I’ve always depended on my parents for help with my daughter when things got hectic. It’s one of the nicest things about living in the same city as my entire extended family. There is always someone to pick up the slack when you need to work late, run errands or take a little “me time.” Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve turned to my dad first for those random evenings when I was otherwise engaged.

My dad and my daughter have a really amazing relationship. She’s his “little engineer.” They have activities and projects that she doesn’t do with anyone else. My dad is the one who likes to take Brenna to the local Amish farmer’s market. They pick out unpasteurized cheese, fresh sweet corn and green beans. My dad helps my daughter with her construction projects that I could never figure out. Lately he’s teaching her robotics. And… my dad takes her to fast food playplaces, something she can never convince her own mother to give in to.

It all started during those evenings when I was working late. I would have just a few more hours of work to finish up once every couple of weeks. I would call my dad, who was on his way home from work at the exact same time I normally left the office, and ask him to swing by and grab Brenna from the sitter’s. And in the hour that I was finishing up, my dad would take my daughter to a fast food restaurant with an indoor playground.

I understood the logic behind it. He never knew if I would be a half hour or closer to an hour and a half. My picky eater would always go for chicken nuggets and apple slices. And then she would be entertained no matter how long I took. After a while, those silly little playplaces became “their thing.”

Let’s all be honest, fast food playplaces can be gross. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the bacteria you can find in those things. We’ve seen the parent who basically drops their children off, as if McDonald’s were a babysitter. And then there’s the nutritional content of fast food to talk about. There’s a reason that most moms I know avoid these things like the plague.

But my daughter loves them. And I have to admit, I just don’t mind.

My little girl knows the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods. She knows that fast food isn’t something to eat all the time. She knows that she needs to balance it out with fruits and veggies.  Her stomach doesn’t actually handle fried foods well, so I’m not really in danger of her wanting french fries on a daily basis. A couple nuggets every once in a while is really all she can handle.

I realize that playplaces can be downright filthy, but I just have a hard time getting worked up about it. I throw some anti-bacterial on her when she’s done. I toss her in the shower when she gets home. Kids encounter germs everywhere. Every bathroom they walk into, every grocery cart handle they touch, and every park they play at have germs. Kids somehow manage to handle it and move on.

I know some other moms look down on fast food playplaces. I’ve had people tell me, “I can’t believe your little girl has been to one. Aren’t they… trashy?” No. They’re tubes and nets and slides and they make little kids happy. They’re cheap entertainment. And for my daughter, they’re her special treat when she’s hanging out with her papa. In the grand scheme of things, I think that there are much worse forms of entertainment for my daughter to be obsessed with.

(Photo: holbox/Shutterstock)