I’ve been thinking lately about stereotypes. Several things have brought this to my attention recently, and I’m wondering if it’s one of those “the universe is trying to tell you something” situations.
Mr W and I were sitting at the table last night as he had a bowl of cereal before bed. I like this time because it’s just he and I talking a bit before he gets ready for bed. Out of nowhere, he said how his friend took his granola bar, without asking, at lunch the other day. Didn’t apologize, and the adult who was around told Mr W to more or less get over it. Then he says, “he’s like that because he’s Cambodian.” Ouch. So we talked a bit about the dangers of going down that road, and how important it is to be kind and fair to people.
Then I was reading a piece about a popular knitting designer. Several comments praised how the piece avoided the grandmotherly stereotypes associated with knitting. This one doesn’t bother me too much. I guess I’m more amused than anything else that something I get so much pleasure out of can be considered the realm of grannies. Then again, I’d like to be one of those ladies someday…
Finally, I was dropping Mr W off at the all-day day care he’s at because there’s no school today. I let him bring a toy, and he was immediately swarmed by several boys wanting to get a close look. He shoots the ball of the toy, and everyone runs after it. It went all of 6 feet, so they didn’t have to go far. This big jock type young woman (this is a post on stereotypes, after all) says, “OK, you need to walk back to where you ran to, and then walk back to your place from there.” So Mr W dutifully walked to the place he ran to, but in his excitement, runs back to his spot. “No, you need to walk both ways.”
I looked at her and said, “You’re kidding, right?” “Excuse me?” “You’re kidding about that, right?” “No, they need to walk because the floor is slippery, etc. etc.” I rolled my eyes, said goodbye to Mr W and felt sorry for the oppression that kids sometimes have to endure. Yeah, I know it’s for their own good, but wouldn’t it work better to: 1) tell them what you expect of them (“Hey, boys, we don’t run in here because it’s slippery”) 2) tell them the consequences (“If you do run in here, you’ll have to do a time out”) and then 3) enforce the consequences. I don’t know, it just seems pointless to make a kid go back and walk his path again.
I think stereotypes sometimes come in handy for us to justify other people’s behavior that we don’t understand. It helps us categorize peoples’ actions so we can then move on. But these recent experiences remind me to dig a little deeper in order to be clear as to what my wants and expectations are, as well as to understand the motivations of others.