All posts in the children category

Quit Complicating Your Kids’ Questions About Gender and Sexuality

Published April 6, 2016 by April Fox

Every time legislation is passed that has anything to do with civil rights, things like being allowed to marry or use the bathroom in peace or whatever, people start using children as proxies for their fear and lack of understanding. It spreads like a rash across social media, this epidemic of made-up conversations kids are having with the adults in their lives and the resulting deep and moving concern about what to tell the children. “What am I supposed to say when little Khloweei asks about the gay couple in the produce section? How am I supposed to explain transsexuals in the bathroom? My child is too young to be talking about sex!”

Spoiler alert, in case you don’t want to read this whole super-long thing: You don’t have to talk about sex. It isn’t about sex, even. Not at all. I know, it’s shocking, what with the gays and the trannies humping each other all over the bus stop and the amusement parks and shit like that. I know they look like normal people doing normal things with their normal lives, but underneath, totally humping, willy-nilly everywhere.

But really, I’m sorry if you’re confused about how to address your kids’ questions. I’m not belittling that, at all. My kids have asked some things that have made me wish for a time machine so that I could go back and hide in the bathroom five minutes before they decided to ask. Kids ask some intense questions, and some very serious questions, and those should without a doubt be answered. But. (You know me, there’s always a but.)

Here’s what’s really important to remember: children don’t think like adults.

To a small child, everything is new and different. They don’t have decades of experience and context to which they can relate their everyday lives and observations, like we do. Their points of reference are self-centered. I don’t mean that in the negative way it’s often used, but literally: their experience centers around themselves.

And so when you’re standing at a crosswalk beside two men holding hands, you’re taking in everything: They’re adults. They’re smiling at each other, leaning into each other, laughing quietly. One has a take-out box from that fancy candle-lit restaurant up the street; clearly, they’re on a date, and if they only got one box for leftovers, they must be going home together. One man has a bottle of wine tucked into his elbow. They’re going home to drink wine. It’s going to be romantic. They’ll probably end up having sex. That’s what’s running through your head when your child says, “Mommy, why are those boys holding hands?”

You know what’s going through your kid’s head, most likely? Why do those boys have to hold hands to cross the street? They’re grown-ups. Grown-ups can go by themselves. That’s weird. So how do you answer that question? Try something like, “Sometimes people hold hands when they like each other. I guess they must like each other.” Chances are, your kid is going to give you a really insightful response, probably something along the lines of, “Oh. Look, there’s a squashed caterpillar on the sidewalk. Can I touch it?”

When your child asks why Auntie has a girlfriend, he’s probably not wondering why she prefers women to men. It’s probably just the same question kids ask roughly eleven million times a day: Why? Why are my socks blue? Why is that spaghetti? Why is that lady’s butt so big? Why can’t I touch that squashed caterpillar? Why does Auntie have a girlfriend?

And just like above, it’s a pretty simple answer: “They must like each other.”

If your child is old enough that he’s beginning to understand what kind of relationships are more common than others and to notice when things look a little different than what he’s used to, and his question really is about why Auntie likes girls and not boys, that’s an easy answer too: “Some girls like other girls.” If they ask for more, you can give that information without making everything about sex. I’m pretty sure when your kid asked you why you and Daddy got married, for example, you didn’t say, “Well, Snugglemuffin, we just wanted to make sure your daddy would be able to stick his pecker in me every night for the rest of his life.” You probably talked about love and happiness and friendship — and those are the same things you talk about when you’re talking about Auntie and her girlfriend. Easy peasy, man. You don’t even have to learn anything new.

Of course, the big thing now is transgender. Everybody’s freaking out about the transgenders in the bathrooms and Oh…my… Gawwwwwwd what if my precious little snowflake Mhaddisynne Claire goes in the bathroom and sees a person who looks like a man in a dress? WHAT DO I TELL HER?”

Well first off, tell her potty time is privacy time, which is what you should have been telling her since she was old enough to start having a decent grasp of receptive language.

