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Let's Talk About Sex (and Babies!) with Author and Sexuality Educator Cory Silverberg
Episode 824th October 2022 • Barnyard Language • Caite Palmer and Arlene Hunter
00:00:00 01:49:05

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Things get a little more awkward than usual today, when we talk to Cory Silverberg, a Canadian sexuality educator and author. Cory is the author of What Makes a Baby, Sex Is a Funny Word, and You Know, Sex. Cory talks to us about teaching consent to our children and families, what happens when four year olds don't like your book, and how to talk about all the different ways that families come about.

This episode does contain anatomically correct language, discussions of transgender and queer folks, and references to the dangers of sexual abuse. This episode contains lots of great jumping off points for further conversation, but we want folks to be aware of where all we're headed in this conversation.

More information about Cory and their work can be found at www.corysilverberg.com and their books can be found at retailers all over North America.

Thank you for joining us today on Barnyard Language. If you enjoy the show, we encourage you to support us by becoming a patron. Go to www.patreon.com/barnyardlanguage to make a small monthly donation to help cover the cost of making a show. Please rate and review the podcast and follow the show so you never miss an episode.

 

You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok as BarnyardLanguage, and on Twitter we are BarnyardPod. If you'd like to connect with other farming families, you can join our private Barnyard Language Facebook group. We're always in search of future guests for the podcast. If you or someone you know would like to chat with us, get in touch.

 

We are a proud member of the Positively Farming Media Podcast Network.

Transcripts

Cory

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Nothing. Nothing. Just a ton of laundry I hear.

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A not like a. Yes, a do a doom swamp of laundry, at which point I stopped being able to ignore it at all. And being a, a pet owning household, of course, if you do not put the laundry in a dresser, within 30 seconds of it coming out of the dryer is carving cat hair again.

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And at the same time, I'm like getting rid of a bunch of clothing and checking sizes on the kids' clothes and. Whatever

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It's just Yeah, it's everywhere.

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This sort of thing. So I'm realizing where there are some gaps and for some reason I probably own upwards of 40 pairs of socks, which I am realizing now that I've gotten through most of the Doom Swamp and have started putting things away. And I don't wanna get rid of any of ' em cuz they're nice socks.

But also it seems really ridiculous to have so, Well of

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t it. Combines are going hot [:

I, I've vacuumed up probably thousands of bugs in the last two days, like literally thousands Wow. Of insects. It's revolting. Darlene, what's happening at your

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So on the harvest front, things are pretty quiet, You know, just milk and cows and doing the, the regular old stuff. Last weekend, my husband and I actually went away without children for a couple of days, so that felt pretty awesome. We went to a Scandinavian spa. So in theory, what you're supposed to do at this place is you do like a hot treatment.

oom or sauna, then plunge in [:

I know it's supposed to be good for your pores or something. Digestion or circulation, who knows? So we kind of skip the plunging. But the sauna and the hot tub and the relaxing, we're all in on all those things plus That has fantastic food and it's in Quebec, so a little bit further away from here.

So very cool menu options. And despite all the warning signs around the place saying you're not supposed to consume alcohol and participate in the activities, there's a lot of wine and beverage options too. So, It's a very relaxing way to spend a day. So yeah, that was one of the things we did while we were away.

So had a few different duck [:

It wasn't a big disruption into our, our routine, I guess. Katie and I actually fit in three interviews in one week last week, so that was very exciting and we have a ton of fun guests coming up. So that leads me into this one. We're trying to keep our intro short. Today we are talking to someone about sex.

So that's not the easiest conversation sometimes to have and can be uncomfortable, and you might sense that Katie and I are a little uncomfortable or awkward maybe at times during this conversation. But our guests made it really easy on us and they are a super person. So we're really excited for you to hear this interview.

e very excited to be talking [:

So for our farming guests, that covers crops and livestock, but it can also cover families and businesses, social change, whatever you want to include. So Corey, welcome and what are you growing?

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So in terms of the things I like the best and most proud of that would, I'd probably start with that. So the other answer is like, I'm trying to grow the world that I want which is also partly the world that we live in.

people and saying, Would you [:

Like it's, it's not, it feels very isolating, right? So, sometimes what's lovely is, and it happens a lot and it's great, I will get emails and anything that sort of suggests that like their books are useful or helpful because unlike because of the way you asked the question you know, I'm thinking about actually growing things in the ground where you get to see them grow. Or not , right? That you're in some of this sort of, it feels more like a relationship.

And weirdly writing books, even though I like, I sort of think about all my work as being about in a relationship building, the big thing that I do is not, it doesn't feel like that so much cuz it's like I do a thing and then some people react to it and then I do a different thing. But anyway,

the goal is that I'm trying to kind of create this world the world that I want while living in the world that we have. That's my answer.

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I thought maybe she'll really come up with something. And she goes, What's their middle name? So that was, that was her one question, if you're

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And also, I [:

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And the thing with the c-section, it's, I mean, so many people I know who had c-sections. When I'm talking to parents will say, Look, I never know how to explain that scar to my kid. Which is such a, you know which is sort of about a lot of things the way that we shame people, both their bodies and, you know, by view of body perfection.

y to tell . I mean, it might [:

So to answer the first part of your question, I wrote it specifically for a trans family. I wrote it for some friends of mine, the dad is trans, so his body doesn't have any sperm.

So they used a sperm donor and the mom carried the baby. And so they had a kid who was four at the time who I was close to them, I was close to this kid. And then they were having another baby, his mom was pregnant.

