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News & Features » April 2018 » “Family Health, Day One” by Myna Chang

“Family Health, Day One” by Myna Chang

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a fourth grader doesn’t quite understand how periods work. 

Family Health, Day One
by Myna Chang

“Mom, I don’t understand tampons.”

My son bellows this announcement as he marches out the door of his elementary school. His class began a weeklong unit on family health today, so I expect some questions, and I think I’m ready—but I’d rather not tackle menstruation amidst the pandemonium of fourth graders.

“Shh, I’ll explain when we get to the car,” I whisper, but before we can extricate ourselves from the horde, the extremely cute twin girls from his class race over to us. Of course, they’d overheard his question.

“Listen, I’ll tell you what a tampon is,” says Cute Twin #1 as she plants her hands on her hips. “It’s what women use so they don’t leak blood into the swimming pool.”

My son stares at her for a full five seconds; I can almost see the tiny gears working in his head. Then an expression of absolute revulsion washes over his innocent face.

“I know,” Cute Twin #2 says with an eye roll. “We find it disturbing, too.”

The girls skip away, leaving my naïve little boy reeling with imagination fueled horrors. I grab his hand and hustle him toward the parking lot. He is so befuddled, he doesn’t even pull away; his newly acquired embarrassment at public handholding temporarily forgotten.

Once we’ve escaped from the eager ears and judgmental eyes of the pickup line, I try to clarify the mystery of tampons. Of course, I’ve explained all of this to him before, but he obviously didn’t retain the information, and I’m pretty sure he’s not paying attention now. I imagine my words are bouncing off his head like so many errant ping-pong balls. He is lost in his own thoughts, pondering the image of an Olympic-sized bloodbath, I’m sure.

Back home, I artfully arrange organic bell pepper strips in his snack bowl, waiting for the inevitable question. He finally belts it out: “Do you have to use a tampon every time you go swimming?”

My unhelpful husband perks up. He sets aside his work to observe the impending entertainment.

“No,” I shoot a warning scowl at Unhelpful Husband. “Girls only use tampons when they have their periods. Remember, we talked about this before?”

His brow creases, signaling that the gears are turning again. “So . . . when you aren’t using a tampon, can you just . . . fill up with pool water and then blast it out? Rocket yourself across the deep end like a giant squid?”

 “. . .”

Dumbstruck; that’s what I am. Momentarily shocked into cognitive failure. I thought I’d been prepared for any reasonable question that might arise from today’s school lesson, but . . . how do I explain that my vagina has absolutely nothing in common with a mythical sea beast? My brain scrambles into overdrive, possibly stripping a gear of my own, as I grasp for words. “Erh. No. That’s not. Really. Um.

Unhelpful Husband interrupts, with possibly the most unhelpful statement ever to be uttered by a member of the unhelpful male species: “A vaginal jet ski! You should totally do that! Just suck up some of that water and shoot it out

I jab a finger at him. The odd little veins on the side of his head are bulging, so I know he’s trying not to laugh. I add a menacing glare to my finger jab, which does nothing to stem his glee. Then a harsh bray of donkey laughter erupts from my comedian child. Unhelpful Husband joins in, and within scant seconds, their guffaws morph into uncoordinated snorting and disjointed giggles.

All I can do is shake my head. If this is day one of family health class, what will day two bring?


MYNA CHANG spent far too many years writing about turbine lubricants, energy derivatives, and shareholder value. Happily, she now writes about dinosaurs, spaceships, and kung fu, and hopes someday to publish books that will make people laugh. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication. Myna lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and an absurd dog.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 30, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , ,