Listen Up, It’s Story Time

Listen Up, It’s Story Time

Me: Riley, do you like screen time?
Roozle: Kind of. When I do have screens I like it because I get to watch my YouTube videos and I like crafts but when I don’t have screens I like it because I get to hang out with you and read my books and I get to have more time with my family.

Me: Do you think that screens make you not have time with your family?
Roozle: When you’re like working and you’re in the other room while I’m watching screens, it feels like I’m far away from you and I’m alone, but when I don’t have screens, I feel more close to you.

Me: What things do you like to do together?
Roozle: I like to go to JP Licks for ice cream, I like to play games with you, I like to go swimming, and I like to eat dinner with you.

Me: Do you know what I like to do with you?
Roozle: No.

Me: I like to listen to stories. Do you like to listen to stories?
Roozle: Yeah!

Me: What did you think about the story we listened to last week about the man who felt a little bit squished in his house?
Roozle: I liked the story, even though I had already heard it before. I liked to listen to the story with you.

Me: I liked that too, that it was another way for us to spend some time together. I really liked the voices and the way they told the story. It was interesting even for this boring grown up. And I like that sometimes we know the stories, but that they’re told in a different way. Like with fairy tales.
Roozle: Yeah, I like that too. I love fairy tales.

Me: So right now, we’re about to listen to this week’s story which is about a dragon, I think. Are you excited?
Roozle: I am excited because I’ve never heard this story before and I want to know what happens.

Me: Do you think it’s going to be scary?
Roozle: I think Stella is a nice name so it won’t be scary and this is a story for children.

Me: Well, in case it gets scary, I’m glad we’re listening together. Is this something you want to do every week?
Roozle: YEAH! Because I like to listen to stories!

Me: Yeah, me too. And I like to have a routine during the week so we know what to expect each day. Like, on Tuesdays, we go swimming. On Wednesdays, we go to the library.
Roozle: And now on Tuesdays, we listen to stories!

You can listen to Circle Round episodes here and on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find Circle Round on Facebook and Twitter.

Image credit: WBUR’s Circle Round

SPOILER ALERT WE LISTENED TO THE STORY AND TALKED ABOUT IT. Note: the stories come with questions after to initiate conversation, but it was bedtime and we were tired so we went with “What was your favorite part?” which is also my trick question to see how much she was listening.

Me: What was your favorite part of the story?
Roozle: My favorite part was when Stella said that was so powerful and that she could lift the boulder. But she actually couldn’t so she tricked the dragon by saying that if she threw the boulder it might hit the moon and then she said that maybe all the pieces would come flying straight for them and the dragon got scared. And then the dragon told her not to throw it because he was scared.


Me: Was that a surprise that the scary dragon was the scared one?
Roozle: Yeah!
Me: I was surprised by that too.

Me: Are you excited about next week?
Roozle: I’m excited about next week because I had never heard that story before and I’m excited to find out what the story is!

Me: Until next Tuesday, Roozle.
Roozle: Until next Tuesday, Apa!

New stories come out every Tuesday, and we’re way too excited to wait, so we’ve picked Tuesdays as our Circle Round days, but subscribing to the podcast means you can listen whenever you want. The stories are from 5-20 minutes and include all kinds of famous people my kid totally doesn’t care about, but OMG I DO. And since we’re trying to listen to them together, that matters a lot. And bonus points? THEY HAVEN’T USED ANY GENDERED PARENT LANGUAGE SO FAR! WE ARE VERY EXCITED. 

This post is sponsored by WBUR’s new podcast Circle Round for kids and their grownups, where “story time happens all the time.” Opinions are mine, and Roozle’s. We have so many opinions. You’re never too old or young for a good story.

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There’s No Such Thing As “What a boy looks like,” Lessons From My 8-year-old On Gender Identity

There’s No Such Thing As “What a boy looks like,” Lessons From My 8-year-old On Gender Identity

There's No Such Thing As

“Can you always tell when someone is queer?” She hesitated, and nearly not finishing the question. We sat at a window seat for dinner overlooking the busy street. Provincetown on Memorial Day is what queer looks like, I wanted to reply, as we were surrounded by drag queens and rainbows and poodles in tutus. It was her first time there, and she was starting to understand. And along with that understanding, she was beginning to piece together the stereotypes that go with all of it, and the problematic erasure that comes along for the ride.

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I Can’t Give Her Everything She Wants, But I Can Teach Her To Be Okay With That

I Can’t Give Her Everything She Wants, But I Can Teach Her To Be Okay With That

Do kids like it when parents say no to them?

