Free Kid’s Meals! – Not Always Worth It

Austin at the age of 8

Austin at the age of 8

Free Kid’s Meals nights are amazing. Where we live in the Raleigh, NC area, restaurants offer free kid’s meals with the purchase of an adult meal to drive sales. In fact, I know families that have it all mapped out, having a prearranged plan on which restaurant they will hit on a given day. We also have our favorite locations and visit them on a regular basis. The problem with the free kid’s meal offer is that you have to bring your children!

Having three boys (a teenager, one with autism and a four-year old), we often use those restaurants that allow us to get our orders to go. In fact, almost every Tuesday evening you can find me standing in line at our local Moe’s Southwest Grill picking up dinner for the entire family. Sometimes I have a kid or two with me but most of the time I am by myself, stopping by on my way home from work. Employees there often ask me, “Where is Batman?”

(Now, as a side note, my youngest son, Luke, loves, loves, loves Batman. Every single day he asks if he can wear his Batman shirt to school and goes to pieces if you say no. In fact, we had to buy four pairs of the exact same Batman pajamas so he could wear them to bed because he refused to wear any others. As a side to a side, if he has a Batman shirt on and a jacket, he will walk around with his jacket slightly unzipped so that he can walk up to people, spread his jacket open like Superman spreads his shirt, showing his Batman emblem and with a four-year old’s deep voice and say “I’m Batman.”)

Last week, we had family in town and decided that it would be a great idea to take all the kid’s to Moe’s for free Kid’s Meals. Just to count, that was 6 adults and 8 children. Everyone on the north side of Raleigh must have had the same idea as us that evening because the place was hopping. As we were standing in line to order our food, my son with autism, Austin, began to get a little agitated. He had left his iPad in the car and he did not want to stand in line any longer. Austin can be a sneaky little thing. When he wants something or does not like something, he knows how to get our attention. He was trying the typical walk-away and hitting himself-in-the-head approaches but saw that it wasn’t going to work. He needed to employ a new tactic.

While standing in line waiting to order our food, with others all around us, at the top of his lungs, Austin let out a blood-curdling scream. Not only did the man in front of us jump twelve inches off the ground, I really think he wet himself! In fact, his wife, daughter and son all acted as if they were standing in the middle of a haunted house being attacked by someone with a chainsaw. It was almost as if time stopped. The whole place froze and immediately locked their gaze in on our family. My wife and I were completely mortified. After about 20 seconds, everyone began to slowly get back to their conversations and tasks and just as they did, he did it again. I finally had my oldest son, Michael, run out to the car and get the iPad. With that in our hands, we were successfully able to navigate the maze of beans and rice and get our order. With our shoulders slumped, we searched for a table and were able to sit over in the corner, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Ever had a dream in which you were at school or work in your underwear and knew everyone was staring at you? Yeah, most of us have. In some ways that is what it feels like sometimes when you go out in public with your special needs child. Often, you just simply want to stay locked in your house, trying to avoid any possible embarrassment but then you realize the reason you are going out in the first place, to try to help your child to learn how to live and operate in the real world. Now, most of the time, those types of things don’t happen and you are able to get in and out without incident but other times, you are carrying your twelve-year-old son out of the store while he is screaming at the top of his lungs because you are not willing to by the exact toy he already has at the house.

I have no answers, no words of wisdom. I’d love to have some snazzy catch phrase or inspirational sentence but the truth is sometimes it can be a struggle just to get them out of bed to go to school. The fact remains though, our love for them drives us to nurture, care and raise them to the best of our abilities.

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