Last week my middle son ate a hamburger at McDonalds. While there, I had some flashbacks of when my kids were small… like 3 to 7 year old range. Each and every time we drove by a McDonalds, there was apoplexy from the little ones. They would want a Happy Meal or want to play in the PlayPlace. There was one story that my wife and I share frequently when we both have the PlayPlace flashback.
When we were young, even though we were nurses, we never once considered the filth, or even the challenge of proper cleaning one of those McDonalds PlayPlace playgrounds. There were always a large number of kids playing each and every time we attended the establishment. We witnessed kids with french fries, half eaten hamburgers, and chicken nuggets walking around in the play area. There were kids vomiting, there were kids with fever, and kids draining strange colored snot while playing the whole time. But it wasn’t until our own child made a health offense that we were shocked into awareness. Our youngest was a toddler still in diapers. He wasn’t feeling well, but still cried furiously to play in the play area. So, in order to get three minutes of peace, we let him go. Mere minutes after he disappeared, our oldest child came walking back very slowly. I saw it and said, “Uh-oh… something must be wrong.” After asking, he said, “Micah had an accident.” My wife and I got up to investigate. We found him standing in the center of the ball pit. He had apparently had about gallon of bright pea-green diarrhea. It was all over him and was running down both his legs. About three dozen of the colored balls around him in the ball put was also stained bright green. I grabbed him and pulled him from the play area and ran off to the bathroom. After about 20 minutes and two packs of “Baby Fresh” Baby Wipes, I managed to get him looking almost normal. I brought him back out with a brand new diaper. I looked over to the playground and my wife had gathered our two remaining kids to make a rapid departure. I took a glance over to the ball pit and saw the same dozen kids with their parents playing as if nothing had ever happened. Even the smell of fresh stool had somehow dissipated. At that point, I thought, “wow, this is a little scary… I’m gonna think a little differently about public play areas from now on.”
I also thought, if kids do what kids do, and we all have been playing in that play area for this long, and kids continue to play there… wow, kids must be incredible durable, and incredibly resistant to wicked pathogens.
So, I didn’t feel so bad after all.