And I was like eager, like waiting for this four year old to start asking questions because she was now visibly pregnant and he wasn't asking questions cuz he was also, he was like one of these kids and there's lots of kids like this who he's not, that wasn't that interested in bodies. But then he finally did and, and very quickly I got, got a, you know, note from the dad to point out that there were just no books. So I wrote a story for this one child, which is really the only way I probably could have ever gotten into writing books, because I find writing hard.

ike, trying to get it right. [:

But actually I was writing for one family who happened to need a lot of space because, because of, well in this case it was because of a sperm donor. And, but then what happened? So I wrote it for him and he was like, not that impressed with it.

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The father was very grateful. Both, both parents were super grateful. The child who was four at the time was much more honest and was like, It's okay. I mean, the thing I love is what he did. In the family, they spoke both English and Spanish. So what happened was, I wrote this thing and it was just in a binder, it looked like a zine.

ed translating, which, which [:

And he sat for like a few minutes and then he got up and he left the room and then he came back with paper and a stapler. And I remember this because I remember, I remember saying, Are you allowed to use the stapler on your own? Cuz and he was, and he stapled some paper together and I said, What are you doing?

And he said, I'm gonna make my own book about bodies. Which I thought was great. Like that's to me, if you write a book for kids and the only thing it does is it makes them wanna write their own book. Cause they think you got it wrong then that, then you wrote a very, very good book for kids.

So, I did that. I read it with this one family, but then I started reading with other families. So I started reading with families who had adopted and with like I know some single parents by choice and other families including like heterosexual families where there was either a sperm or an egg donor or a surrogate used.

y like except that's not us, [:

And that's the part that I just don't like you know, this was before I had kids of my own, but I had lots of kids in my life and I just feel like kids should get to hear stories without all these exceptions. Right? With all because, because suddenly the message is this book is the expertise. We are the weird ones, Right?

And as you said it, it's actually lie. Right? It's a lie. The story that a man, a woman, Love each other, choose to have a baby, immediately have one and everything's great. Like, whose life is that? Right. I mean, there's like all this stuff in our lives and it's weird when the books just don't look like life.

Including everything from like, the messiness. It's like, the houses are always neat. No one goes to the bathroom. And, and because I grew up in the seventies, like there wasn't a lot of like media literacy. Right. So I, no one was pointing out to be like, Now I think, you know, we all, That's fine. We don't all find our lives Exactly.

about like, how is this, how [:

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You know, So I really liked that. It's a, a mutual act and I also really enjoy that so many of the people in the pictures don't have sperm or eggs because, you know, for a lot of people that's,

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Doesn't mean that they're gonna work. I was still in this mentality of like I have to represent what's true for most people. And she helped me be like, No, you can actually just represent more stories, if that's the sort of thing. It's not like, don't prioritize this one story because it's the most common. In my work as an educator, I still think it's useful.

And also, I, I wanna share something about like attempts to like take gender or sex assigned at birth out of, out of it, right? So part of the way the book works is we don't say boys have sperm and girls have eggs. We say bodies have sperm and somebody to eggs, right? And there's gender in the book.

Cuz the truth is that there [:

And, and as we just said, there's some boys and girls and men and women who don't have either. But what I think is really interesting is kids still will often, they'll, they'll immediately look at the bodies with sperm and they'll say, So that's a boy and that's a boy. So they do their thing, they show you what they're learning, which I think is fine.

I don't, I don't correct them. But they often, a lot of kids don't notice that there's a body without either. And so it's a really good opportunity to, to say to kid, Oh, do you notice this one doesn't have either? What do you think that means? And so it's this thing, I mean, cuz part of this, this project of building a better world, like the world that I want, is a world where when we're dealing with infertility, the complexity and how that can be difficult to deal with isn't compounded by a lifetime of shame building around what it means to be a woman. Right? So, I mean, this is just to stick with the eggs and to talk about women who are socialized in a certain way. To be told that to be a real full woman, you gotta have a baby, right?

And [:

This idea that our body is made to make a baby. Our body's made for a lot of things. So it's because I have so many friends who waited later to have babies, and then of course had a lot of problems and, and, you know, and many didn't get to make babies themselves. And, and I, it was very clear to me that of course that's gonna be hard no matter what.

But the fact that, that they grew up being told this is what your body's gonna do. So it's just this tiny planting of a seed for kids that like, yeah, bodies don't always work the way you want them to.

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lied to about all this stuff.[:

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Although, I mean, my next question is about your other two books and there's, there's room for, for tons of more information than we ever got when we were young. But yeah, there's that line between not getting the message lost and wanting to protect them from certain things. And then also like, but there's also all this other stuff out here.

nd we're like, talking about [:

You want your kids in out.

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I'll just put it that way, that kids learn the truth about certain things, right? So whether that's animals dying animals being slaughtered a crop that doesn't grow and what that means in terms of finances and what we're gonna have this year and not have this year. My, my assumption is that there's moments where kids are being, where kids are growing up and they're learning stuff about the world that they're not learning in school, Right?

In school. It's a more sanitized version. Is that, do you think that, is that true or is that just sort of a, like a fantasy sort of romantic isation,

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Those type of things. I mean, there's, there's discussions around you know, we don't have a bowl on site, so I mean, we talk to our kids about, you know, semen is sometimes a dinner table conversation or breeding, you know, when my kids are little, like one of their first jobs was if they went out to the barn with my husband, they like hold a lube.

tunities to expand that and, [:

And okay, so these things are the same, but when you're talking about human relationships, you know, things

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Or, or you're just looking at the placenta and you get distracted.

