They were walking along the riverside after an indulgent family lunch, followed swiftly by an afternoon tea of several cakes, and the children were getting restless. First, the Little Boy amused himself with collecting pebbles, and when his sister the Little Girl followed suit, it quickly escalated into stones, and eventually rocks. Pretty soon, their hands were full.
As the adults stopped to chat with some acquaintances who were out for their Sunday walk too, the Ninja Turtle continued with the children, being equally impatient and disinterested in small talk. Occasionally, the kids would stop to throw some stones into the river, with the Turtle charged with the duty of counting “one, two, three, go!” before their launched their ammunition, and the arbiter of who threw the farthest, or made the biggest splash.
It was the Little Boy who posed the question.
“Are you a child, or an adult?”
It caught the Ninja Turtle by surprise, to say the least. She asked him to repeat the question.
“Are you a child, or an adult?”
The Ninja Turtle stopped walking, crouched down to the Little Boy’s level, and faced him. Little Boy was thrilled to have the Turtle’s full attention by this stage.
“Why do you ask? Do you mean I speak like a child, or act like a child, or look like a child?” the Turtle queried. In the back of her mind, she was beginning to feel a wave of fuzzy panic growing. She had no desire to discuss eating disorders with such innocent young minds.
The Little Boy nodded. Vehemently. “Why are you like that?” he demanded with childish simplicity. “Are you a child?”
The Ninja Turtle looked at his sister, the Little Girl, who was older than Little Boy by four years, and possibly had memories of the Turtle from another time. The Turtle hoped she could answer Little Boy’s question without resorting to lies, but without having to go into details of the truth either.
“Well, what do YOU think? Am I a child, or an adult?” asked the Ninja Turtle of the Little Girl.
The Little Girl, precocious for an eight-year-old, highly perceptive but also reserved, didn’t hesitate with her response.
“Of course she’s not a child, it’s obvious,” she admonished her brother. But just as quickly, she looked at the Ninja Turtle for confirmation. In the Little Girl’s eyes the Ninja Turtle saw certainty, but also great confusion.
“Then why are you like that?” persisted the Little Boy.
The Little Girl clearly wanted an answer too, but had been too shy or frightened to ask before. With her younger brother opening the can of worms, she felt emboldened to ask the same question which had been politely silenced in her mind so far.
The Turtle turned to address the Little Girl. “Do you remember when your brother was really little, how I used to be?” Little Girl nodded.
“Well, Little Boy, I’m very sick at the moment so I am the way I am for now. But to answer your question, unfortunately, I’m not a child. Your sister is right, I am an adult, just like your Mommy. And I used to look like your Mommy. When I am no longer sick, when I am healthy and strong again, I will look like Mommy once more, just as your sister remembers. Will that be OK with you?”
The Little Boy and Little Girl seemed satisfied with the answer.
“I hope you get better in two weeks,” Little Boy declared.
The Ninja Turtle smiled at his innocence. “I hope so too.” Turning to the Little Girl, she asked “what do you think?”
The Little Girl looked at the Turtle and broke into a radiant smile.
“Let’s stop over there to throw some rocks into the river. This time, you can throw with us, and you can throw one of mine if you want to.
And with that, they ran ahead excitedly, shouting for the Ninja Turtle to hurry.