the way back from Launceston. Had a pleasant chat with her partner - admired their rather nice house, discussed their new puppy... nice, human stuff like that.

Then the boys arrived, along with the Other Parent and her two kids. And right away, I noticed two things: first, that Younger Son was a rather nasty shade of pale green, and second, that they were carrying McDonald's Happy Meal bags.

Oh dear.

I did actually prep the lads for this. Y'see, they've never eaten Maccas in their life, and I had a half-idea that there might be a post-orchestra McFood stop. I also figured it might constitute a bit of a treat for the other kids, so I told mine not to complain: just to order something with the cash provided, and just suck it up.

Apparently they had Chicken McNugget Happy Meals. Or... part of 'em, anyway. Elder Son managed most of his, and put together his How To Train Your Dragon toy with the wings in the proper position. But Younger Son only managed a couple of nuggets, and half his chips... and his toy wasn't looking too sane, either. But that's nothing new, really.

We fetched him a bucket pronto, and gave him some ginger and lemon tea. And I explained as nicely as I could that the boys just weren't used to Mickey Dee - while trying not to sound too damned precious about the whole thing. And to be fair, the other family aren't regular McSuckers. It was a matter of convenience and speed, and a bit of a treat, and that's perfectly understandable -- and they weren't to know that my boys have been on the wrong end of some devilish Anti-McFood Psyops from both their mother and myself since they were quite small.

Once Younger Son returned to a more normal colour, we headed homewards. The little guy was still feeling pretty sorry for himself, though. Just sat there, all curled up on his seat in the dark. I had a long chat with Elder Son about the whole McFood thing: explained that his Mum and I weren't by way of forbidding the stuff - just that we wanted the boys to be old enough to make decent decisions about their food before they really sank fang into anything trademarked by Ronald McDonald or the Colonel or their ilk.

I explained the business model of fast food franchises. I pointed out that thinking of the McFood people as 'food providers' is a mistake: they aren't in the business of feeding anybody. They're in the business of making money by creating a rapid, convenient, and highly repeatable experience designed to bring people back by offering them a lot of fat, sugar and salt, which (as animals) we're geared to desire.

The boys seemed to take that on board, which is good. Of course, their very fresh McExperience must have played a part. When I said that the McFood was concocted in a fashion designed to bring people back, Younger Son opined in a low, pained voice that it didn't work very well. And he further suggested that they probably shouldn't be called "Happy Meals". He offered "Angry Meals" as an alternative.

Shortly after that, he made some garbled noises to indicate we should pull over. Then he got out of the car, and spraypainted the countryside in various shades of Half-Digested McFoody Chunks With Chopped Carrot.

It wasn't particularly pleasant, and he was quite a sorry lad by the time we made it home. Happily, I'd made some soup stock during the day, so I put together a quick bowl of hot noodle soup with fresh, crunchy veges and thin-sliced marinated beef, and the boys got a bit of real nutrition into them.

Best of all, Elder Son took the time to thank me -- and his mother -- for keeping him away from the McFood people when he was too little to know better, and thanked us again for introducing him to all the food he's learned to enjoy over the years. And you should have heard the appreciative noises he made over that bowl of soup!

Flinthart 1, McFood Culture 0... in your face, Ronald McDonald!