Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Mom, What's A Stereotype?"

“Mom,” Mr. Grouchy Pants asks, nonchalantly, with a face full of tacos even though I’ve asked him a bazillion times not to talk with his mouth full, mostly to avoid exactly what is coming next.

“Mom, what is stereotypes?” I….um…you…lightbulbs…math…err. Where does he come up with this stuff? And who in their right mind used that word around my four-year-old?!

I try to have family dinner every night so that everyone can talk about their days with each other and we can attempt to live together, not just merely co-exist. The awesome side-effect of this is that the children feel comfortable asking just about anything, so long as it is asked over supper (amidst their fighting over who got more yogurt and who's finishing their green beans before whoever else is sitting at the table). The awkward side-effect of this is that sometimes daddy is busy or has a gig (hence the part-time musician thing) leaving me to deal with the deep questions by myself whilst trying to eat dinner peaceably.  

Now I get to watch my taco get cold while I try to figure out how to explain genderism, racism, and discrimination before dessert.  Dang BC and his need to be an "artist" at the most inopportune times!

My knee-jerk reaction to this whole scenario is of course, ignorance. Maybe if I told him that I didn't know, then that would suffice until Daddy got home. Or I could try to change the subject and we could talk about something trivial, like how the sun, the moon, and the stars work.  But then I've not only lied, I seem like a loser of a mom; to not know the simplest of things of course, means that I have failed at life and should just start collecting my cats now.

Conversely, the answer I think I have to give him opens his mind up to a world I'm not sure I ever want him to see, so I stir my guacamole around on my plate and overthink the crap out of this.  

How do I explain what a stereotype is without instilling those very stereotypes into his head? How do let him keep the notion he has that pretty much everyone is the same while I teach him that a lot of people unjustifiably assume that a lot of other people suck and/or excel at a lot of fairly ordinary things? How far back in history do I have to go to explain where these ideas we all seem to have about each other came from and once I get there, do I have enough real-world examples to serve as the anti-venom to the poisons I’m about to introduce to his psyche and why the heck didn’t anyone tell me this parenting thing would be so complicated?  

And now I wish I’d just made a light salad for dinner.  

So I start taking inventory of everyone I’ve ever known in my whole life and start lining up my counter-attack. ‘Okay, so, you’re blonde, you know, and you’ve never had so much as one puppy,’ I say to myself. Your grandpa is half-German and he's a smoker, your favorite cousin is part-Asian and she couldn’t she's currently being raised by her white grandparents. . . and I start to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m ready to answer this question.  

I’ve completely lost my appetite, worrying how the answer to this is going to affect his sensitive little heart, but I’m ready.  

At the last minute, he looks at me and says, “You know, you can always ask your phone. Sometimes it can tell you answers you don't know, Mom. It's called 'Giggle'.”

Oh, how precious is HE that he feels he has stumped me with these deep ponderings of his. . .But just in case, I “google” stereotypes. Yes. . .although this may lead to an hour-long session about the unfairness of man, I am just going to go with this. . .“Stereotypes are popular assumptions we make about groups of people, based on a lot of nothing,” to which my kid says, “Oh, okay” and finishes his taco.  

OKAY?? And you're satisfied with that?! But truthfully I am releasing a sigh of relief. If only all the answers were this easy.

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