I love to read first person accounts written by people who have gone somewhere most of us never will, like outer-space, the South Pole, or the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. That’s why I’ve decided to write about a harrowing trip I recently made into a place that few adults ever have, or ever will, go… the inside of a McDonald’s PlayPlace.
I ended up boldly going where no man has gone before because I’d promised Annie I’d make her pancakes Sunday morning. Unfortunately, when I started to cook I realized I was all out of bisquick. Instead of letting the kid down, I called an audible and decided to take her to McDonald’s for some pancakes. (I also figured that Heather, who wasn’t feeling well, wouldn’t mind some quiet.)
I soon realized I’d made a major tactical error. You see, even though I’d driven past the Mcdonald’s for a year and a half, I’d never noticed it had an indoor PlayPlace. Annie, of course, lost all interest in pancakes the minute she saw the PlayPlace, and raced through her breakfast before pronouncing herself “All done.”
Can you guess what she’s looking at out of the corner of her eye?
There were lots of kids climbing in and out of the PlayPlace when Annie ran up to it, but before she climbed in herself, she froze. She turned back to me, nervous.
“You come, Daddy.”
I looked to the sign next to the PlayPlace and saw it read: “Parents are welcome to play, too!” After a few moments of deliberation I went against my better judgement and figured, “Here goes nothing.” I should have known this was bad idea jeans based on the looks I received from the other parents as I took off my shoes. One dad even nudged his wife and pointed at me.
Once inside my mistake was clear. While there are jungle gyms and playhouses that comfortably fit adults (like this one), this PlayPlace was about 2/3rds the size. I’d only crawled a few feet inside before I started to feel claustrophobic.
I was about to grab Annie and head out when a bunch of kids scampered inside and glared at me.
“Go, Mister! Go!”
Since there was no way Annie and I could have gotten past the kids, I pulled and squeezed my way to the top level (an experience probably not all that dissimilar to being born). Up there it was even tighter quarters, and the first thing I saw was the “F” word scrawled on the wall. Further ahead someone else had written “Zombies Rule!” It was then I realized I must have been the first adult up there in who knows how long. In fact, I started to wonder when the last time an employee had been up there since no one had bothered to wipe off the “F” word.
Annie and I shimmied over to a window where I looked out to see the nudging dad staring up at me. As a joke, I put my hands on the glass and mouthed, “Help me!” He didn’t seem to find that very funny, though, perhaps because he thought I was serious. Actually, I kind of was – part of me worried the whole contraption was going to tumble down at any minute with me in it. I could hear McDonald’s’ lawyer saying, “Yes, the sign said adults could play too, but we didn’t think any six foot three, two hundred ten pound man would be dumb enough to go up there!”
Look out the window… we are HIGH up there.
At that point I told Annie we had to go back down. Of course, the only way out was down a slide, and half way down… I got stuck. A little girl behind me laughed and said, “You’re too big!” Awesome.
Annie is all about going back to “play,” but that’s not going to happen. Let’s just say I bought a Costco-sized box of bisquick to guarantee we don’t run out again anytime soon.
OMG! Mike! You kill me!!! 2am and I am sitting alone seriously LOL!! Why oh why no pictures of the slide?!?
You are a brave man!! Those things skeeve me out precisely because I wonder about their cleanliness!! When I take my older niece & nephew to one of those, I bring a ton of handiwipes and antibacterial solution!! And have to stop myself from checking them for lice!!!
I’ve had to venture in those things a couple times when they were younger and hated it!! Why do kids like them so much and how do they careen thru them at those warp speeds and why must they shriek and why are the rooms designed to reverberate the echoes of their screams at ear-splitting decibels???? Why? Why? Why?
On a less dramatic note…did Annie eat ALL those pancakes? Holy canolli! And how is she ALWAYS so darn CUTE?!?!
You deserve a medal of bravery for venturing where most adults fear to tread!!
What a great dad you are!
Thanks for the laugh this morning! I am laughing out loud with tears in my eyes!
