Thursday 6 June 2013


There is a literal truthfulness to children that is not only refreshing but shows you how much we change as humans as we age. As adults we find ourselves evading the truth to spare other people’s feelings, opting for a fib to make our lives easier (unless you're in politics and then it's par for the course), and speaking in euphemisms and ambiguity for fear of retribution. It’s downright exhausting when you think about it.

But when it comes to children, they call it as they see it – some adults of course do this, and are labeled abrasive or socially dysfunctional, a very few walk away scot-free with a ‘refreshing’ moniker slapped on their forehead. The King at the moment is noticing those around him in a big way; the only problem is at the moment he's still confusing his pronouns and 'question words'. So he walks down the street, points at men and women and hollers, ‘What’s that?!’ Trust me, he gets more than a few looks and giggles when he does this.

The other day we were in a shop and there was a man working behind the till. There was another man in front of the till paying for his items who was a bit taller than the other man. The King sized them both up, after asking me ‘what’s that’ of course, and then shouted ‘Mama, there’s a man.’ Pointing at the man in front of the counter. He then pointed to the shorter of the two and said in his matter a fact way, ‘and there’s a baby man!’ Yes, these are the moments that embarrass the hell out of you and make you burst out laughing at the same time. And of course everyone has the parental story of their child saying something frighteningly frank and literal to members of the general public. Sometimes it’s met with smiles and adoring gazes, other times, not so much. In fact, I can remember when I was young declaring (loudly) that an overweight woman I saw in a store had a baby in her belly. She of course did not appreciate it as she was not pregnant.

And of course every time the King does say something in his blatantly literal way, I can’t help but think how far we’ve come from literal language when it comes to describing our fellow human beings (and still remaining socially acceptable of course). Don’t get me wrong; sometimes this is for a very good reason. We humans love labels and sometimes they can be brutal and cruel, and you wish that the descriptive adjective would be thrown out with the bathwater. But other times, you realize that we are fast becoming a society cloaked in a ball of euphemisms to hide what is blatantly obvious. Perhaps we have the advertising industry to blame for some of this. As the King sees it, at the moment hair is ‘big’ or ‘small.’ His aunt rocks the most incredible afro in the world and he has deemed it gloriously 'big.' Of course the advertising world has a litany of words to describe hair but big is not usually among them. They prefer sexy words like voluminous and glossy.

I suppose all this gets me thinking of the way in which we differentiate between a truth, a lie and an appropriate evasion, if you will. When you’re raising kids, you spend many years telling them they cannot tell a lie, and the truth is tantamount (and in the same breath you tell them Santa Claus exists). And then, when you find yourself wading through the above territory, you find yourself teaching them to embrace more ‘appropriate’ versions of the truth that are socially acceptable. ‘She’s not fat sweetheart, she’s full-bodied.’ [Then again, she wouldn’t be anything cause you’re certainly not supposed to label people by their size]. Then again, how do you teach your children to understand descriptions? I mean, who knows, the King might be a newspaper journalist (hahhhhaaaa as if print media will be around in twenty years!), he certainly would have to know his way around descriptively exact language.

So, you find yourself telling your kids what they can and can’t say and how to describe things in a million different ways that are socially acceptable, and yet, often not literal. So for now, short men are baby men. And why the hell not, sounds perfectly acceptable to me. 
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