“Hey Fatty” and Other Things You Hope Your Four Year Old Never Says in Public

Ju Potty MouthWe are easing back into the American life one baby step at a time.

While eating our frozen yogurt in Costco last evening we had one of those horrifying parent moments.  As a gentleman of  the . . . ahem . . .  portly persuasion walked past our table, our son’s eyes widened, his pupils dilated, his jaw dropped and we could see it coming.  Unfortunately not soon enough to prevent it from happening.  He stated loudly and with great surprise in his voice,


There are actually multiple, simultaneous biological functions that occur when events like this conspire.  As your entire digestive system shrivels up like a styrofoam cup on a bonfire your heart accelerates to 18 times its normal pace which expands the capillaries beginning in your face and rushing throughout your body knocking the plug off of your pituitary gland which unleashes a fire hydrant surge of the endorphins that cause embarrassment and shame. This causes an involuntary avoidance of eye contact and a quick prayer for God to administer momentary, retroactive deafness to everyone in the Costco food court.


I will now state my case for why we are not the worst parents on the planet


1.  Our son is 4 

Four year olds have an innocent fascination with anything that appears outside of their frame of reference.  I believe he intended no malice.


2.  Our son has grown up in China where:

a. There is a considerably lower percentage of portly people

b. We rarely panicked when he would say  embarrassing things because the surrounding crowd, most likely, didn’t speak English well enough to understand a three year old.  This was especially beneficial when he was 9 months and accidentally screamed obscenities every time he saw a rock.

c.  Calling someone fat is more of an observation than an insult.  “Hey Jerry. Long time no see.  You look fat.  How is your family?”  A conversation that I am unfortunately familiar with.


3.  He learned it at home

After six months of binging in America on red meat and processed carbohydrates that have been deep fried in lard, soaked in syrup and coated in sugar we are beginning to feel a bit portly ourselves.  I believe the word we use at home is the word in question.  Fat.  I also believe that the tone in which we use the “F” word (albeit first person and not third) is the exact same tone that our son chose to use at Costco.  Surprise and volume.



4.  Surely our kid is not the only one

Am I right?  Surely I’m right.  Please tell me I’m right?


I wish I could say that this story ends well.

As our bodies returned to their natural state we had the talk with our son.  It was the standard talk, trying to explain to a four year old why people don’t like to be called fat, especially when it is screamed loudly in the middle of a crowded Costco.  He assured us that he understood.

Moments later (as if on cue) a woman (of an even portlier persuasion) was heading our direction.  Our innards pre-shriveled.  Our pituitary glands braced themselves for impact.  We both looked at him and said . . . “DON’T SAY IT.”

He assured us that all was ok so we breathed a misguided sigh of relief just as she walked by  —  and he said with no surprise, but still great volume . . .


Baby steps.


For more awkward moments try these:


  1. I have been bingeing on your blog and now I’m up soooo late!
    I have so many comments since I lived the expat experience all my childhood and I think the pespective changes when you have that background as well.
    Now i live in Germany, but since my husband is german i was hoping my children would blend in. And they sort of do, but not completely. Because the mother (me) is foreign and my older daughters skin is dark.
    As i said, i have many thoughts.
    BUT i just had to comment on this post because i laughed so hard! My daughter asked a man on the subway once to pull out the peek-a-boo ball from under his shirt. There was of course no ball, just his belly. Thank goodness the man did not understand!

  2. Having grown up in Asia and, alas, as an adult, also having been on the receiving end of this “observation” when returning to visit friends there, this post had me howling with laughter. I’m still wiping tears from my eyes.

    These things happen on the opposite side of the ocean, too. When my sister & I were very young and living in Singapore, a neighbor’s yellow lab caught my sister’s eye. You can imagine my parents innards shriveling as she blurted out, “There’s a Chinese doggie!”

    Apparently she’d learned that Chinese people were yellow – just like that doggie! I’m not at all sure she ever figured out that, besides our parents, pretty much everyone we knew at that point in our lives was actually Chinese (and not especially yellow).

  3. By the way, this was the same sister who, during our first furlough, when she was your son’s age, insisted to my parents (fortunately not in the hearing of the man in question) that “Jimmy’s daddy is going to have a baby!” Yes, his stomach WAS that large.


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