I love kids!
Kids are honest!
They say what they mean without all that obfuscatory social whitewash of political correctness that ends up being some horribly convoluted and awkward Rube Goldberg mechanism that utterly fails to protect anyone from taking offense if they are inclined toward being offended.
Adults, on the other hand, seem paralyzed by fear.
Case in point, a couple of years ago, I was sitting on a park bench one beautiful spring day and I observe a young boy, 5ish, and his 20-something mother approaching as I sat, basking lizard-like, in the afternoon balm. As I enjoyed my lacertilian sun bath, I overheard the following exchange:
“look at that fat man mommy”
“he’s not fat dear.”
“are you crazy, mom? That guy, over there. How did he get so fat?”
“he’s just a really big man”
“you mean like a giant!? Hey, Mister, Are you a Giant?”
I paused in my saurian slumber and weighed how I wanted to respond. The boy was curious and I respected that but the young mother was clearly anxious and I did not want to make that worse.
I settled on jovial honesty.
“No, I’m not a giant. I’m just really fat.”
“How did you get so fat, mister?”
“My name is Andy. I got this fat because I ate way too much food.”
“Hi, Andy, my name’s Kyle. Mom told me you weren’t fat and that you were a giant.”
“Your mom was probably afraid I would be insulted and get angry about you talking about my weight. She was trying to protect you. It’s kind of her job.”
“Mom, this is Andy. He’s not a giant like you said. He’s just fat because he ate too much food. Her name’s Alice.”
“Hi, Alice. It’s a pleasure to meet you and Kyle.”
“I’m so sorry. He just says whatever comes into his mind. He has no filter.”
How much did you have to eat to get that fat, Andy? I bet it was like 60 pizzas! Will you get small again once you go to the bathroom? I get a big belly when I eat a lot of pizza but I get small again when I go to the potty. Do you need to go to the potty? I think there is one right back there. I saw it when we got out of the car. I wonder how all that Pooh is going to fit in the potty! I bet it’s gonna make a real big mess!
“I can see you’ve got your hands full with this one, Alice! Don’t worry Kyle, I’m not going to make a big mess. I didn’t eat all the food to get this fat at one time and it’s not going to all go away when I go the bathroom.”
“I don’t understand. Where did the food go!”
“Kyle, that’s way to complicated and we need to stop pestering this nice man.”
Kyle was clearly not interested in leaving without getting his questions answered because he had climbed up on the bench next to me and kicked his shoes off. Since Alice didn’t seem invested in rushing him out of the park, I assumed she was just offering me a polite escape.
“You mom is right, Kyle, it is really complicated but I think I can explain it in an easy way. Would you like me to try?”
“Does your mom have a car?”
“Yeah! It’s the blue one right over there! It’s a Sunday Elephant!”
“Very nice! Kyle, what does your mom feed the Sunday Elephant to make it go?”
“We go to the gas station and fill it up with gas but not the smelly kind like when you fart but the smelly liquid kind that makes engines run.”
“Excellent! So, the food we eat is like the gas for the Elephant except our stomach is not like the Elephant’s gas tank. Are you with me so far?”
“OK. When you put gas in the Elephant and turn on the motor, the motor burns the gas in the tank a little bit at a time to make the Elephant move. The gas tank is where the extra gas is stored until the engine needs it to move. Our stomach is more like the big factory that breaks down the oil that comes out of the ground to make the gas. Our bodies can burn food…”
“…pizza directly to run our engine. The stomach breaks the pizza down into the kind of fuel our bodies need to run.”
“So where is our extra fuel kept if it isn’t kept in the stomach?”
“It gets turned into fat and gets spread out all over the inside of our bodies so it is close to the muscles that are going to need it later.”
“Like spreading butter on toast? I love toast! That’s what I had for breakfast! I had pizza for lunch! I ate 3 slices!”
“By now, your stomach has turned all that pizza into fuel for your body to burn. You have enough fuel for you to go run around the playground and climb and swing and jump all afternoon and if you don’t burn it all up today, it will still be there for you tomorrow. That way your body will still run even if you don’t get any breakfast in the morning.”
At this point, Kyle got very still. I waited patiently to see where his mind was going to go next. Alice said, “You know, that was a pretty good description.” Kyle seemed to spend an eternity, for him, in deep thought. About 5 seconds later he looked up at me with giant eyes and said, “Wow, Andy! Your body could probably run for a whole year even if you didn’t eat anything at all!”
I laughed! “You know, Kyle, I may just have to give that a try!”
He seemed to feel like the conversation was done because he put his shoes back on and ran off, Alice in tow, to the playground, presumably to burn up his pizza.