No. Because they really want to do the thing.

Why else?

Because they really want to say, do, go, and be how they want. And get what they want.

Do kids like it better when parents say yes if they ask for something?

Yes. Because they get to do the thing that they want to do.img_6327

What happens when you ask for something and I say no?

I say “okay!”

Did you always respond like that?

No. I would get mad because I really wanted the thing and I wanted to do or go somewhere and I felt like you didn’t hear me and that I wasn’t getting respected or getting to do what I wanted to do.

So that made you feel mad and frustrated?


What is different now?

I get tickets whenever I say, “Okay.” I get mad inside, but I know that I want to get a ticket because each ticket is a dollar and I can buy something that I want.

So what do you do with your body and your words to get the ticket?

I be nice and I say “okay” because I don’t want to be mean.

Is it okay to ask for things?

Yes and you shouldn’t do it THAT much.

After a shopping trip full of Can I have that? Why? Why? Can I have this? Why? Please? Please? Why! I pulled over on the way home to google “How to get your kid to cooperate in a grocery store.” It wasn’t helpful. We went home and I made the kid cover our back window in things she’s thankful for because OMG WHY. It was a hard day. As a single parent, I have to say no more than ever. My budget is tight. And a kid who goes back and forth between two homes asks for a lot. Without the consistency of a single home, it all sometimes rises up into TOO MUCH. We got there a few weeks ago. How am I raising a kid who can’t hear the word no? Is this normal? Did I do this? And how on earth can I fix it? At some point in my stumbling through the internet for a solution, I came across the idea that it’s good for kids to ask for stuff. It’s good for all of us to learn how to ask for help, ask for what we want, ask for what we need. The problem isn’t with the asking. It’s with the reaction to hearing no. And with that, I found the solution.

New rule: ask for anything you want. You can only ask once, because once I’ve answered, I’ll just repeat that I’ve already answered. If the answer is no, you have a choice to react or respond. A response is to accept the no as what it is. To trust that I have a reason for it. To drop it. To react is to FREAK OUT IN PUBLIC. I’ve been there too many times. I can’t anymore.

When you respond, you earn half a ticket. When you react, I take a ticket away. Tickets may be saved up and turned in like earning an allowance for chores (she also earns tickets for chores, so these tickets just get added in).

And with that? Everything changed. She still asks for everything. I still try to say yes when I can. When it’s reasonable. When it’s safe. When it’s appropriate. And I still say no. A lot. Because there are lots of asks. And there are limits. But now? There are tickets not freak outs. There are responses, not reactions. And I now have a 7 year old who reminds me to respond instead of react, too. Thanks, Roozle.

What about if you asked for something, like having a sip of my beer?

I would think about it and I would change my mind because beer is alcohol and I don’t want to go crazy.

If you were really curious about it, how could we respect your curiosity while taking good care of your body?

I would use the 5 senses!

What’s that?

The 5 senses are: smell, hear, touch, taste, and see.

Oh good idea! Just like we do with trying a new food! We could do that with a drink you might be interested in so you could be curious about it, and we could just skip the tasting part!

No, because we taste it.

But you can’t taste alcohol. So we’d skip that.

Yeah, skip it.

Do you think that the work we do about me saying no to you about stuff helps with the times I have to say no to keep you safe?

Yes because I want to be safe and maybe because I’m used to hearing no now and yeah.

Good. I’m glad. I don’t like to say no to you, I’d rather say lots of yes’s to you, but sometimes I have to say no as a parent to keep you safe and because sometimes we all hear no. It’s good for all of us to practice responding instead of reacting, even grown ups. Have you noticed that I’ve been working on that?

Can I type now?


(typed by Riley) Yes.

Do you think I’ve been doing better responding to you instead of reacting?

(typed by Riley) Definitely because I have heard you say, “Okay.”

This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.


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Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You’re 7

Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You’re 7

Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You're 7

Me: Remember, you can say anything to your doctor. You won’t get in trouble. This is like a free pass for saying stuff.

Riley: Stupid stupid stupid. Can I put up my middle finger? Like Beyonce?

Me: Um, no. Not like that. I mean, you can say whatever but I meant that she’s going to ask you questions and I want you to be honest. And whatever you tell her, I won’t like make a big deal out of or whatever.

Riley: Okay but you said I could say whatever I want. So. STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.

Me: Fine. But will you answer her questions?