If it does come up, if your little one sees someone with masculine-appearing features in traditionally feminine clothing and says (at the top of her lungs, at that piercing pitch children only hit when they’re saying something that makes you want to crawl into the toilet and die) “Why is that man wearing a dress?” what the heck do you say?

I’ll tell you. If that happens, then you go, like, “That’s a lady.”

And then if your kid is like, “That looks like a man,” then you go, “People look all different ways. She’s just trying to use the restroom, like you are. Go wash your hands. Go. Use soap. Not that much soap.” (Because that’s how bathroom conversations always end, I don’t care if there’s a band of Civil War reenacting drag queens in there, you’re going to say the soap thing. And also, you really don’t know, do you? Unless you’re the weirdo peeking up her skirt, you don’t know that that lady isn’t a biological woman with stronger features than most.)

I’m not saying not to have conversations about gender and sexuality with your kids. These are issues they’re going to face, if not personally, then as witnesses as their family and friends deal with them. But it’s ridiculous to think these conversations have to center around what people do in their private bedrooms or wardrobes. If you wouldn’t talk about the sex lives or genitalia of straight, cisgendered people, then it’s not appropriate conversation-period. As your child gets older, your conversations can become more comprehensive, but when your child is small, your answers about sexuality and gender should be as simple and gentle as conversations about love and death and anything else that you have a responsibility to explain. Don’t complicate it. Teach love, compassion, respect and inclusion, and your simple answers will grow into understanding soon enough.

Skinny Bitch Barbie Meets Her Curvy Match

Published January 28, 2016 by April Fox

Move over, skinny bitch. There’s a new Barbie in town.

Before I go any further, let me say that I think it’s great that there are new dolls for little kids to play with, featuring different body types and skin tones. When my younger daughter was small, she tended to gravitate toward the “Hispanic” dolls, because they had dark hair and sort-of light skin, like she did. Baby girl was thrilled when I finally found her a doll with fair skin, brown hair, blue eyes, and freckles. It’s cool for kids to have dolls they can relate to, no doubt.


photo: USA Today

From what I’ve seen on social media, though, people are talking far more about the new “curvy” Barbie than they are about the others, and along with that come the inevitable snarky complaints about Old Barbie.

I’ve written about Barbie before, when there was a trend of parents refusing to let their daughters play with the dolls because apparently, they promote unrealistic ideas of beauty and are a bad influence on malleable little girls. Never mind that no child has yet died of shock upon discovering that real ponies don’t have sparkly pink manes and tattooed bottoms, and I have never heard of a little one growing up to have low self-esteem because they didn’t live on a street with giant yellow birds and trash can-dwelling monsters as neighbors. Kids know what toys are. I loved Barbie when I was a kid, and by the time I was old enough to worry about how big my boobs might eventually be, I was old enough to realize that I came from a long line of petite women. I looked at my mother and grandmother and I never once imagined that I would somehow grow up to be the snarky, gloomy, pink-haired counterpart of Dolly Parton, just because I had a doll with large breasts. Barbie was no different than Strawberry Shortcake or that weird baby doll I had that would walk into walls, teeter around, and walk back to me like some kind of tiny plastic drunkard.

But he were are with the new curvy Barbie, and all of a sudden Barbie isn’t bad because she’s too curvy (that word changes definition depending on who’s using it, it would appear); now she’s bad because she’s too skinny. She’s still “unrealistic.” The new Barbie shows a normal body type, right?

Let me tell you, today I more closely resemble NAMBLA Fantasy Ken* from the waist up than Malibu Barbie, but after my third child was born, I was under a hundred pounds, wearing a size 0 jeans (yes that is a real size, no I never starved myself to get there), and sporting a generous D cup. If you don’t think that’s some serious reality there, I’d be happy to let you have all the bruises I got from knocking those suckers (haha) into walls and door frames and such. That was a very real body type, and while for me it went away quickly, some women are just made like that.

