Chick-Fil-A PlayPlace Rescue


If you’ve never done it, then either,

a. You’re not a parent,
b. Your kid is fearless and never panics in the realm of PlayPlaces, or
c. You’re too much of a germaphobe to allow yourself to come into such a situation.

The Infamous Chuck E. Cheese rescue (that was not only repugnant to experience but also left us with a hefty family-sized stomach virus) forced me into category c. After swearing to the world that I’d never enter another Chuck again, I also adjusted my lifestyle to avoid any and all other PlayPlaces as well – my PTSS was too great to cope with such.

And I was committed. Because I even avoided Chick-Fil-A PlayPlaces, despite 47% of our family’s nutrition deriving from their superior chicken and waffle fries. We either began receiving those nutrients at the mall locations only, or going through the drive-thru and then eating in the parking lot simply to avoid the dreaded request.

I took great pride in my family’s status of not stepping foot into a PlayPlace since 2011.

PlayPlace Incident

Until last week.


Wednesday was Ali’s birthday, and in order to make it special, I surprised her by meeting Chris at the Chick-Fil-A near his office for lunch.

Eating a birthday lunch in the car seemed a bit uncouth, and you can’t very well deny a birthday girl the PlayPlace, especially after she spent quite a bit of time worrying that she had stretched past the “You have to be under this line to play” mark overnight, thanks to turning seven.

(Or perhaps that she’d stretched over the mark since 2011. Because, well, obviously.)

And after all, there was a sign next to the door that said “This PlayPlace cleaned regularly by SuchAndSuch Sanitary-Sounding-Service.”

Then, the nice lady who buses the tables, refills drinks, and eavesdrops on conversations brought Ali the biggest, baddest Birthday Ice Cream Sundae ever made, so clearly this was a superior and therefore germ-free Chick-Fil-A.

Chick-Fil-A Birthday Sundae

And so. Against my better judgment and breaking my magnificent streak, I allowed both of my children to cross the threshold – Noah entering a Chick-Fil-A PlayPlace for the first time in his long three years of life.

He stared up at it, train overhead, with a look of awe and anticipation.

It was one of the old-style PlayPlaces – the kind with the narrow climbing tower made up of half triangles opposite of each other, requiring a snaking up of children, and keeping adults out with its impossible geometric angles.

But I trusted him.

After all, he’s my brave kid. He could handle it.

(Ali was a monstrous wuss at his age.)

My first clue that perhaps he wasn’t as brave as I thought was him panicking and coming back down after the third triangle.

But his coaxing sister kept tempting him.

“There’s a train up here, Noah!”

“Oh! And there’s a bouncy thing in the train!!”

The bouncy thing worked. He gritted his tiny teeth and crawled up into the train.

I sighed with relief and sat back to enjoy a moment of my children being out of sight.

Which is when the screaming started.

I yelled up for Ali to show him the way down.

But that NEVER works with my children. WHY DON’T KIDS TRUST EACH OTHER??? Your sister is not going to lead you to the Bog of Eternal Stench!

The screams turned into high-pitched “MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMYYYYYY!!!!”s.

I had no choice. I stopped for a moment of back-bend yoga stretches to prepare myself for the spinelessness this mission would require.

And then I began my slither.

As they always did, the surfaces of the PlayPlace screamed jeers of germ-filled mockings with each touch of my finger, hand, elbow, hair and NO NO do whatever it takes to not let your cheek touch a surface!!!

Because honestly, I see all children as Petri Dishes of Disease.

I curled around those triangles like Randall sneaking into a child’s room for a scare.

To the left…to the right…on my back….on my elbows…don’t scratch your nose…or you’ll die of tuberculosis…to the left…to the right…

All the while his screams of panic echoed off the plastic walls and poked holes in my eardrums like an ice pick in a watermelon.

I finally made it up to the train and talked him down as if I were negotiating a jumper off the ledge.

And then he hurried down on his own – apparently my power of Mommishness is so strong that my mere presence girds him with strength.

We used all of the sanitizer wipes to be found at that Chick-Fil-A and prayed all the way home that we didn’t catch something. Or everything.



The next morning, we had a field trip with our homeschooling group to the Birmingham Museum of Art.

I had every intention of getting Noah a babysitter for the event, but never got around to it. So I was faced with the reality of taking my handsy toddler to see million-dollar collections of extraordinarily breakable art.

He didn’t break anything or even set off any Art Alarms (despite some of the older children causing a few sirens), but that was only due to an exhausting three-hour struggle between Mom and Tot.

A friend wanted to get lunch afterward, and we decided on…Chick-Fil-A.

Different location, same PlayPlace layout.

How in Chicken’s Name did I manage to stay out of Chick-Fil-A interiors for two years and then end up at two in two days?

It’s as if it was our time to die.

Perhaps it was my guilt over wrangling my three-year-old into behavior for three hours. Or perhaps the location of the day before’s memory had been damaged or at least stalled out in my brain. Whatever the reason, I allowed the children to head off to the PlayPlace after lunch.

Noah quickly climbed to the top, and so I thought perhaps his last adventure had boosted his bravery to where it needed to be.

Until the screaming started.

Apparently, this train didn’t have a bouncy thing. And that brought on the panic.


