Raising Boys at Chick-fil-A

Each Friday, I stay home with the boys while Heather goes to work. She enjoys being a Marriage and Family Therapist one day a week and I enjoy hanging with the boys. When Heather leaves the house her goal is to be of service to her clients. My goal is to make sure she returns to the same number of boys she left behind. I only count two, but she insists that there are three boys living in our house

Today we went to Chick-fil-A for lunch. We went for several reasons. First, Caleb, my three-year-old, likes their nuggets almost as much as I do. Second, Chick-fil-A has a very nice indoor playground. Third, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated came in the mail yesterday and I wanted to read it while the boys played.

We’ve gone to Chick-fil-A together several times and each time the place is crawling with little kids and their mothers. I’m usually one of only a few dads there with our kids. I’m always the only man there with sense enough to bring some good reading material.

Today I was reminded of the deep philosophical differences existing between fathers and mothers when it comes to raising boys. These differences are never more apparent than at a playground.

I usually sit outside the playground and watch the boys through the glass–sort of. Elijah, my almost two-year-old, plays for a minute, then comes back to the table and eats a waffle fry and then goes back for another minute of fun. In between the fun and the fry is a heavy glass door leading to the playground.

The good folks at Chick-fil-A have put a handle down at the bottom of it so little guys like Elijah can come and go as they please. I’m not sure how I feel about this. While I can appreciate their attempt to empower my kids, I think the decision as to when they can start and stop having fun on a playground should be left up to me.

The good folks at Chick-fil-A have also done their best to make their door pinch-proof. All the sharp edges have been covered with protective rubber flaps, making it almost impossible to get hurt going through the door.

It takes Elijah longer to negotiate this door than it does to eat his fry and take a swig of his drink. I’m not even sure why he bothers. He must find the door more entertaining than the tubes and ladders inside. There is certainly some entertainment to be found in watching him open it.

It wasn’t until his third trip through that I finally realized what a show I was missing. I looked up from reading just in time to see him pull the door open just far enough to wedge his head in the gap, pause, and then adjust his grip and push the door open the rest of the way.

The “pause”–which brought forth a vision of a ripe melon being squashed in a hydraulic vice–robbed me of breath. My muscles made the initial twitch to send me springing to the rescue. When I saw how this move fit into his larger routine, I settled back into my seat and beamed at the little guy’s resourcefulness. Not even two years old and he’s already using his head for something productive.

That’s when I felt the heat eminating from a couple of nearby mothers who had witnessed everything, including the “pause.” They were impressed neither by his igenuity nor by my inactivity. They were both giving me “we’ve already called Child Protective Services” glares.

I wasn’t going to let their sensitivity steal my moment of joy, so I gave them a “we don’t really have a problem here” smile and went back to my magazine.

Several minutes later a mother approached me and said, “Excuse me, is that your little boy in the red tank top?”

I said that it was and she said that he was crying.

I asked her if he was bleeding and she said no.

I thanked her for her concern and gave her another “we don’t really have a problem here” smile and popped a honey-mustard dipped nugget into my mouth.

Two articles and several nuggets later another mother approached me to ask if I knew that my son was screaming at the top of his lungs at all the others kids in the playground.

I asked her if she was sure he was screaming or was he just growling? Both my boys are very aggressive growlers.

She admitted that he might be growling.

I asked her if any of the other kids were crying and she said no. Bleeding? Again she answered in the negative.

No tears, no blood, no problem. I smiled politely and dove into “The Life of Reilly.”

When I finally came to the bottom of my nugget box and the back of my magazine, I gathered up our stuff and went to get the boys out of the playground. I walked in to find Caleb ramming a little boy’s head against the base of a plastic slide while Elijah looked on and growled in approval.

I rushed over and grabbed Caleb. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked.

He told me, “Don’t worry Daddy, he’s not bleedin’.”

That’s when the little boy’s dad came into the playground. I tried to apologize, but he waved me off.

“I don’t see any blood,” he said. Then he looked down at my hand. “Say, is that the latest issue of Sports Illustrated?”

As I handed it over, his smile told me that we really didn’t have a problem here. But I’m pretty sure there were some mothers on the other side of the glass who thought otherwise.


  1. Wade-
    Stumbled onto your blog months ago- I can identify with the Chika Flicka incident (this is what we call Chick-Fil-A, Chika Flicka) I took my 3 year old boy and 8-month old little girl there by myself. I was the only male there, and at first the mom’s were cooing over my 8 month old and whispering “my husband would never take our kids out alone.” 10 minutes later after my 3 year old was re anacting every violent Braveheart scene in the playground, which I found very entertaining, a few mothers came up to me and voiced their displeasure. Needless to say no arms were being chopped off or legs dismembered. All in all we had a good time and will go again.

  2. I love it!! I have been the Mom with the “we’ve already called…” stare, and I have been the Mom with the “there’s no blood…” attitude, too. The “there’s no blood…” is much more fun, and now that my children (1 boy, 1 girl) keep reinacting Pirates of the Caribbean (“Ye owe yer soul to Davey Jones’ locker!”), I am happy to find evidence of kindred spirits!

    BTW, keep up the more serious writing, too. God is speaking through you, and we all need to keep hearing it.

  3. This is a good perspective, one that as a mother I appreciate. Maybe I need to relax a little about my son. It’s true, he’s never bleeding.

  4. Hi,
    I’m sooo glad to hear another parent who is as “relaxed” as I am. I have had more people come up to me or give me the “death look” becuase my son fell down and I didn’t run to his side to see if he was okay. Beleive me, I will KNOW if he’s not okay. Some of my friends have even reminded me, “But you’re a NURSE!” as if to imply that I should know that I need to be more attentive to his boo-boo’s. But actually, I think it’s the opposite: since I worked as an ER nurse, I know what a true emergency is… and little bumps and trips and hitting your head on the back of a chair don’t warrant much of a response (or any response) from me. You’re lucky your kids let you read at Chic Fil A! My son always makes me go into the glass playroom with him! (or he’ll sit by my side the whole time and tear up my book).

  5. Donna Christian says:

    Hahaha! Awesome post Wade! I literally LOL’ed =)

  6. Rhonda McGaughey says:

    I love this for 2 reasons: 1) I love chick fila; and 2) I’ve always leaned toward the “no arterial spray, no problem” philosophy. My children are less than impressed.

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