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xperience? Yeah, I guess the [:

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Right. So I guess that's another way that we could, and probably should talk to our kids about the differences in animals and humans, Right? That there is, or in a way, I suppose you have to look for indications that the other person is interested would be another

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oung child so body autonomy, [:

You know, this thing that we say, nobody should ever touch you without your permission and no one should ever harm you or hit you. Or whatever the language we would use is, you know, if our kid is gonna, you know, run into traffic, we are gonna do what we need to do, get this, prevent them from doing that, so I do, what would look like to connect, and maybe this doesn't serve I should just out myself now. I am a vegetarian I'm also not a vegetarian that's particularly sort of largely politicized. Having said that I think because I am, I'm probably more open to thinking about letting my kid connect themselves to an animal who's not being given the choice to consent. I can guarantee that all of our kids ha are aware of the experience of being, of, of not having choice.

d even, you know, I'm a very [:

And I think that, that my kid feels that way, and all of our kids feel that way because it is overwhelming the, the lack of choice they have. You know, and then we teach them as they get older, that changes. So I do wonder, like, what do you, like, do you think, what would that, would it make it, you know, I don't know.

I, I don't know if it would make any sense to talk about, like, they don't have choices in the way. No, I don't think it would. I'm just, sorry, this is kind of just trying to think about this, but I don't, What, what do you guys think about that?

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She will kick him and bail out.

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like agreeing to do a thing, [:

Like, you know what you're agreeing to, but how do you agree to kiss someone? If you've never kissed someone, how can you, you cannot know if you're gonna like it. You might not like that particular person. It might turn out that you don't want to kiss that kind of person. So it's this weird thing where we teach you about consent, Like you gotta make sure you know what you want.

But before we've done any of this kind of exploration, the answer for me is like, we check in, was it feel like on the inside? So that's actually such a, what you're saying is such a great, because you could talk about like, this cow is showing us something with their body, right? So what does it look like?

Do you know, You know, the question for kids, for slightly older kids is, do you know what it looks like if you, if you have a crush on someone, what they look like when they're uncomfortable or awkward or uncertain or, or scared? What does their body look like? Cause we don't, The other thing that we do education wise that isn't great is we talk about like a feelings of, as if they all show up the same way on our bodies, right?

will show that we're afraid [:

Yeah.

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for the story that you wanna [:

And, and also improve the offspring by picking genetics that are going to create better quality.

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They know so much more, but like so much of. I mean, I mean I guess it is good. See, that's funny. See I even, I'm doing it where like, actually the answer is more education's never a bad thing as long as kids are given the opportunity to understand things in context. But it's just funny cause now I'm having this feeling, you know, people, people who don't like my books say like, these books are confusing kids.

my god, raising kids that a [:

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Sex is a funny word. What would you say would be your kind of target range for, for that book?

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, somewhere around [:

And their questions are like more, but, but they're not so much about reproduction, they're more about friendships and relationships and gender and, and bodies and safety and boundaries and consent and stuff like that. So, so, so the second book is sort of, Yeah, it's like, so it's, it is sort of kids before puberty.

And I, I found that like, my experience with it now, cause it's been around for five or six years, is kids will let you know right away. Kids either find it boring or fascinating and if they find it boring some, a lot of times it's because they're not ready for it yet.

yet at puberty, but are past [:

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It's boring. So instead there's this illustration of these two bodies, and there's like sperm and egg, like all around them. Because it's a, because it's a kind of fantastical illustration. It's not a medical diagram. And absolutely there were people who were like, Is this gonna be confusing to kids?

d you outside your body. I'm [:

So you know, Sex, which is the book that's for puberty age kids, there's a big reproduction section and, and there's an illustration. There's, there's cartoon illustrations of intercourse of IVF of ii in vitreous fertilization and uterine insemination ii. So yeah, there's very detailed illustrations.

The way we do it is that we don't, what there isn't, like from the books that I grew up with, you'd sometimes see like a couple in bed and you'd see their full naked bodies. We don't do that. I don't do it for two reasons. One is that, I mean, this is a bit weird because I did, you know, I grew up. With a parent who was a sex therapist, I was surrounded by a lot of sexual material.

me feelings, right? You get, [:

I think that that can, that can be, that can trigger other stuff. I, in my experience working with kids and talking to 'em about how they feel about things, illustrations and drawings are just different. They don't really evoke the same kind of response anyway. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but also I don't really wanna do it.

So our books are very clearly, particularly, this is the last puberty age one where we see, you know, we see kids making out like, you know, hugging and kissing sort of thing. But the, we were pretty, pretty careful. Like, we don't want this to be titillating, which absolutely will be disappointing for some teenagers.

But anyway, that's our choice. So we just see the, so we see body parts. So you see with the intercourse thing, you do see, like, you see, it's sort of like an internal as if you have an x-ray. So we're seeing a penis inside of vagina. So yeah, that's the book that, that explains that. And I'll say that you could use that illustration like your kid who, how old is your child?

The [:

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You, yes, they could see that, but also you could actually you could show them the drawings. Right. So, so I, Cause I, because you know, having done this work for a long time, again, I don't find young people get disturbed by these cartoon line drawings. Especially since it's sort of, it's, they're just body parts.

So you could just say that this is how it works, this is how some people do it. And right next to it is an illustration of actually a syringe and a tube that is inserted past the cervix. So, so you can also say, and this is how other people do it yeah.

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my kid doesn't care.

She's not shocked at all because she doesn't know that she should be, which is my goal, that she's not like, Ooh, bodies,

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Not because I'm somehow more together or advanced than anyone. I have the same issues and problems and the same challenges with parenting, but the language stuff. But yes, what you're saying is so true and we, and we have to remember this, the, this is other piece about people who are like, this is gonna harm our kids or confused with our kids.

eople in inappropriate ways, [:

So as you're saying, like they just don't, their response to things they don't know. They don't know that they're supposed to be embarrassed which is so great and it's a great time to like to do some of this education. But it's hard for us to remember because we we're already there. Right.

We're all already adults and you can't, you can't just get rid of it overnight. Like, that's the, I mean, I guess the other thing I would say is like, there are a lot of parents who are like, I wanna do this better and I don't know how. And it's like, well, it just takes time. Right? It's not, there's no, there isn't like a book you can read or like a, you know a pill you can take that's gonna make you kind of like just comfortable and okay with all this stuff.