And so while it may seem silly to be having this kind of conversation over a plastic doll, I think it’s important to keep things in perspective: what you say to your daughters is what matters. Talk to them about beauty and diversity and brains and challenges and strengths. Teach them to love who they are and to strive to keep their bodies and minds as healthy as they can. Buy them the big-boobie doll and the average-size doll and please please buy them the ones with the colored hair, because I love it when little kids see me out and shriek that I look just like their favorite doll. Buy them the brown ones and the white ones and the ones with wheelchairs and the ones that pee when you force water down them with a plastic squeezy bottle. Buy them cars and trucks and blocks and footballs and bubbles, lots and lots of bubbles, and more art supplies than you can really afford, and books and bicycles and sparkly shoes and cowboy hats and dinosaurs that roar when you press their scaly bellies. Get down on the floor and play with them. This Barbie is a doctor, this one is a teacher, this one is a mommy, this one is a magical fairy princess with an invisible unicorn sidekick, this one is the president.

You are the most important plaything that your child has. She looks to you to determine who she will be one day. Don’t teach her to be someone who believes that worth is determined by the mold you were poured into. Give poor Barbie a break and let’s help them all be friends. Those knockers are a tough burden to carry, after all.

*Please don’t take me to prison for typing that phrase.

Kids are Weird, Man. 

Published December 19, 2015 by April Fox

Edit: Now with a real, live, working link to the new blog! Sorry about that. 

Some of you might know that when I’m not writing, I’m teaching. This year, I’m working with a brilliant, hilarious, adorable kid I call Little G, and I’ve created a new blog to chronicle some of our adventures. We do a lot of out-of-the-box learning and I’ll be sharing posts about that, along with the things that don’t always go as planned-like you’ll see in the post linked here. 

The blog is geared toward people who are teaching, parenting, or otherwise care for small kids, especially those with some learning, sensory, or social differences. It’s still my voice though, and even if you’re one of those people who turns the hose on kids that wander onto your lawn, you might like it. 

Have a Very Goopy Christmas  | Math Makes Me Poop 


Published November 19, 2015 by April Fox

They are laughing in the sand,

their high-pitched voices crossing over and under each other and up

into the sky

into the clouds

dirty hands reaching for each other,

circling around

singing songs whose words we cannot recognize

but the tune is universal;

nursery rhymes are all the same.

They are smaller than the dogs who bark behind them

they are larger than the biggest men who wake up in the morning

ready for the hunt

they are oblivious to war

because war is all they know.

In the dark, their voices quiet

they are every child alive

they are sewer rats, princesses

trailer trash and debutantes

reaching for the shore

they are holding hands and dancing,

singing in the light

while the righteous and the holy scream in outrage:

Kill the children.

Asheville’s Helpmate Hosts a Vigil to Help End Domestic Violence

Published September 28, 2015 by April Fox

A portion of the royalties from my latest book, Spine, will be used to benefit Helpmate, a local non-profit organization that helps women and their children who are in, escaping, and recovering from domestic violence situations. 
There’s a popular myth that women stay because they love their abusers and think they’ll change. That is certainly true in some cases, but in many, the things that keep women there are far less romantic: fear, threats, financial limitations, a belief that there are no other options. Helpmate works to educate women and the general public about ways to escape dangerous situations, and provides direct links to resources that help ensure the physical and emotional safety of people affected by domestic violence. 
I’m asking my friends and family to please help spread awareness about Helpmate’s annual domestic violence vigil, this Thursday October 1, in downtown Asheville. Please feel free to copy and paste this message along with your post. 
Thank you, loves. 

Untitled, September 4 2015

Published September 4, 2015 by April Fox

This has been a trying week, with a lot of scary things happening close to home and around the world. I’ve been simultaneously trying to wrap my head around it all and to pretend that I don’t see the ugliness, and I keep coming back to this one thing that I simply cannot understand. With all the things that you can teach a child:

To paint a picture
To hula hoop
To identify birds by their songs
To play an instrument
To speak another language
To write in cursive
To grow tomatoes
To tie their shoes
To write their name
To play hopscotch
-or Go Fish
-or Parcheesi
-or Mario Kart
To bake a cake
To care for a pet
To wash their hands
To dance
To tell a joke
To practice gratitude
To love

Why would anyone want to teach them how to hate?

little ones

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