“Mom,” he 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 a stereotype?” I….um…you…lightbulbs…math…err.
We 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. The awkward side-effect of this is that the children feel comfortable asking just about anything, while I’m trying to eat.
And now I get to watch my taco congeal while I try to figure out how to explain genderism and racism and misogyny before dessert.
My knee-jerk answer to him, of course, is Marantz, but even that becomes convoluted when I have to explain what tape is or reels are and I just can’t live in a world where I have to admit that my children have never seen cassette tape or *gasp* vinyl in person, which of course means 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 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 hell 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 sister is half-Polish and her house is well-lit, your business partner is Asian and he couldn’t subtract his way out of a paper bag…’ 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.
Which is when his father, being a man, more so a man who is shoveling rice and beans in his pie-hole, answers, “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.
And I give up, and go wash the dishes – barefoot.