Because, because we aren't in the world. Right. The other things, like, none of us got the sex education we needed, so of course we're struggling as parents. I left, I left you both silent.

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So can you address some of the other things that are, are part of sex that don't often get included when we think about sex ed?

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opefully brings joy and, and [:

That is the large picture of what sex education is, right. Sex education is also about friends and friendship and learning how to make a friendship. Sex education is about crushes, but mostly sex. You know, early on in, you know, sex is a, there's a chapter called that Time You Learned About Sex and the chapter's all about what it means to learn about sex.

s not what TV and movies say [:

So not everybody wants to do this thing. Not, I mean, I don't know if it's okay. I don't know how explicit we can get, but just for, for an example there's this idea that an orgasm is the most important thing in the world. Some people actually experience pain when they have orgasm. So they want sex without an orgasm, and then they feel bad about that, right?

Because then they're not having orgasms, which means they're not having a good sex life, which means maybe their marriage is bad. And, you know, there's so. So, so much judgment and shame around this stuff. To say nothing of the fact, we should also talk briefly about people who are asexual, right? So, so what we know now as a gift of activists is that there are people who sexual orientation is asexual.

They, this is the term they use for themselves. They've chosen this term, and these are people who, for whom sexual energy and activity is, is not pleasurable. It's not interesting. So, asexuals may want intimacy. They may want long term relationships, they may want families, but they don't wanna do the sex things cuz it just doesn't feel good.

And there's, you [:

Sex is something you, you're gonna, you're gonna wanna have when you're older. That's actually not true for all of us. But because we're all told that some people who just aren't that interested in sex are then themselves, they're pathologized. It's like there's something wrong with you because you're not interested in sex.

Right? And that's not right. And so anyway, so in order to not have a world like this, we need to be able to figure out what it is we want. We need to know how to communicate that to the people we care about and who are in relationships with. And that's what sex education is. And so for 10 year olds, obviously that, you know, in my book, I'll say another thing.

lk about sexual activity. So [:

What can you do if you have that feeling? What does it look like on someone else when you do that? How do you learn? There's a section about learning how to apologize to people. is also because of the world, we live in a big section on safety at the end. And so that includes information about bullying and harassment.

And it's written for sort of three groups. People who are experiencing something like bullying, harassment, people who are doing it, who are the perpetrators, and then people who are witnessing it. Because in order to, because again, most education is really just like, don't bully.

It's easier to have empathy [:

And that's messed up. I should be able to do that with adults too, but I'm just being honest that can do with kids in an easier way. So there's that. And then there is a, and then there's a importantly, there's a ch there's a chapter on sexual sexual abuse. So child to sexual abuse. And certainly the hardest part to write, it's the part that I wrote most with professionals, right?

So I had a lot of professionals who are, who work with young people who are, who have experienced violence, and now are in the system because of that. But it needs to be there. It needs to be there. And I've had a couple families tell me that their child revealed that, that they experienced abuse after reading the book. So again, we don't see, we don't see anyone being abused, but there's scenarios, right?

e this is and trying to help [:

And then of course we talk about what they can do because that's also complicated, right? We do this with kids too, which is if someone touches you in a way you don't like, go tell your teacher or go tell a police officer or go tell this person, or go tell your parent.

And the reality is that those people that we say go tell may be the ones doing the harm. So we have to tell kids, we have to tell them more people, right? That the answer is we have to say, here's, you know, who are your trusted people? Which is certainly a thing as an educator that I encourage parents to be doing with their kids, which is like, do you have a list?

Right? Like when people say like, How do I keep my kids safe? Well, part of it's like, how have you talked about this? And and for older kids, you know, but 10, it's like, do they have a list? Do do you have a list of these are the, these are the people that I trust and that I think you can trust. Do you trust them?

ries and I said crushes love [:

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Because again, kids have already experienced trauma, many kids have. And so it's just sort of reflect, it's some something to reflect that experience. So they don't think that, you know there's something wrong.

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out everything and make sure [:

Having said that, I have no idea where to start.

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So I was raised, we never talked about sex, We never, and whatever it is, if it's like we never talked about bodies I never saw. So, so a a, an example is for a lot of people, cuz what I wanna say is like to share to, for this person who wrote this is like, when most of us are trying to do is like, just mess our kids up a little less than we were messed up.

Right?

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edroom or the bathroom, they [:

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Because I don't care. I, whatever I've

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dy's changing a lot and, and [:

And this home can be a place where you can feel, you know, if you wanna sit on the couch not on the couch, fully naked, maybe it's towel. But anyway every family has different rules. Like, like, like, like in mine, it's like you can't be fully naked when you're eating a dinner, right? There has to be. But because part of the answer, cause a lot of kids, young kids are like, Well, what's the point of clothes?

So part of my answer is, well, it's actually to protect our bodies a little bit. But I do think, yeah, I, so the answer is there isn't on age, there isn't like it's 10. And in my experience, kids, usually you can let your kids lead that or you lead that, right? So I, if you get to a point where you're uncomfortable, then I think it's fine.

l values. So for example, to [:

It's really important for kids to hear about the ways that we were mistreated and harmed and how we dealt with it because we've survived it, right? So many kids experience, certainly my experience of being bullied and harassed is that we're isolated. We're the only ones that no one's really, no one's ever really been treated this badly, and we're not sure we're gonna survive it because kids, you know, kids are so weird with us parents because they actually pay really close attention to us.

all the time and they didn't [:

So it, so it's confusing, right? They send us mixed messages because they're, they're growing and developing. But, part of the problem is that they actually think that we're more together than we are. Partly because we keep it together, right? Like when we're, we're dealing with loss, whatever it is, we keep a lot of things from our kids because that feels like the, like an appropriate boundary.

