What’s in plants?

What’s in plants, Mom? 

It wasn’t an unusual question coming from the science-minded six-year-old. He wants to know how everything works right now. Ever-y-thing. And all the episodes of Myth Busters feed the fire, friends.

Just yesterday, for example, my kid couldn’t move on with life until he received an acceptable explanation for Pluto’s declassification as a planet. Since it was a snow day and Greg was working from home, I sent Boy Wonder to the parent who, well, cares.

Today, though? No such luck for Mama Me. Although I never manage to answer science questions to my kid’s satisfaction (we both know the string of but why‘s can only lead to the inevitable I don’t know; go ask your Dad), I was the only parent home, and he was stuck with me.

What’s in plants, Mom? he asked. And I thought, What’s in plants? What’s in plants? I know this one! Photosynthesis! But then I second-guessed myself because photosynthesis isn’t exactly in plants, you know? That’s more like something plants do. And, besides, it’s a little complicated to explain… light = energy, and… oh, I don’t know; go ask your Dad. So I thought some more. What’s in plants? What’s in plants? I know! Chloroform! But then I realized chloroform is the stuff you pour on your handkerchief when you want to kidnap someone in a dark parking garage or an abandoned warehouse. No, that’s not it. Not chloroform. Chlorophyll! That’s the plant thing! And it does… something planty. Oh, crap.

In a blinding flash of brilliance, though, I remembered high school biology class, and I yelled, Cells! That’s what’s in plants, man. Cells are in plants. They’re the building blocks of life!

And PHEW, right? Total Mama Win right there. It was a triumphant moment.

It was a triumphant moment that shouldn’t lose its luster just because my kid looked at me sadly, shook his head and said, No, Mom. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. What’s IN PLANTS, Mom? 

Do you ever have those moments with your kids when you’re sure you’re speaking different languages? When you’re positive if you both just talk SLOWER AND LOUDER, you’ll figure out what the other person is saying?

What’s. In. Plants. That’s what you want to know, right? About the inside of plants?

No, Mom, he said. And then he went on to explain.

First, he told me about Myth Busters.  (I knew they were somehow to blame.)

Then, he talked about uh-splosions. (You know. Uh-SPLOSIONS, Mom. Big, giant uh-SPLOSIONS! The trapped air goes up high and gets bigger and bigger and BIGGER inside the bag, and then KAPOW! It blows into bits!) Explosions. Bags. Air. Gotcha.

Next, he told me about the people who give us drinks on the airplane. (Flight attendants? I ventured. YES, MOM! he confirmed. If air gets trapped in plants in those girls…)

And finally, I pieced it all together.

What’s in plants? Oh. OH! You mean what are IMplants?

YES, MOM! What are implants? my six-year-old asked, exhausted and eager and all ears.

And then my brain uh-SPLODED, guys. KAPOW! Like that. Into bits.




UPDATE: What did I say? Oh, I wasn’t trying to be cryptic by not telling you. Truth is, I have no idea. I think I blacked out. I mean, words escaped my mouth. Words like boobs and bags and big but it was an incoherent blur, and I’m pretty sure I painted an unflattering picture of all women everywhere whether we have implants or not. My sincere apologies, All Women Everywhere. Also, I laughed the Uncomfortable Mom Laugh. I never laugh the Uncomfortable Mom Laugh. ARG! So now I have to revisit the conversation. I have to ask my son, you guys… Son? What’s in plants? Let’s discuss.


UPDATE #2: Also. I took a picture of my TV last night. The boys were watching Myth Busters again. And, um, I don’t know how to tell you this, but these are Not Tadpoles, ladies and gentlemen,

and Coca-Cola does not work to deter them, so don’t try that at home, OK? This myth = BUSTED.

Also-also, I’m beginning to suspect Myth Busters may not have been developed with the six-year-old audience in mind.


 Plant with Recycled Paper image credit KROMKRATHOG at freedigitalimages.net

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22 responses to “What’s in plants?”

  1. Oh my. This is too hilarious! I have 3 little boys (and soon we’ll have 4), and the two oldest ones are always asking/talking about the anatomical differences between girls and boys. Thankfully, for the time being no one can understand them in public, since we live in Ukraine, and they don’t really speak Ukrainian yet. I’m hoping they outgrow this stage before their language skills improve. Is that too much to ask??

