In just a few days, this dad's candid picture of a Chipotle kids' cup with a hidden message reached top rankings on Reddit, totaling at almost 5,000 upvotes and over one million views in just 12 hours. Among many different quotes and doodles, the hand-drawn cup clearly said "reproductive sex" within a larger circle.
As the Internet detectives on Reddit were quick to point out, there's a perfectly good explanation for the not-so-kid-friendly Chipotle kids' cup created by artist Anthony Doerr in Chipotle's Cultivating Thought author series. In fact, Doerr's idea was rooted in his own childhood.
As he says in a Q&A about the project:
"At the Montessori school I went to in Cleveland, Ohio, we were making twenty-foot-long timelines as early as first grade. I could spell “Paleozoic” before I could spell 'Coca-Cola.' One particular analogy we learned has stayed with me all my life: what if a single calendar year represented the entire four-and-a-half-billion-year story of the Earth? The Earth would form on the first of January, and single-celled life would show up in late March. Animals with skeletons wouldn’t evolve until late November! Recognizable humans wouldn’t show up until 11:48 p.m. on December 31st! Everything I thought of as old — the Roman Empire, black-and-white television, my grandmother — came and went in the seconds before midnight. You’re seven years old and you’re being asked to measure the brief, warm, intensely complicated fingersnap of your life against the absolutely incomprehensible vastness of time. It’s a humbling and amazing lesson, and the sense of luck it made me feel — to be here at all! — has never left me."
And why reproductive sex?
"Tattoo Earth's 4.5-billion-year timeline onto your arm, shoulder to fingertip, and your upper arm will get nothing but geologic mayhem: meteorites, magma, acid rain. Life won't begin until your bicep, and from there to your wrist it's all single-celled, oceangoing stuff. Reproductive sex won't show up until your wristwatch, and creatures that are finally big enough to see — tubes and fronds and weird Precambrian plant-animals — will crisscross the back of your hand."
As weird as this Chipotle cup for children may be, we can learn a few important lessons from the Reddit parent who took it all in stride. Gathering from the comments of the dad who posted the bizarre picture to Reddit instead of taking it to the media — as we saw in the case of the parents who freaked out over the cursing McDonald's Minions toys this summer — he has a great sense of humor. And if there's anything that will get you through the long days and sleepless nights of unpredictable parenthood, it's keeping even the smallest shred of humor alive.
An illustrated cup that contains the subliminal message of S-E-X isn't a threat to our nation's children, but it does present yet another parenting curveball that can turn into a teachable moment. To qualify, we don't know how old this Redditor's child is, but we do know that any parent who finds a strange message on a kids' cup faces a fork in the road: Talk with your child (after you're done laughing) about it or pretend like sex doesn't exist. A parent who finds this Chipotle cup in the hands of their child can use it as an opportunity to explain an adult concept at an age-appropriate level, instead of acting like nothing happened.
We saw the perfect example a few weeks ago, with much more serious undertones. Instead of a cup decorated with drawings of cute animals intermingled with adult words, a Colorado mother found a racist note in her young daughter's Wendy's kids' meal. As offensive as it was to open up a kids' meal toy and see a racial slur, this mom also faced a do-or-die parenting moment that she navigated like a champ. After finding the N-word note, Manige Osowski chose to explain the word to her daughter for the first time. She didn't try to shelter her daughter from the unpleasant realities of the world by glossing over it.
Let's all agree on one thing — grownup words on a kids' cup can be hilarious, especially when a child has no idea what those words mean. But one of the most tireless parts of being a parent is that our hard work is never done. We always have to stay on our toes, digging deeper and looking for opportunities to teach our kids how to interact with the world around them.
Purposeful or not, Chipotle's artsy cups have gone and changed the conversation for parents everywhere. You can thank Chipotle the next time your kids want to have real talk while you're trying to enjoy your delicious burrito.
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