So I think the place to start is with all of this stuff about like, we. Kind of being mistreated. We grew up confused. And then it's about sharing. The other thing is, the other thing I wanna say, and this is true for our books, is our books don't tell you what to tell your kids about sex. Because I don't know what you wanna say.

Right? So if you wanna say, sex is, for us, sex is something that has become an important part of our relationship, It's also something that we think is saved for marriage or whatever it is, then that's what you should tell your kid. Like, don't let anyone else tell you what to tell your kids.

l you how to have a healthy, [:

They might want not be monogamous. They might end up being trans or gender queer in some way. So you wanna teach your, you wanna make sure your kids know what the world broadly. Cause what you want your kids to know is that they have a future.

And it's hard for kids like me who were queer. I didn't know that word back then. Kids who don't see themselves in media, in their schools, in their families, it's easy to think they don't have in the future. Right? And, and, and like, and social media is making that a little bit better because we're seeing.

Like every kind of, you know, if you look at like, you know, musicians and successful actors, like there's so many more of them that are out as gay or sometimes asexual or trans or queer or non-monogamous or whatever it is. But still, for a lot of our kids, they don't see that. And so they think that, that the only way to survive is to be like the people around them.

And [:

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So it's a great thing to, I mean, of course it's not always as a parent to navigate that, but it is this great moment of shift. And of course there's, you know, and I just wanna say for people who already have older kids, like, yes, and they're gonna roll their eyes sometimes, but if you get them away from their friends and in a kind of quiet moment, they can be very generous and have grace for us also.

So yeah. So I mean, what, what's important to know? So, I guess the important thing I think the fundamentals to know is that we were raised to be told that there's two sexes, right? So that, and, and that they're, that they are, that you're, that you are either male or female. That's not actually how it works.

So the word sex in this case is a word that's assigned to you. So when you're born, someone looks at your body and they just look at the outside. And if they see a penis in scro testicles, scrotum, then they say, that's a boy. And if they see evolve, they say, That's a girl. And that's, but what they say is that that's a male and that's a female.

So you are assigned to [:

And so one term for bodies like that, those bodies sometimes get called intersex. There's also another term called dsd, which stands for differences of sex development. And so the thing that we all need to know is that, that when we're fetal, it's all the same stuff, right? Our bodies, all bodies grow from the same stuff.

And then it just changes in different ways. And most bodies like can be visually kind of categorized. But not all bodies. And there's a bunch of bodies sort of in the middle. So there's more than two sexes. It's actually more than male and female. So that's one thing. Then for gender, there's more than two genders, right?

difference is gender's a war [:

There are markers in the body that met, that the medical profession has decided are markers of sex, but not gender. So gender is this thing that describes both sort of like how we feel inside sort of on a spectrum of masculinity and femininity, how we choose to look, right? So how we wear our hair, what we dress like, how we, how we talk, how we move identity and expression.

So gender is everywhere, and I don't think that's a bad thing. Different people have different feelings about this, but it's all more complicated than two options, right? So the fact that we're told it's two options.

o feels that way either. And [:

They're just words. It's why our second book is called, Sex is a Funny Word, because I think that it's important that we remember that these things are actually just words. We are people and we're complicated and we get to be all of these things or some of these things. And a lot of us fit just, a lot of us fit more or less in those boxes though.

So there's like, again, it's, this isn't about like. We're all, everything, right? There's some kids that come out that could call the boy that loves sports and rough housing and don't cry, and all these other things, which of course are the result of socialization and not their, their genes. But, but are very happy that way.

have these conversations is [:

All of us can be bullied into behaving the way we're told to behave, right? So the fact that a certain age, you know, kids seem to like, kids seem to veer off like all like this group of kids is playing soccer and doing this, and this group of kids is doing more relational stuff. And so we call it this group of boys.

In this group of girls. That's mostly a result of the fact that we subtly tell, Kids that are called boy to behave this way, and kids that are called girl to behave this way, right? And when we tell kids, you can be whoever you want you can like what you want and who you want, and what we want for you is to you for you to figure that out for yourself.

And we're gonna put all these options in front of you and we're gonna help you navigate how to do this safely and not hurting other people. So that's the boundaries and not bullying and all that kind of stuff. What we see is that kids, kids want more, right? And that's why we're seeing way more kids saying, I'm not a Boyer girl, like I'm non-binary.

Which is a term that gets [:

And you might have breasts or you might be non-binary and not have those things, or you might be non-binary and look kind of like androgynous sort of somewhere in the middle. But non-binary is just an identity that says, like, like these two choices are, are really a problem for me, . So I don't know.

I mean, if this is the question you asked is a question that you could spend a year studying. So does that, how is that, Do you have any

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Cause I, I didn't know that term. I took a long time to use that. But I now use they, them pronouns, but forever I use he pronouns because that's what I was called when I was a kid. And the truth is that, that that pronoun doesn't always feel bad when people say he doesn't what to do bad. But then I had a kid and people started calling it dad and it was really awful.

And so I should be clear, but like, what do we mean? Like what, So what that means for me is like, I would be called a dad and I would, I wouldn't be able to talk anymore. And I would go home and I would not think that I was a good parent or a good person. And I would sometimes cry and I would just feel terrible about who I am.

o be aware of with our kids, [:

And it's why, it's like, what's, why I'm not concerned? Some people say like, Well, you can't, like kids, like keep changing their pronouns or doing this and that. I don't know why we can't. I mean, if you don't have the energy for it, then you can just be honest about that and say to your kid, like, you know, No, I can't, I can't do that.

But, but if you, But, but the question is like, what? Like why? Right. If kids wanna just try stuff on, that's great. I also want us just to be mindful of the fact that it's not, it's not just a preference for a lot of us, it's, it, it's, you know, I'm not, I don't like using psychological terms, so I'm not going to because I think sometimes we're like, Oh, well if it's a, if it's, if it's a mental health issue, then we'll do it.

