Monkey Man went to the gym with me tonight. Unwillingly and whining, but I got him in the car and off we went. He sat pretty well through the class, and only complained a few times. I guess he didn’t notice that his mother was the one dripping with sweat, hitting a heavy bag, doing sprints, push-ups, and 9 bazillion squats. What the hell was he complaining about?
How did I squelch the annoying, “Mommmmyyy, how much longer? This is so borrrrring!” Here’s my secret:
“Monkey Man, want to stop at McDonald’s and get chicken nuggets and French fries?” I asked breathlessly, the hypocrisy and contradiction hanging out of my mouth the way my tongue was doing thinking about a thick McDonald’s chocolate milkshake. Mommy works her butt off in the gym, but yes! I will take you to the kingdom of childhood obesity. Let’s go!
We went through the drive-thru and ordered up some good old American junk food. As Monkey Man pulled one of the chicken nuggets out of the bag, he asked me if I wanted a bite. The conversation continued:
“No, thank you. Remember, Mommy and Daddy don’t eat meat?” I said.
“You don’t eat animals, right? What’s this made of?” Monkey Man inquired, although I’m fairly certain that I’ve had this conversation 20 times before. This child really needs to start doing crossword puzzles and taking some gingko biloba.
“Chicken,” I said, trying not be like, “Duh, it’s a CHICKEN nugget!” Sarcasm is really difficult for me to forgo sometimes. “Want me to tell you where other meat comes from? Ham and bacon come from pigs, turkey comes from turkeys, hamburgers and steak come from cows.”
“Is cheese an animal?” Monkey Man asked, and I replied, “No, but it’s made from milk which comes from cows.”
“Girl cows, right?” Monkey Man tried to clarify. “Because they have gutters.”
And I attempted to clarify further, “Um, you mean udders?” And Monkey Man cracked up at himself, “Oh, yeah, gutters are at bowling.”
Back on the vegetarian vs. carnivore track, I tell Monkey Man that there are other animals that people eat but they’re not as common. “Like peacocks?” he said. He’s had a fascination with peacocks lately having just seen them at a farm we visited.
“No, I don’t think people eat peacocks. But some people do eat ducks,” I said, shuddering. And so we continued…
“Ducks? With the feathers?” All this animal-eating talk had me convinced my child was going to turn vegan on me in a second. He seemed a little distraught at the idea of people eating his farm friends. But, alas, I had to inform him, that, no, they take the feathers off before they cook them. Like chickens. I reminded him that the dreaded “chicken” nugget no longer has feathers on it.
And again, Monkey Man’s comment seemed to tell me this was hitting home with him. “Do the chickens and ducks peck the people when they try to take their feathers off? Do they cut off their beaks?”
Here was Monkey Man thinking the chickens are gently plucked of their downy feathers and magically turned into a Ronald McDonald goldmine. But I had to tell him the cold, hard truth. That piece of information that takes all the innocence out of a chicken nugget. The potential turning point for a meat-loving person to consider the ways of vegetarianism.
“They kill them before they take their feathers off and cook them.”
A moment of silence. Monkey Man is thinking. I’m watching him in the rearview mirror. And here it comes…
Monkey Man: “I love meat!”