Riley: Yes.

Doctor comes in…

Doctor: Hi Riley! You’ve grown up so much! How’s your summer?

Riley: Good.

Doctor: Are you going to camp?

Riley: Yes.

Doctor: What do you do there?

Riley: I don’t know.

Off to a great start! But the pediatrician was ready. She reworded her question to add today. And Riley answered. And cooperated for the whole visit. She didn’t tell her anything that would change the world and overall, it was a pretty boring visit. But that’s fine with me.

Sometimes this kid tells me all the things. Especially when she’s watching a YouTube kids video about Barbie making cupcakes and I’m trying to make dinner. She’s always all in for that.

And sometimes? It’s all I don’t know. And yes, no, no, no. Even when the question wasn’t some kind of multiple choice. A long time ago, we started sharing one happy thing, one sad thing at dinner. It has helped. A lot. But at 7? She doesn’t want to talk over dinner. She wants to tell us stuff or ask to play Barbie UNO while we eat (the answer is always yes), or getting real serious about (phonetic) Bananagrams. Dinner isn’t the time for big deep vulnerable conversations. We do still share a Happy/Sad Thing, but these days I try to move around when I ask for it. Sometimes in the morning. Sometimes when I’m tucking her in. Sometimes on the train ride to camp. Sometimes when we’re hanging on the couch together or biking or walking somewhere. By moving it around, I seem to hear the most about how the boys were being too rough or one of the girls felt left out and how she swam so hard and was frustrated that they didn’t have enough free time.

Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You're 7

But in this house, there’s still one rule about talking: Double Jeopardy. You saw that movie? Okay it was a little different than what applies to a first grader, but around here, you can never ever get in trouble at home for anything you got in trouble for at school. It’s our favorite. Because of our rule, she tells me when she’s corrected for talking too much. She tells me when the kids got in trouble on the bus for not listening and lost swimming time. She tells me that she wasn’t listening either, but then started listening after the warning so she didn’t lose swimming.

By knowing she won’t get in trouble with me, it shows her that I trust the other people taking care of her. I trust her other parent, her camp counselors, her teachers. And yes, I do occasionally check in with them about some of the things she tells me (hello camp counselors playing Pokemon Go on a field trip), but she isn’t in trouble for any of it. She learns that making mistakes is part of building your story and I’m teaching her to tell it. She learns that getting in trouble doesn’t affect how you are loved and cared for. She knows that kids are learning, and adults are too. We’re all figuring it out as we go and it’s way better when we keep talking. Even when it’s hard and annoying and omg stop asking me questions.

I thought this would all get harder as she grows up, but so far, we’ve worked hard on building a foundation of communication that has actually made it easier. For now, it’s about who wasn’t listening, but eventually it will be about who was swearing, and then who was drinking or talking about hurting themselves or someone else. We can’t do that without this. We can’t be ready for the big kid hard stuff if we don’t start early with the little kid hard stuff. And oh boy is it sometimes hard. Age 7 is no joke. But we’re here for it always. For the happy things and the sad things. For the everything in between. For mixing it up and listening and laughing and doing the work of growing together. I’m all in for that. Always.

This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.

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Yes, I Drink Alcohol and Yes, I Sometimes Drink In Front Of My Kid

Yes, I Drink Alcohol and Yes, I Sometimes Drink In Front Of My Kid

“Do you think parents should drink in front of their kids?”

“No. No way. Definitely not.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Because the kids and little tiny babies might not know what it is and they will get it and drink beer.”

“Oh, yeah, that would be super bad. But I drink in front of you. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, that’s obviously fine since you drank beer like 1,467 times in front of me.”

“Right. Not all at once, but yes. Why is that different?”

“Because I know what it is.”

“Yeah, that’s super important. You know not to drink it and you know what alcohol would do to your body and why it’s bad for you because of how old you are. Is it okay for parents to drink in front of their kids if the kids know what it is?”

“Yeah, it’s fine if the kids know it’s beer or something.”

“What happens if grown ups or parents drink too much of it in front of their kids?”

“I would tell them to stop!”

“Yeah, you could, but I don’t think that’s really your responsibility. I think it’s the grown ups responsibility to take care of their own body and make sure they’re always being safe, especially around kids.”

“Yeah, I think so too.” 

