I don’t know about you, but my parents fit into the category of different hopes for my brother and me. My brother was supposed to go to college, but he didn’t. I was meant to have an office job, but I didn’t do that either. Does that mean we were both disappointments?
What do I mean by that?
Parents stereotype their children right from birth. Stereotyping must be a learned behavior. Everyone grows up expecting girls to be mothers, nurses, and such. The boys go off to war, start a business, or are exceptionally bright. Girls are not supposed to be bright or so I was told by my parents when I was in eighth grade.
I grew up with television shows such as Leave It to Beaver, where the Beaver learns to be nice to girls. There were Happy Days with the cool Fonzie or Laverne and Shirley who were factory workers. Do you see the stereotyping taking place?
It has only been in the past ten years that some shows, movies, and books have begun breaking the stereotyping mold. Hunger Games has the independent, quick thinking Katniss as the main character pulled into a leadership role.
Then there is Meredith Grey of Grey’s Anatomy, a portrayal of a successful woman surgeon. And, don’t forget Arial the mermaid who saves the prince.
I’m a parent. I get the stereotyping. I can catch myself time and again expect either my son or my daughter to be a certain way. Everyone expects their daughter to be pretty and their son strong and smart. In actuality, I wanted my son to be intelligent, strong and handsome and the same for my daughter.
Maybe it is because when my parent made that statement to me, it upset me terribly. That was the year that I failed English of all classes to fail just to test their reaction to my getting an F on my report card. Why I decided to do this, I don’t remember. Maybe I felt left out some way. But then they gave me that very answer, shocking the hell out of me. I wasn’t grounded, nor punished, nor did they yell at me. They only said, that’s okay, girls aren’t supposed to do good in school.
I think this made me angrier than had I been punished. This remark my parents made only told me that neither of them cared about my future. Maybe I was supposed to be a stay at home mom when I grew up. Funny, they never mentioned prearranged marriages.
For the last four college terms, I have been having fun shocking my mother with my grades. Her jaw dropped when I handed her my first Dean’s Letter, and when I gave her my Honor Society certificate, she just about broke down in tears and hugged me harder than she’d ever hugged me before. Maybe she remembered her words and wished she had never said them to me. I don’t know.
I don’t know how my dad would have reacted. I think he would be proud too. He passed away over fifteen years ago.
When I think of my children, I hope for them and try not to stereotype them on purpose. I would love to see both of them have equal opportunities. I know that each is unique in their way. In the end, I can only hope for the best for each of them. No matter what they do, I am proud to call them my children.