Saturday, March 14, 2009

Indoor Playgrounds: Safe or Germ Fest?

I did something this evening that I never thought I'd do. I did something tonight out of desperation. I did something tonight that probably exposed NHV to a gazillion different kinds of yuckiness. Yes, dear friends, I took my child to an indoor playground at McDonalds.

Now, if you've ever visited - or hey, are even a big fan of - these types of establishments, please don't let the first few sentences of this post seem like a judgement. I am totally not judging. It's just that I was naive enough to think that I would be able to avoid such a place. But the truth of the matter is that after a week of being on "Natalie-has-some-random-virus-lockdown," I needed to get out. She needed to get out. We needed to be in the company of other people ... like before I lost my mind completely. And so we headed out to Costo - on a Saturday night - only to find that it closes at 6:00. This totally baffles me; I know that place would be packed with people - desperate moms and dads, little kids, you name it - until at least 8:00 pm (the weeknight closing time) if not 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But whatever, we arrived, it was closed, and we found ourselves sitting an empty parking lot, staring through our rain-soaked windshield in disbelief.

This was our "outing" for the day, and now that plan was foiled. That hour of entertainment had been taken away from me, and I was not happy about it. Chad suggested that we just head back home, but I wouldn't hear of it. I started driving aimlessly, kiddie music playing through the radio. A few miles and a turn or two later, and I spotted our oasis from both boredom and dismal weather. The golden arches ... not just any McDonald's but one with the huge indoor playground protruding from the bowels of it's fast-food producing innards. Ah, quite the visual, no?!

I made a snap decision and turned into the parking lot. I turned to Chad and said, "Do you have any really strong feelings about indoor playgrounds?" He uttered, what I believe to be, a pretty typical male response, "Ummm, no, should I?" My mind raced remembering some scary article I had read once about the traces of fecal matter and hypodermic needles and myriad of other disgusting stuff found at indoor fast-food playgrounds. I thought about mentioning all of this to Chad ... to see if perhaps an opinion would form in that oblivious male mind of his. But I knew that if I said those things out loud, I wouldn't be able to go through with it. So instead, I said, "Well, I was thinking that Natalie could play for a few minutes and you could get a sundae." His eyes lit up. He had his car door open and was walking around to get Natalie from her carseat, in a matter of seconds. My sweet husband is not one to walk away from a hot fudge sundae.

Once inside, Natalie was so happy to see other "kids and babies." (Bigger than her, she points and says, "Kid." Smaller or the same size, she calls out, "Baby.") And I was relieved to know that I wouldn't have to be her source of entertainment for the next 20 minutes. I reluctantly pulled off her pink knock-off Uggs and turned her loose on the giant plastic - not entirely clean-looking - structure. She had a blast. I couldn't help but notice how gray the bottom of her white socks looked as she came zooming down the slide. Chad, of course, remained oblivious to my uneasiness as he savored every last bite of his sundae!

But it was my sundae-eating, sensible hubby that ultimately made me feel better about the whole ordeal. After commenting to him about it seeming so dirty and disgusting in "here," he shared his little insight ... he did have an opinion after all ... It's really no different than an outdoor playground. It's all the same dirt and grime no matter if it's in a McDonalds or at the park. At least here the kids take their shoes off and someone probably wipes down this stuff every once in a while. Now, that last part is probably a little wishful, but I can see his point. I don't have any qualms about letting Natalie play at our neighborhood parks; somehow outdoor play areas seem cleaner to me ... the wind blows the germs around and the rain washes them away. The indoor places just seem so stagnant, and don't germs like stagnant?

Okay, I need your help ... Am I being irrational about my feelings toward the indoor playgrounds at fast food restaurants? Do you have similar feelings? Is this a warranted concern or just some misplaced germ phobia?

1 comment:

Chi-town momma said...

Benjamin has ventured into a McDonald's play area as well...we took a very serious rubdown bath that night and escaped virus free! I'm not sure I would throw him into a pit of balls, but climbing around on stuff, going down the slide - it's all in fun! Can't be any worse than the airport, or grocery cart, or public bathroom...

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