It's like, well actually, if it's makes it harder for you to live in the world, then let's try to care about each other and try to make it easier for us to live in the world. So, So that's the other thing I wanted just say is that, that there's that for some of us, it, you know, for some of us it's a really big deal and it's the difference between actually being able to pay attention in school, being able to trust our parents, feeling like we have anywhere to belong.

And for other kids it's [:

They say they're protecting the kids, which of course they're not. But, so I, I guess that's, I guess that's my last sort of pitch is like, when we're thinking about gender, let's just center caring, right? And, and so that's also where I would start a conversation, right? So if I had a kid that was asking for things, I would really start with, So what does it feel like when, you know, this happens when, when the teacher says boys and girls, Right?

is based on our bodies and, [:

In the world. I dunno, I don't, I'm, I'm not good at endings, so I'm just gonna stop talking.

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My five year old is never confused about anything. Not once she knows what's going on, dammit. Was that it gave me the ability to say, you know, some people have sperm. They might look like boys if they tell us they are girls or that they're just not boys or girls. We believe them.

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But just let people tell you who they are and then just believe them. And this idea of consent and, and caring, but not allowing kids to tell us who they are. I mean, my kid doesn't like wearing jeans. I don't make or wear jeans. It seems really weird to go from that to. But you look like a girl, so damnit, that's what you're gonna be, you know?

And I get that. It's, it's hard because we weren't raised with that for, for most of us, but

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a challenge for many people. [:

Why, why, how? Like, do you know what I mean? Give, given that you weren't raised, you weren't raised that way, you didn't know that. No one, no one told me that either. Right.

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e have that space. And I, I, [:

And people leave them alone because who gives a shit? And that's, I mean, it's magic to me that we can just see what these people offer without crushing them. And I grew up with, you know, I grew up with friends who got sent to straightening camps and

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I mean, I'm sorry, but it's, it's fucked up. And

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Because how cool is all of this? Rather than going, Oh, it's not like me. Ugh. Like if you don't get it, don't have sex with them. Like fine . You know? Like they're not gonna make you do it. If they're gonna make you do it, that's unhealthy and you shouldn't do it. Unless you're into that and you're consenting to not consent and then cool, do it, you know?

But just leave people the fuck alone. Be excited. Be interested in who they are, unless they don't wanna tell you, then leave them alone.

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Cuz I guarantee that people have been doing what they. For generations,

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g kids or trans kids even as [:

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So one of the groups that I really like is a group called Trans Families. They're based in Seattle or they're on the west coast. And they do like online support groups and they, I think they brought a conference every year. There's a bunch of organizations that are often, they're started by parents.

gonna advocate for my kid in [:

So yeah, so I think like the big message is like what you've already said, which is like, there's lots of people who are going through this exact thing with the, with a kid, your kid's exact age maybe not where you are. And all of this is so dependent on where we live. Although I also wanna share what I think, I mean, you've shared it in our other conversations, is the, you know, stupid narrow minded stereotypes about rural versus urban suggested.

Like, if you're queer, it's much better to grow up in a city. It's just, since you've started swearing, I'll say it's bullshit. It's total bullshit. And so I absolutely know I have friends or people in my life who grew up rurally in the south, some of the United States who, who felt much safer in the town they grew up in than when they went to visit San Francisco, Right?

ving said that, as you said, [:

If you, what I, what I would wanna do is let me go and ask a few people and I can give you some other places to go, but, but trans families is a really good one. There's other organizations, like, it really depends on the kinds of support you're looking for. So an I don't know who runs it, but there's a thing called Welcoming Schools.

It's a US based thing that's really about helping. Navigate supporting their kids in schools. So there's, you know, there's like, there's like lesson plans that they can send teachers and stuff like that. So much of, and then, you know, people, I mean people just email me. They can also just email me if they have a question and like, you know, I mean, the thing is if you're not, if you're kind of gender normative and straight and then you have a kid that's saying, This is not who I am it's a lot to figure out because you might not have gay people in your life or you not, might not have trans people or non-binary people in your life.

members about it? How do you [:

Cuz this is a big question. It's like a lot of people say like, so you have a kid who's now like saying, you called that kid a boy their whole life and now they're like six or seven or whatever. They're like, I'm not a boy and I want you to do this and you may be okay with this, but you also may know that you may have family members that are not okay with this.

And so then that becomes, for some people, this question about like, well how sure do I have to be right? The thing that we do as parents, which is to, I I it's hard not to do. Like, we want our kids to have a future and we wanna, and we imagine, we try to imagine our kids' future. So what I see is, so you do have the parents that are like, No, the only future for my kid is the straight future where they get married and they have kids.

re to be that future . Right?[:

We can't really imagine our kids' future, but what we wanna be doing, the, the support we need is about like, helping them know that there is one and that we can help them get there. And that things are always open.

Oh, I think I, I think I was probably sharing this thing about parents. So what we do as parents is we can actually then subtly Direct our kids into another kind of normativity is a way of putting it right? So, okay, okay. So you're not straight or you're not a girl. And so I'm gonna work through that.

Okay, now I have a son, so now I'm gonna, I want the best son I can have. And this is what it means, like to be a son. And again, particularly with younger kids, we don't, we really wanna leave things open. We wanna let 'em know that we love them and that we're here to show up for them. And now I remember that I was talking about this disclosure piece.

the truth is that none of us [:

That we do have this new language of like being your true self, right? So this is the language talks about with trans youth sometimes is letting kids be their authentic selves or their true selves. I don't use that language cause I don't know what it means because I'm 52 years old and I couldn't tell you who my true self was.