Expat Mom says:
When my oldest was about 2, I took him to a McDonald’s PlayPlace. He crawled up one of those tower things with overlapping baffles as steps . . . and got stuck. He could NOT figure out how to get down and was screaming and banging on the window, absolutely terrified. I tried everything I could to talk him down, but finally it was obvious that someone had to get him out. I wriggled inside and bent my body into insane positions, but those darn baffles were never designed for anyone taller than 4 feet and I couldn’t quite reach him and I was nearly as stuck as he was. I finally managed to get myself out (he thought I’d left him since he couldn’t see me inside and was more hysterical than ever) and a very sweet little girl of about 8 climbed in and helped him slither back down. We didn’t go again until he was 6.
Those places are the absolute worst for germs. I hope you made her wash her hands afterwards. I hated those playlands….yuck! I sincerely hope BOTH of you stay healthy; I am going to wash my hands just thinking about it.
Oh man, I have a distinct memory of getting stuck in one of those as a kid. I couldn’t figure out how to get back down except down the slide, which I was terrified of. I made my mom crawl UP the slide to come and get me. You really don’t appreciate all your parents do for you until you’re a parent yourself!
I always wonder what kids encounter in those things. Thanks, o brave explorer, for your expedition!
A tip for next time: some flour, milk, oil, spices and a few other ingredients are about all you need for pancakes. Search online, there are a lot of easy pancake recipes — much easier than climbing around a McD playhouse of horrors!
I think it’s awesome that you went up there with Annie! We wring our hands about our weight and the obesity rates in this country, and yet too many parents think playing is just for kids. I have a lot of fond memories of McDonald’s playplaces (and looking back, all I can think about is all the germs that must have been on that equipment) but I remember them feeling tight and claustrophobic even when I was four feet tall.
1. You’re such a good dad!
2. 2 eggs, 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of milk make great pancakes. Just as easy as bisquick.
3. NASTY! Please tell me you scrubbed yourself and Annie afterwards!
I was about to say the same thing, plus “and tape whatever recipe for pancakes from scratch you decide on by the refrigerator”.
My kid has not discovered McDonald’s play places yet, but that might have something to do with her parents’ insistence to go where the ‘good’ pancakes are made (usually a place with tiny tables and hardly any high chairs).
We did play by in our REI indoor playscape once or twice while shopping there, and it was a great size for both kids and adults to hang out. If Annie keeps wanting to revisit the playscape, I’d suggest checking out a local REI, if you have one by that has a kids play area (alas, their flagship doesn’t, for example)
What on earth is bisquick?!
It’s pancake mix.
Actually I think it’s a blend of the dry ingredients for making biscuits, pancakes, pastries, etc. You only have to add the liquid and eggs for the desired recipe. Stays fresh for a long time in the freezer.
“A blend of the dry ingredients for making … pancakes …”
Otherwise known as pancake mix. =)
(Ha, I’m playing around, please don’t take it as sarcasm. You’re right that it can make other things.)
Mike, this story had me crying laughing this morning. You’re such an awesome dad.
No sarcasm taken, I just wanted Bianca and others to know it’s a great product and if you have it on hand it’s great for whiping up other things. Especially if you have a craving for say, a coffee cake but don’t have a boxed mix, or can’t run to the store, Bisquick has a recipe for a great coffee cake. Just sayin’
You have the best.stories.EVER! I certainly hope you alerted the manager about the graffiti at the top. They really should be in there at least a couple times a week scrubbing those things down.
Do you guys have a Chick Fil A nearby? Their play lands are generally clean and nice.
The first time I let my daughter go up in a play place (at McDonald’s) she came down the slide with a HUGE goose egg on her forehead. I was so completely livid. I know that one of the bigger kids (8-10 years old) did something to her but she was only 2 1/2 at the time and didn’t have the skills to tell on them.
Second try…I received a 502 error the first time.
I love the “Help Me” part. That is too funny! I think it would be funny to mouth that while driving through a border patrol checkpoint. My husband disagrees.
Omg you deserve a medal! Dad of the year!!!!
