My daughter is an intelligent, funny, beautiful young lady. Only in her twenties, she already has a husband and a two year old son. On a recent phone call, as we discussed her fast-paced sales job, I was reminded that I wasn’t talking to my little girl anymore. Where did the tiny kid go I used to carry in my arms? I stopped mid-sentence and made a wistful comment about her being so grown up.
“Will you always think of me as a five year old?” she sighed. I could almost hear her rolling her eyes.
“Yes Baby Doll.” I answered, calling her the name I’ve called her since the days I carried her in my arms.
Even as a five year old, she was outgoing and curious. She sometimes asked questions that forced me, I felt, to come up with the tiniest of white lies. I wanted to shield her from the harsher realities of life for as long as I could. How dare anything ruin her happy, innocent world?
For instance, the time she asked why the raccoon was lying, belly-up, on the side of the road. I told her it was napping and I rolled up the window before she questioned the odor. And who could fault me for saying our goldfish was practicing the backstroke the day it floated lifelessly at the top of the tank? Or the time she saw two lewd Labradors lost in the throes of passion. Clearly, they were just playing leapfrog. I ushered her into the house.
I didn’t want her innocent mind tainted by such things and I found myself constantly on guard for realities I might need to filter. However, I was off my game the day the chicken truck pulled up beside us at a red light.
A few miles past where we lived at the time were huge chicken farms. Periodically, trucks loaded with live chickens traveled down a major road near our house. I’d made illegal U-turns several times just to avoid them. I couldn’t imagine what I would say if she ever asked about those trucks full of caged chickens being hauled to their deaths. I was always on watch.
Except that day.
I hadn’t noticed that it was an actual chicken truck when it stopped beside me. I was aware that a vehicle was there, but nothing prompted me to look over until I reached to change the radio station. That’s when something floated down and landed on my windshield. A feather.
“Chickens!” I gasped.
As I glanced over, afraid to confirm, I noticed my daughter in the back seat looking intently through her window. Just feet away from her little face were hundreds of white chickens crammed into metal cages. Feathers floated everywhere. I can still see my daughter’s wide eyes as she stared at the sight.
I stopped looking at her, whirled around to face forward, and prayed for a green light. It remained agonizingly red. I thought maybe she wouldn’t ask anything.
“Daddy?” I heard the sweet little voice.
This was it. Please let me think of a good one.
“Yes?” I answered, willing the light to turn green. It didn’t.
“Is that what chicken nuggets look like before we eat them?” She pushed her face against the window for a better look.
I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had no idea she even knew chicken nuggets came from chickens. She obviously didn’t pay attention the day I told her they were made by nugget elves.
Well, she was five. I guessed it was time she started processing some of those realities I’d kept from her. I couldn’t avoid this one. She was staring at a truckload of misery and there was no way I could save her. I nearly teared up as I resigned myself to the answer.
“Yes, Baby Doll.” I said gently. “That’s what chicken nuggets look like before we eat them.” I gripped the steering wheel, stared at the stubborn red light, and waited for her to wail at the awful truth. I kept waiting.
Finally, she spoke.
“Mmmm!” she said with a huge grin. “I love chicken meat!”
The light turned green.
Stuart M. Perkins
125 responses to “Tasty Truth”
As I read the story, the word delightful came to mind, as it did to the commenter Sara. Yes, quite delightful. It kept my attention from beginning to end. I felt I was there experiencing the story.
Thanks, I appreciate that!
So beautiful and delightful. I’m always fascinated by children’s minds 😃
This was delightful!
Out of the mouths of children. I understand protecting your child for as long as you can. It’s too bad hauling chickens off to their chicken nugget destiny has to be so visual.
I know…! Thanks Sheryl!
Children are so innocent and honest love this.
Ahahaha, this is gold. Your daughter sounds fabulous.
We do often agonize over what to tell our kids. They are curious, imaginative, and resilient. They like the truth and must often handle it easily. Great story!
A nice recounting of one of the the perils and joys of being a dad. “Those” questions. My first grade daughter came home from school one day extending her middle finger and asking “What’s this?”. Quickly thinking I grabbed the digit and said, “Oh! Do you have a splinter?” 10 minutes later I hear my wife shrieking in the kitchen from the same innocent question.
Same daughter at 10 happens into the living room just as the “deli fake orgasm scene” from When Harry Met Sally was commencing. No time to find the pause or mute button. “Daddy why is she doing that?” “Well honey I think she really likes the food.” I replied. I full well had this vision of her watching it a few years later in a college dorm room smacking her forehead and saying to herself…”my father is so dumb!”
Thanks for sharing. Well written.
Haha! Those are great and you know I understand! I think they secretly love it when they realize how “dumb” we were (on their behalf!).
Oh my Goddd
Love the twist!
Ha! Thanks! I know it caught ME off guard! Thanks again….
Love the story. Our kids seem to grow up way too soon these days. Woe betide any parent who tells an off colour joke when a young child is nearby, for that joke will be repeated and even if not exactly correct, it will be embarrassing….for the adult. Stay well Stuart and thanks for sharing. Allan
Thanks Allan! You’re so right and I totally agree. They are like a little parrots repeating everything they’ve heard during the day. And sometimes we say things we wish we hadn’t… Thanks again for that fun comment.
I did it totally opposite.. my little girl loved to ask questions like why are there some very small graves at the cemetery are they for short people? I always answered her truthfully, she new everything about child labour etc and loved to watch scary movies from a young age which I came to deeply regret later. I wished she had been left “a child” for longer and thought I was a bad parent but now I have realised that she was just different from the beginning, super smart and now that she is old enough I can discuss it with her and she says she’s happy that we treated her like we did.
And after 13 years of loving bacon she turned vegan 😀
Oh these days my daughter has no problem discussing the nitty-gritty of anything scary, gross, or otherwise. My “protection” years ago did little – except raise my stress level, lol. Thanks for the comment!
More often than not, kids can recognize BS from a mile away. And it’s much better to be acknowledged and admitted than swept under the rug or covered up by rose-colored glasses.
Yet another delightful and engaging story! Fiction or not, I wonder? I’m still dreading the day my 3 y.o. twins will connect the dots between the cute farm animals in the Old Macdonald song and what is on our plate…
Thanks! Oh I wish it had been fiction! lol
Very good story
Our children provide the best material for story writing. They are our inspiration.
I agree. A never ending supply!