What does that mean? Does that mean that I was lying when I thought I was something else? We learn more about ourselves than we become something different. Like, like people tell us who they are. So if our kid is saying, if coming and saying like, I don't think I'm a girl, I'm boy. It's like, okay, let's start having those conversations and you are still the parent and you may decide we're not gonna bring grandma and grandpa into this just yet, or we're not gonna, you know, And now if your kid is saying, I want them to, maybe your kid has a very close relationship with their grandparents, then you do need to address that.

hen you get to talk to other [:

But nowadays there's lots of books about like gender and parenting. There's also lots of documentaries, so I think, I think like the reason, I guess the other thing I wanna say is like, I'm also pretty anti expert, so I would rather parents find any documentary on like, whatever, Netflix or wherever it is, watch it, and then if it's appropriate to watch with their age kid, maybe watch it together and then use that as a conversation.

Because really that's the other thing is like, you know, if parents have a big role in this work, right? It isn't about like farming it off to gender experts or whoever. And I say that to say that like often parents feel like, Well, I don't know enough, right? I'm not gay, so how can I raise a gay kid in a healthy way or whatever.

ect experience with your kid [:

You don't need to have their exact experience.

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Right.

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Everything else is after that. And so to me, I know one of the biggest resources that I'm trying to build for my kids is adults they can talk to who are not me and daddy because I don't really wanna think about my 14 year old having sex. But if my 14 year old is having sex, I want them to know an adult that can help them give birth control and be safe.

And be healthy and, ugh. At four and five, thinking about them being old enough to have sex is terrifying on a number of levels, but

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And then I would just say anyone who's actually paying attention to the people around them, I don't know how anyone who's actually paid attention while raising a kid could think you can make a kid something, right?

I can barely make my kid brush their teeth. I'm certainly not gonna, I can't make my, can make your kid have their favorite color be pink or blue or purple or whatever. So, but what we, what, what, what I think the piece that people sometimes miss is, of course we can bully kids into pretending they're something they aren't.

nk of themselves as bullies. [:

So it is true that we can, that kids will pretend to be something they aren't. But you can't, you just can't, you can't make someone something that they aren't. You just can't, You can make them live their whole life a very miserable life, pretending they're something they aren't. So I think the thing that people mis misunderstand is they think that the way it was in quotes, everything was simple back then.

But no, back then, people just, people just pretended more, right? And so now people pretend less, or, or not all people, a lot of us still pretend, but, but once given the option, once kids are told, well, You can be a girl and be whatever, president or an engineer or whatever guess what, A lot of federalists wanna be more than just a girl, right?

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So, and let's not, and let's not mistake gender and, and, and society with chromosomes, right? So I, I understand why scientists want to talk about sex on a chromosomal level. It's still unimaginative and also wrong, right? So now, now they're actually, of course, as we're learning more than we're learning about genetic variation.

mething. But I do think it's [:

So when people say like, Well, I'm worried that my kid's being pressured to so to such and such, sure, your kid may be being pressured to either be more gender normative or be less gender normative depending on their social scene. All of that pressure exists. It doesn't just come from peer pressure. The little pet peeve as parents love talking about peer pressure as if we aren't a giant source of pressure, as if teachers and the religious leaders and elders and grandparents aren't huge source of pressure.

Peer pressure is just one part of the pressure kids ex experience. So I do think it's, we have to name that, right? We can't, we can't like this idea of like, well, we just naturally flow into whoever we are. Well, that's not how it works. So what, what do we wanna do? We don't wanna tell kids. You should be this way or you should be that way.

aking decisions about having [:

We do want them or whatever. I mean, it's so, like, in my world, it's okay for them to do that you know, if they have the safety piece when it's something that they want. And I'm speaking generally, of course, because I will also, I also have a kid who's not there yet, and I will probably feel differently when they are there.

I mean, that's the thing is also if these are people in your life, you know, the question is like, are do you really wanna, you know, spend your time talking back to this? And if there are people in your life, then maybe you do. I say for, for the, for the podcast listeners, you think, can't see that you're shaking your head no

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So yeah, [:

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vigate that world when we're [:

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And the way I'm trying to do that is to think about how many dumb, risky things I did. But I knew I had someone I could talk to, and so I survived, right? Because of course now that I'm a parent, like, like things that are half that risky freaked me out the idea of my kid doing those things. So I mean, so the things you mentioned for sure, I like this idea of like sending, I mean, I mean, digital media aren't the internet in the way that that never goes away in pornography.

ht? So kids need to actually [:

And it doesn't happen a lot, but it absolutely has happened that the child who is sending it perhaps to a, you know a romantic partner, completely consensual, they were both happy with it, may, and, and maybe it doesn't even get shared in a bad way, but a parent or a teacher, someone finds it, they actually could be arrest, they could be charged with creating child pornography, and the person who received it could be charged with possessing child pornography.

So they just need to know that. And, and you can do that. You know, if I had a teenager and I was talking about that, I, part of what I would talk about is like, I, that, that actually doesn't even seem right to me, but that is the way the law works. So you should know this, that I wish you had some control.

o share any naked picture of [:

So it's different than giving someone a photograph, although now they can scan it. So there's this thing about like, what goes online stays online forever, and I think it's an important thing for kids to know. And again, I do think, I mean, a lot of kids just know it. So that's my sort of line about that.

So I just make it about the potential risks and not about the, and not about the issue of like, is it okay to share your sexual self with a partner because part of what a lot of parents want, and this this came in the question from the face that you got on Facebook is they don't want to add to the shame, right?

ho feels good in their body, [:

And, and if they, if they wanna share those good feelings with someone else and they know how to pick someone who's trustworthy, that's also a good thing. So there are some positive parts of this. I just go, I just go right to the law thing because it's just real and they should know it. Right? And, and it is often a surprise to, to young people.