I HATE those play places. YUCK! I’m positive I’m going to get Hepititus (sp?) just by walking in, and I’m not much of a germaphobe. It’s just that once at Chuck E Cheese, my 4 year old was playing in those tube things and came out to tell me that there was a poopy diaper in there! And he wasn’t making it up. Apparently a toddler had taken his diaper off and smeared poop all over the inside of the tube where all the kids were climbing and playing. Barfffffff. The grossest part of all? It must have been there for a while because there were no diaper less toddlers running around!!! We have never been back to any place like that since.
I second what Rebecca said. Chick Fil A play places are alot more clean. Hope you have one nearby.
Nicole E. says:
You are seriously like THEE. BEST. DAD. in the history of EVER.
Totally agree that Mike = abs0lutely awesome dad.
When I have kiddos, I won’t be going anywhere near those things! (Says the clueless woman with no children.) I’m wildly afraid of heights; that last picture with Annie gives me goosebumps!
Oh my gosh….I needed this story for a good laugh today. Thank you Mike. I can honestly tell you in raising my five boys, that I have NEVER seen a parent venture inside the playscape. Hahaha….still laughing.
My nephew (who was about 1 1/2 at the time) could not get out of one of those play places one time. I was too pregnant to fit so I sent my husband in to get him. Luckily, my husband, nephew and the play place all survived. . .
OMG, I just about died laughing!!
Too Funny!!! Now ask how many pregnant mama’s had to climb up with their not so flexible swollen bellies to save their crying 3 yr old who suddenly realized although getting up there was lots of FUN, getting down was a lot of scary. Ha ha AHH YES….Many of us have also been in that same awkward, not so fun position… All in the name of the child!!! ha ha You’re a good Dada Mike. Just wait until you have Annie running 1 way and little boy running the opposite!!! FUN TIMES!!!!
We have a nasty, seedy Burger King with a huge playplace in our city. My husband got tired of constantly telling the kids no when they asked to go there, so he finally told them that kids pee in it (which I’m sure does happen!). They don’t ask anymore!
Back in school a friend and I used to clean those. when I had my kids I always went first to check the condition – the same way you would with swings or other play equipment. I agree that Chik-Fil-A is the cleanest one out there. Generally they are indoors as well. Great option for the omgIamsotired day when the baby didn’t rest and the preschooler is practically vibrating with energy,
Mommy Boots says:
I’m sorry, but… I’m laughing my ass off. And also thinking twice about taking my daughter to the play place. We were just talking about maybe doing that last weekend. Nevermind!
I too have experienced the nasty cramped quarters of the McDonalds play place. I took my 2 year old and never thought she would crawl to the highest place and refuse to come down. She was looking out a small round window, crying and refusing to move. Some bigger kids tried but she would not budge. I had to leave my newborn with a stranger, one of the onlooking moms, and painfully make my way to the top. It was 3 years before we went back. I try not to think about the wet and sticky things I encountered.
Abby Leviss says:
The photo of Annie with the pancakes is even hilarious. Is that not an EGREGIOUS amount of pancakes for such a small tot? I love that you went into that disgusting playground and that you mouthed “Help Me!” I can’t imagine who the guy was that didn’t think that was funny. It is REALLY REALLY funny.
What a sweet Daddy you are! I’m 5″11 and 29 yrs old. Climbing thru the playground tunnels with my nieces and nephews is so much fun. I haven’t been thru McDs playland in awhile but places like YaYa’s Island or Monkey Joes and the park….I’m all in. Its like relieving your childhood. I just hope when I have kids I’m still young at heart to do the same thing with them.
my nanny charges are 3 yo twins a few days younger than Annie. I pick play places that are easy for them to climb into, and if we try a new one (that is too big for them) I often rely on sweet elementary age girls who love to help other kids. bc my 5’9″ frame is not designed for those things!
Also my mom once paid an older to kid to get my brother out of a playplace that she couldn’t get into (5’11”)
Hilarious! Thanks for the laugh
LOL!! You’re a cool Dad, Mike!!