I promise not to turn this blog into my own personal confessional. Just bear with me while I post my second confession of the day.

Here it is: I sometimes take my daughter to McDonald’s and buy her a happy meal. I don’t even get the optional apple slices and milk; she gets chicken nuggets, french fries and a soda every time. And, of course, one of those toys that comes included with every meal. Since it usually relates to whatever children’s movie is currently playing in theaters, she usually has no idea what it’s about. But it’s a toy, so she wants it.

And me? I want her to burn off some energy on a crummy day, weather-wise. Thanks to McDonald’s Play Places and R Gyms, she gets to climb around and shriek at other children for an hour or so on days when it’s not possible to play outside without drowning or losing a finger to frostbite.

Back when I was the business reporter for the Missoulian, I interviewed the owner of several Missoula McDonald’s for a story I wrote about the  renovation plans for one of the oldest McDonald’s restaurants in town. Her name is Kyong Kapalczynski, and I remember that the very first question she asked me when she met me at the door of the Brooks Street restaurant was: Do you have any children?

Kapalczynski asked because she has three children herself, two of whom, at the time of the interview, were working at local McDonald’s. Throughout the interview, her family was never far from her mind.

Here’s what I wrote back in Sept. 2007:

Kapalczynski is demolishing Missoula’s first McDonald s to make way for a new building that will sport the company s latest styles and reflect its new focus on physical activity. The old PlayPlace, for instance, will be replaced by an indoor R Gym that will add a basketball hoop and foam climbing structure to its traditional network of crawl-through tubes.

“In my mind, it s so important to have a play place for the children because we have such a long winter,” said Kapalczynski.

All this comes to mind because of the recent news that a San Fransisco city board has voted to ban toys from any restaurant meals of 600 calories or more, saying the marketing tactic is used to draw kids toward unhealthy food choices, and is contributing to the nation’s problem with childhood obesity.

Not everyone agrees with San Fransisco’s solution. Here’s a letter to the editor that just came into the Missoulian:

Re: No more Happy Meals from McDonald’s.

In San Francisco, a City Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to prohibit fast food restaurants from including toys, as in Happy Meals, in meals that have more than 600 calories. Well, their price is decent and, you rich idiots, some families can’t afford a $7 hamburger.

When a state allows a group of health food nuts to regulate what a person or child can or can’t eat, we have allowed communism to take over our brains and bodies, too. Happy Meals may be the only treat some child may get, toy included. They sure as heck aren’t going to eat it.

Have you ever been poor? I was 14 years old before I even got to taste a restaurant hamburger and fries. It was good. I did not die from it and somehow have survived bacon, butter, and potatoes for 79 years.

Are they next going to put a government bracelet on every person and child to be sure they don’t overeat or watch TV for more than an hour a day? If people carry a few extra pounds that’s their business.

It’s legal to smoke “marijuana,” but no french fries. Wow, whose brain will go first?

It’s time we stop being brainwashed. Stand up for yourself!

Wilma Bick,

Ronan

I can’t help but wonder if the next step is for San Fransisco is to ban those indoor playgrounds at fast-food restaurants, too. After all, that’s been by far the biggest draw for me.

Of course, McDonald’s and Burger King are not the only places with indoor play options. SpectrUM and the Children’s Museum are two fabulous places we also frequent, and they are affordable, too.

– MM