They don't, they don't actually know this part because they think of when they've learned about pornography or, and child pornography. It's, it's this illegal thing, right? And it's this, obviously, it's a thing that always includes exploitation. So that's that the porn thing. I mean, this, you know, the unfortunate reality is we just need to be talking to our kids about porn now, right?

And we, and we need to do it younger than we really want. So for me, the answer is, and it's not that, it's not that I've even done this, but like, the point at which your kid is unattended and has access to YouTube is the point at which you should have some, they should know that word. They should know something about what pornography is.

ee anything online that they [:

I could look at it on my own and we could talk about it. Like it's just, you know, this stuff is out. And a lot of this stuff is made to make us feel confused and scared. And in the same way that like when we, you know, watch TV together, we talk about, you know, the ads. This is weird. I'm dating myself because

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more and, and, and we're all [:

So we're now used to like them being in a room like it used to be. A lot of parents were like, they, you know, don't let them be alone on a screen with

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So kids do need to know. So, so the newer language is tricky. Adults, I don't know if you've heard this, but some people say like, you talk to kids, but there are some adults who are tricky that, and they, and they may try to trick you into doing things. And so the language I would use with a young kid is like, they, they might try to get you to tell 'em stories or send a picture of yourself to them, right?

so they try to pretend to be [:

So unfortunately we need to let our kids know that those people, that, that there's people out there, I don't use to, when I just did there, I pause, right? Like I try not to do it. Those people or they're out there. Because the thing that I learned from working with social workers who work with children who are experiencing abuse is weirdly, they're like, don't make this scary, right?

So when we did our first draft of the sexual abuse chapter, the illustrations were different. Like they were literally, they looked a bit more like kind of claustrophobic because we wanted to mark this as different. We had been talking about all kinds of good touch and now we're talking about this and they were all.

If you make it scary, no one's gonna wanna talk about it. Parents aren't gonna wanna talk about it, kids aren't gonna wanna talk about it. The most important thing, like of course, people who are there with these kids know that what the stakes are, the most important thing is they, is that they can talk about it.

f course the other thing is, [:

They, they think they're making friends, their experiences, they're making a friend, right? So then if you go in and say, like, these people, there's people out there, they're gonna try to, you know, snatch you or do these terrible things, it doesn't actually match their experience. So, so I really, I I, I try to really avoid it.

It's so hard. I think the other thing I'll say is like, so I practiced with my partner. I mean, I've practiced with other parents because cuz you kind, cuz I'm so scared of it, , that's the reason I make it scary is I'm terrified of it. And again, it's so easy for me to say when I'm working to say the truth, which is, you know, and I know that which is we cannot keep our kids a hundred percent safe.

e can, you know, live a full [:

So I think obviously it's like talking about it, it's putting a lot of this stuff in front of them. It's like media literacy. And then it's the other thing Katie said, which is having other adults. So I also really, and I found, I dunno what your both experiences, I found actually the pandemic has been very hard for this because we used to have people over more so there were more people in my kids' life, trusted adults who they saw regularly that would come over for dinner every week.

And so they build that relationship and because we just stopped that for two years basically. It's harder to make those connections, particularly with a younger child, but I really feel like, so I'm like, one of my closest friends and colleagues is this person for my kid, and my kid would call them and, and you know, they know how to text them.

d consent. You want everyone [:

Right? Because, because, because if kids, if kids disclose stuff and then they feel betrayed, it makes them less likely to do again. So we wanna make sure that we're trying to support them in a way that keeps them sharing.

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at that spot where they can [:

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It's hard to talk about, but that is what happens. So, yeah, so, so certainly not the stranger, Dan. I mean, hopefully most of us now know that stranger danger isn't effective and it isn't real. Right. So that the kids getting snatched thing doesn't, I mean, it happens, but it's very rare

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So whether they say things about you or they share them or whatever, that there's zero control at that point. And that's, you know, it feels weird to say I would be a lot more okay with my kid just showing their body to somebody than to them sharing a digital image because only one person is seeing that,

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It, you know, so one person saw it and it wasn't recorded. Yeah. So, yeah, no, the stakes are much higher.

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Yeah. I can't actually hold the

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And then I start singing it and then I say, Well, it's your fault. And then of course they pull because they love loopholes. They say, Actually, it's your fault because you're the reason I'm I was born.

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So if there was like a contest where it's like the most, the greatest curiosity generator I also love pie, so, but I don't think, I wouldn't dominate a pie eating contest. I would just enjoy it.

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read it out for you. Katie, [:

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I don't really like pumpkin spice everything, but you know, you do you. But I got my wool socks on. It's cold out and it's crisp and it's beautiful. And there's pumpkins and mums and shit, and can make hearty stews. I just, I freaking love it, Arlene. I love it.

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again, if that's your thing, [:

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And they kept, Sorry, I just, excuse me. They kept calling us gentlemen. And honestly, because I'm not gay and I liked that, like, the fact that they were calling me gentlemen made me feel like they were misreading me, but they were misreading me into a different category altogether. So I didn't mind, but my friend did.

onna say something about it? [:

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Yeah. Just stop thinking, stop caring what other people think. Use it.

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I mean, like a rockstar, you know, like whatever you think your result is that you, you can't just do all the work and that you're gonna get what you think you're gonna get. I mean, hopefully you'll end up, I mean, we're, we've all got good kids, whatever. But yeah. That, that, it's not a straight line to success.

I'm sure that that's just life, but in parenting, sometimes it feels extra frustrating.

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u have to tell 'em that like [:

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So if I hear one of my kids asking, Do you need my help with that? Rather than jumping in and taking something outta their hands or fixing it for them, because as little people, I could see how frustrating that was to them when you would just take over. So I, I think we're finally getting to the point in our family where most of the time someone will say, Do you want my help before?

So, yeah, I just, You have to look for the little signs, I

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