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News & Features » July 2018 » “Product of His Environment” by Myna Chang

“Product of His Environment” 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, Family Health Week raises questions for a nine-year-old that even his mother can’t answer. 

Product of His Environment
by Myna Chang

The end is in sight. It’s the last day of Family Health Week at my son’s elementary school. Soon, this weeklong marathon of anxiety and confusion—mine, not his—will be over. I just have to get through today.

This shouldn’t have been so stressful. My fourth-grader has heard the “facts of life” before. I expected him to breeze through this curriculum unit. Sure, I anticipated a question or two about puberty. I was ready to tackle potentially uncomfortable topics like erections, or masturbation. I wanted to encourage self-esteem, and explain the importance of consent and respect. What I was not prepared for were questions about dinosaur sex.

“How do they do it, with those tiny little arms?”

“Er . . .”

I’d made a strategic error. At nine years old, he had zero interest in birth control or STDs. He wanted to know about caveman mustaches and snake penises. He wanted to know if a human vagina could shoot a jet of water like a giant squid.

“And what’s the deal with mean-o-paws, anyway?”

He hurled these questions at me like thunderbolts, non-stop, leaving me goggle-eyed.  

I stumbled and blundered. I drew diagrams. I researched strange creatures and even stranger bodily functions. Once, I had to admit defeat, because I had no idea if testicles could grow their own pimples and I was too embarrassed to risk having the query show up in my browser history.

Every day, he stumped me. No matter how prepared I thought I was, he managed to catch me off guard, so that the only thing to come out of my gaping mouth was a squeak of dismay.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised at these topics. Many conversations in our house revolve around dragons and time travel, mutants and martial artists. We’re a genre-loving family, and he’s a product of his environment.

Now I wait in the pick-up line, resigned to one last barrage of sex-ed bewilderment. 

He climbs in the van, a whirlwind of knees, elbows and scraps of construction paper. He throws his Godzilla lunchbox into the floorboard and starts yelling, before the sliding door has had time to latch: “Mom, I don’t understand Caitlyn Jenner.”

Ha! I’m prepared for this! Caitlyn has been in the news lately, so I have a thoughtful explanation primed and ready for delivery.

“Well, honey,” I say in my self-satisfied voice, “sometimes a person might feel—”

“No, Mom, wait! That’s not what I mean. I get the whole sex change thing.”

“Uh. You do?”

“Yeah. What I don’t understand is why she’s not Chinese.”

“. . .”

Damn it! He got me again. I snap my mouth shut, struggling to find a thread of logic in his words. Chinese? Why would he think—oh.

Once again, I should’ve anticipated this.

“Kiddo, I suspect you’ve got Bruce Lee mixed up with Bruce Jenner.”

“Who’s that?”

“He was an Olympic athlete. Had his own cereal box.”

“He wasn’t a kung fu master?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Was he ever Chinese?” 

“I’m pretty sure he’s always been white.”

“Oh. So Caitlyn was never Chinese in the first place. That makes a lot more sense.”

Yes, it does. He seems relieved. As am I.

We giggle and practice our kung fu fighting noises all the way home.


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: Jul 12, 2018

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