This time, my Motherly Slither was further complicated with high traffic from the scores of children that magically appeared the minute Noah’s breakdown began. And my boots were heels. And I didn’t dare take them off to reveal my mismatched lime green socks. Because priorities.

I made my way up as far as I could go and told him to come down.


The multitudes of other children talking loudly made my negotiations much more intense.

“Noah. NOAH! You can play up here but you MUST quit crying.”


Avoiding a near kick to the face from a kid too tall to be in there anyway, I told him, “Then come down with me. RIGHT NOW.”

My firm ledge-talking skills worked and he quietly made his way down the wretched triangles.

I made my way out and began gathering my pride and dusting off the germ spores.

As he turned around and shot straight back up the tower.


What exactly did he think was going to change?!

I have no idea but I made my second journey up, grabbed him, told Ali that we had to go, and ran out of the PlayPlace, busting a lemonade and creating a waterfall onto my arm and Noah’s head.

(His hair may still have a lemonade crust.)

It’s a good thing that Chick-Fil-A has nice parking lots.

25 thoughts on “The PlayPlace Rescue.

  1. Ugh, those are the worst. And I’m a wee bit claustrophobic, so enter at your own risk, boys.
    One time we were at a McDonald’s and I just couldn’t deny them a chance to play. It wasn’t until we were about to leave that Big announced “Little almost stepped in the barf.”
    “Yeah, in the tunnel.”
    By some small miracle we did not contract anything.

  2. Quinn’s technically still too young to play in them, but we were the only ones at a Burger King once and I played with her in it. Only that one time though, those triangle things are not meant for someone who’s 5’10”, not even to mention the extra weight I may or may not have.

  3. Ohhhhhh. Right there with ya! And I usually feel guilty when I don’t want to let my kids play in the Play Place because of germs. Thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one. :) And how is it that those things are WAY too big/scary for little ones to come down but WAY too small for Moms to go up?! Haha. I’m super impressed that you stayed out of them for YEARS. Teach me your ways. Like, really.

  4. Yuck yuck yuck! The second out of two times Landon has ever been in such a place a little girl who was laying on the floor crying (eww) every other time I looked over managed to take both hands and claw both sides of his face enough to draw blood and leave a mark for 2 weeks! He hasn’t asked to go back to one since :)

  5. Wow, that stinks! Probably literally! Thankfully I have never had to go up in one of those! But Tyson’s Uncle paid a kid $20 to get his granddaughter out of one. Haha :)

  6. Huh, I will go out of my way to find a restaurant with a play place so that I can eat in peace. I’ve climbed in them a few times, even when I was 180lbs, and it’s tight but not bad. We haven’t had any traumatic events so far. All in all, I think they are totally worth it.

  7. Chick-Fil-A is about the only play place I do let my kids go. I know our local one closes down the play place early one night every few weeks for a deep cleaning as well as the cleaning they say they do every day. McDonald’s, on the other hand, absolutely wigs me out. I fear that it’s never been cleaned once at all in it’s existence.

  8. I had to rescue my son who was 3 at the time, from the top of the play place in the dentist office. Yep a play place at the dentist office. From now on we arrive 5 minutes late just to avoid it and rush past it to the dentist chair. Wow, I just realized how mean of a mom I sound like. I’m really not.

  9. This truly made me laugh out loud. I have done the rescue at a bouncy place and it was awful for all involved. I am claustrophobic so I’m sure the attendents could tell where my screaming child got her anxiety level from! LOL I’m thrilled to hear that I’m not the only person who avoids these play areas as all my real life friends seem to think they are the bees knees.

  10. Oh I loooove the Chick Fil A playplace. *eyeroll* I especially loooove the huge sign on the wall that says children must be supervised by an adult at all times and I loooove how 99.9% of the parents in Chick Fil A IGNORE IT.

    So yes. I avoid it too. I practically break out in hives when we let our kids play in there. Not because of the germs, although during flu season that is certainly a concern. But because it’s so small and cramped and kids who are too big to be in there are tearing around unsupervised and I just know it’s only a matter of time before a smaller child gets their skull cracked open by one of the oversized terrors running him/her over. So when I take the kids there by myself, I admit it, I sit back around the corner by the restrooms where you can’t even see the playplace and then when we’re done eating I sneak the kids out the door as quickly as possible. Mean mom? Maybe. But honestly I don’t feel like my kids are safe in there. It’s out of control.

  11. Oh My! I’ve had the same thing happen to me. It was humiliating. I couldn’t get up the tri-angle climb., though. I’m 6’0 tall! I had to get a child to help me. Never again.

  12. When Olivia was 2, I left her in one for however long it took her to stop crying and get over it and get herself down. It was a crowning parenting moment for me. Sure, the mom’s in the fun spot glared at me and judged my parenting style, but, by golly, I was right.

    She started talking to me again about 9 years later.*

    *this is a slight exaggeration, but she was miffed at me the rest of the afternoon. But we never had that issue again.

    PS – the reason I won’t go in there is the same reason I never let my kids go in them and the same reason you won’t go in them – germs. I was the mean dad for years, minus that one birthday party . . .

  13. Oh my goodness, I’m laughing from your post and also surprised you managed to stay out of a chick-fil-a for two years and then had to go inside one twice in a row. And kids, you would THINK they would have the sense not to get into situations like that after immediately being in said situation but no, no they do not.

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