9 Questions Feminists Aren't Afraid To Answer When Their Kids Ask
Littlewoods, an online retailer based in the UK, released the results of a survey that showed that mothers are asked between approximately 200 and 400 questions a day. When this information came to light, you could almost hear millions of mothers around the world saying, "Really? That's it?" all at once. Because OMG, you guys. I know I don't have to tell the parents reading this, but it's exhausting. If you think about it, we have decades of learning, asking questions, and experience to get to our current levels of knowledge. Children on the other hand? They are very young and they know...basically nothing. Fact of life: kids need to ask questions. So in addition to paying for them, caring for them, and dealing with their nonsensical mood swings and annoying TV shows (why can't my kid be a Daredevil fan?), it is incumbent upon us to answer every single one of their many, many questions.
And truthfully, I think it's awesome. Yeah, it's annoying when they're asking you for their 14th snack in two hours (you took one bite out of that goddamn apple, are you friggin' kidding me here?), but there is little that excites me more than seeing my children curious about something and then dousing that spark with metaphorical gasoline and watching the ensuing mental bonfire. There's so much for me to teach them and so much to learn together and so many David Attenborough nature documentaries to watch; all those cool things the scary questions we have to answer, like talking to your kids about death or how to respond to street harassment. But for feminists, there are fewer scary questions out there, because we're not nervous about giving our answers. Here are a few common kid questions that might trip up most people, but not feminist moms:
"Can I [Do Gender Non-Conforming Activity]?"
Duh. You do you, my little one. Look kids, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that a lot of adults haven't even figured out: Most of your concepts of what constitute "boy things" and "girl things" comes down to marketing or it's a matter of gender socialization, which is unnecessary and dumb. So you rock your tutu, little Oliver! Swing that hockey stick proudly, Genevieve! This is not a difficult question for feminists to answer because we DGAF about what's expected of you.
Anything Anatomy Related
There's nothing age-inappropriate (or scandalous) in knowing about the human body. So if our sons ask what the deal with their testicles is, there's no panicked deferment. If our daughters point to their brother's penis and asks "What's that?" we're not going to flip out about how dirty she is like the mom in Carrie.
Driving by a protest or strolling past a rally doesn't rattle us, because we want our kids to be aware of the world around them. Even if the specifics of a particular cause are beyond your child's understanding, there's always a one- or two-sentence description that can, if not fully expound upon a philosophy, at the very least get to the heart of the matter, which will provide the necessary background for a kid to build knowledge upon knowledge as they get older. Hopefully, engaging them early will encourage them to become/remain involved in important issues.
What we tell kids about sex will depend on their age, but it's really no big deal. You don't have to go into a graphic description of sexual life cycle processes the minute your 3-year-old tells you what the monkeys in the zoo are doing. There are a lot of ways you can explain sex to your kids without getting overly descriptive that are nevertheless accurate and straightforward.
As with social movements, undertaking the task of explaining politics to our children is not something feminist dread or shy away from... even when those explanations include Donald Drumpf. Of course, if your child is anything like my 4-year-old, he will literally beg you to stop talking about politics and the election process (although he will enjoy going into the voting booth with you and pressing the buttons you tell him to).
"Isn't That For Boys/Girls?"
No! Please see point one. But this question is different from point one in that we're not afraid to correct our kids when they absorb the (crappy) lessons they learn about gender from school friends, media, and your uptight mother-in-law who thinks wearing pants is vulgar. They're (unfortunately) going to be bringing home a lot of that crap, and it's going to sometimes be exhausting to counter it, but it'll be worth it.
"Are Those Two Boys Kissing?"
I never understood when people decry homosexuality with the hand-wringing, caterwauling, frantic whine of, "I don't want to have to explain that to my kids!" Because I seriously cannot think of an easier issue to explain. Like, if you didn't explain it, a small child could probably figure it out within minutes. "Yep! They're kissing because they like each other. Isn't that sweet?"
"Why Do You Have To Go To Work?"
We know kids benefit from seeing their parents do lots of different things, including going to work. So even though even those of us with jobs we love can have tough days here and there and would rather, perhaps, be home with our littles, we know that the whole family is reaping the benefits of our careers, both on a practical level ($$$) and a deeper, being-a-good-role-model level. We can show our kids that we are their parent, but we have a life outside of them, just as they have a life outside of us. And that doesn't weaken our bond — it proves just how strong it is. Because despite not being in each other's company 24/7, our love and connection is undiminished.
"Can I Ask You Something?"
Obviously, feminists do not have a corner on the market of being there for our kids and encouraging them to come to us with their concerns great and small. But where I do think feminists have an advantage is that part of our whole... thing... is creating a world with fewer pointless taboos. So when a "taboo" question comes up, we're like, "I will answer your question... NOW GET ME MY FEMINIST HAMMER SO THAT I CAN SMASH PREEXISTING STEREOTYPES AND PATRIARCHAL INFLUENCE WITH IT!" The truth might scare us, but telling the truth doesn't. Because if that truth is ugly and unjust, knowing the truth is the first step in doing something to make it better. And what better gift to give our children than that?