  2. OK, Beth. You need to put warnings on these posts! “Caution: may cause uncontrollable laughter leading to fits of coughing and then the inability to catch your breath (if you’re an asthmatic recovering from the world’s worst cold).” Seriously – and not only this post, but I (ever the glutton for punishment) followed the link about never laughing the uncomfortable mom laugh – that was the one that nearly did me in. I’m happy to report I survived – just barely. 🙂

  3. You can neatly side-step the whole boob issue here! Implants are things placed under the skin (surgically) to change the appearance of the body. There are lots of kinds and people get them for lots of reasons!

  4. i would have said, “remember when aunt sarah had no boobies and then suddenly she had huge boobies? yeah, those things filling up her bra are implants. like sacks goo sewn into her chest, making her very happy.”

    • OK, this strikes me as a helpful, medically sound explanation that honors a woman’s right to make her own boob/surgery choice. Sure, my son may be confused that he suddenly has an Aunt Sarah, but he’ll probably be mostly concerned that the sacks of goo contain NO AIR and, therefore, no potential for a mid-air explosion. Love it.

  5. I am LOVING your blog! This post is hilarious. Yesterday, my 4 year old had to explain what “laser toe” is, since there’s “missile toe, there must also be laser toe”! All that was missing was the “duh, mom!” Anyway, we’re usually pretty blunt with our kids about bodies and stuff. I’m a nurse and really don’t like to best around the bush. Boys have penises and testicles, girls don’t, etc. (I have 2 boys). If I were in this situation, I guess I would describe them as something some ladies choose to have to feel better about their bodies. I probably wouldn’t go into a societal conversation at this age, but that’s just me, since some women get them after breast cancer and this explanation feels like enough for those ladies too. Anyway, I’m sure you figured something out. Thanks for your humor!!!

  6. I would have told him to go ask his father! 🙂 I am glad to hear that other children are as captivated by Myth Busters as my boys. Do yours go through the day finding myths to bust, too?

  7. This story really made me chuckle. My 4 1/2 year old is very inquisitive but hasn’t quite mastered the English language just yet and is still very curious about how things work. He also doesn’t always connect two like ideas and yet we’re expected to keep up and follow along or he gets quite angry. The other day I was trying to explain to him the concept of cities and states. We talked about where we live now, where we lived when he was born and then I mentioned that his grandparents live in Chesterfield, Missouri. He thought for a moment then said, “If Missouri was chess then it would be a game, right?”


  8. Home alone with IQ Gazillion Boy who wants the scoop on what’s in plants, especially as it may (or may not) apply to girls who serve fizzy drinks at a cabin altitude of 6700 feet. Hmmmm… lemme think. I KNOW! How about having him call your cousin! You know – that one who used to train fizzy drink pourers for a large airplane manufacturing company? OR how about having him call Fabulous Dancer’s Dad – the one who is now a ground school instructor at a major airline, former airline pilot in his own right and has GOBS of experience with what’s in plants from so *many* points of reference. Resources, Girl… you have Staff and Resources!

  9. I used to flat with my partner’s cousin and her (then) five year old. She once asked her mum why her mum’s boyfriend and his parents and his brothers and sisters all had the same last name. The explanation eventually got to how some women change their last names when they get married and how, one day, when she gets married, she’d be able to choose if she wanted to keep her last name or take her husband’s.

    … which immediately sent her into sobbing as she cried “I don’t WANT to get married!”

    She was inconsolable for ages. I was crying myself from holding back laughter.

  10. I just watched this episode a little bit ago! LOL. I’m very curious what you said!

    My oldest is only 4 years old and a girl, but I think I would have said something like this: “Um…well…Implants are these…things….little bags of squishy silicone that some girls who don’t like how they look will have doctors put where they want to look bigger. They think it makes them look prettier.” And then I might go on to talk (rant) about our culture’s unhealthy fixation with everyone looking perfect and how being beautiful on the outside is not what makes a person a good, useful person. (And all of that would go over her head if I’m lucky.)

    My little girl is really into princesses right now and is always wanting to make herself beautiful, so a discussion about outward beauty versus inward beauty would not be inappropriate, but we’re having a hard time helping her understand the concept of being beautiful on the inside. She’s at too literal an age to really understand the concept of a soul, so it just doens’t make sense….but it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?

  11. I’m still trying to figure out how to explain the answer to ‘how do girls pee’ to my son…. no clue how I’d tackle this one.

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