Yes, I drink in front of my kid and yes, it's okay

I drink in front of my kid. At the beach or on the porch after work or I have a beer while we play basketball in the driveway or at dinner in a restaurant or at home. She sometimes yells at me to put it down if we’re playing and it’s my turn to catch the ball, though less frequently than she tells me to put down my phone, but that’s another post for another time. I have a personal two drink rule when she’s around. Or less. Mostly less. But always? I tell her what I’m doing. I mention that I’m getting a beer, or I tell her that there’s tequila in my drink and that a small amount of tequila is the same alcohol as a full beer. I let her smell it, but never let her drink it. She has never asked for a sip, anyway, because she’s the Rule Police.

“I’m never going to drink when I get older.”

“I don’t think that’s true. It’s okay if you want to drink when you get older, you know.”

“Don’t say that! My body! My rules!”

“That’s totally true and I definitely want you to follow your own rules for your own body. But I also want to be sure that you understand that alcohol isn’t bad on it’s own. It’s the way people can use it that can be bad. You can drink alcohol and be super responsible about it and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I’m not sure she heard me beyond, “That’s totally true…” but that’s fine. I keep talking.

I love what Dr. Alvord says about drinking being an adult behavior, like driving. Because I know that my own kid tends to see it in terms of good vs. bad, and in our conversations, I’ll be working on getting away from that a bit. I guess that’s why we talk early and talk often.


What do you think? Do you drink in front of your kids? Have you ever talked to them about it? What do they think?


This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.

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Talking To My Cis Kid About The Trans Bathroom Issue

Talking To My Cis Kid About The Trans Bathroom Issue

We talk about bathrooms a lot. We celebrate when we find a family bathroom. We cringe at the binary. We talk about North Carolina and Massachusetts. We talk about being kind and that some people aren’t. She tells me she wants family bathrooms at her school. She tells me she doesn’t want to line up as boys and girls. She gets mad at gendered language about toys at McDonalds. She tells me it doesn’t make any sense. Because to her? It doesn’t make any sense.

My Kid Is a Cis Ally for Trans Bathroom Rights

Me: People keep talking about bathrooms and gender do you know what the problem is?

Riley: Some bathrooms only have girl and boy signs on them and some have family bathrooms. The problem is that not all of the bathrooms are family bathrooms.

Me: Why is that a problem?

Riley: Because it makes neutral people feel bad because they might not know which bathroom to go in.

Me: And what about trans people and cis people who don’t quite look like a clear boy or girl?

Riley: Apa, that’s not how you spell cis.

Me: Yes it is.

Riley: No it’s not, why is it underlined then?

Me: Because my computer doesn’t think it’s a word. But it is a word. What happens if someone who identifies as a girl, and is cis, but looks gender non-conforming goes in the girls’ bathroom?

Riley: I would just ignore it because I don’t care who goes in which bathroom. I do care that some places do not have family bathrooms. Our teacher asked what we wanted to change about our school and I said I want our school to have family bathrooms.

Me: That’s a good idea. The best thing about all gender bathrooms is that they’re for everyone. I like things that are for everyone. Do you think that a person who looks different will be made fun of when they go in the bathroom?

Riley: Well, I wouldn’t make fun of them, but other people I think would.

Me: Why?

Riley: Because some people think that what people look like is what they are, except you can pick how ever you want to be.

Me: What would you do if someone came into the bathroom with you who looked super different than what you expected?

Riley: I would say, “Hi I’m Riley, this is a bathroom and this is where we go to the bathroom. What’s your name?” And they would say their name.

Me: So you would just be super nice?

Riley: Yes.

Me: Are you ever allowed to tell someone they don’t belong in a certain bathroom?

Riley: No.

Me: What if one of your friends tells someone they don’t belong in a bathroom because of what they look like?

Riley: I would say, “Stop teasing them because it doesn’t matter what bathroom you go in and what you look like.”

I recently realized that I had never had any kind of explicit talk with my own kid about bathrooms. She knows that trans kids are welcome, but what if she thinks their gender presentation isn’t right? I realized that talking to her about trans people and gender wasn’t enough. Yes she knows the difference between cis and trans. She knows about the binary and the patriarchy and internalized misogyny. But does she have expectations of what people should look like when they show up in the bathroom with her? What if she does? What if the person doesn’t meet those expectations? Sometimes you have to get real specific.Because I don’t want it to be my kid who makes someone else feel awful. Now or ever. I don’t want it to be one of her friends either. I hear so much that kids are assholes, but that has never been my experience. Kids are smart and kind and they can do this. They can support one another. They can welcome one another. They can change the world, thankfully, because we adults are doing a terrible job at it lately.

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