Don’t Act Like Your (Other)!

Don’t Act Like Your (Other)!
Don't Act Like Your (Other)!
Don’t Act Like Your (Other)!

Don’t Act Like Your (Other)!

We’ve all heard it, and I would venture to bet that most of us are guilty of it…  the use of the following sentence as a derogatory statement:

“You’re acting like your Mother/Father!”

Please don’t do that.  I’m ashamed that I have done it.  It’s one of the most damaging things you can do to your children.  They are part of both their Mother and their Father, and that statement in and of itself tells them that there’s something you hate about who they are at the genetic level.  That’s bad.  You don’t hate anything about your kids, and I hope that my saying it to you this way makes you cringe.  When I read this story to my kids tonight, I’m going to apologize to them again, even though it has been a very long time since I have uttered such a thing to them.  This portion of the story is for all you folks out there trying to survive a painful and difficult divorce, separation, or otherwise family-changing process which may result in saying things you normally wouldn’t.

The rest of this story takes things a step further.  Isms.  Sexism, racism, etc.  I’m going to leave out the racial slurs here, and go straight for the throat of the Ism that hits home (literally my home) hardest and most often-  sexism.  “You’re acting like a man/woman!”  Oh dear.  Honestly?  My daughter says that as a joke.  “Geesh.  You’re acting like a woman!”  And/or, “Men! *followed by eye roll*”  She’s 9 years old and these are jokes to her just like we might joke about how people used to believe the world was flat.

As a single Father of many years now, I cannot count, nor do I care to recount, the number of times I’ve been told I can’t do that because I’m Dad.  I know single Moms have similar, if not identical, stories to count and recount.  Let’s please stop that.  Please.  We’re all parents, and all parents can do all things that their children need.  Fact.

Yet…   all of us in this home do make light of things that are, more often than not, typically male or female.  Shoes?  Ahem.  Video games?  Guilty.  I’d even venture to guess that guys who love shoes and girls who love video games have taken note of the fact that when they are partaking of these things, they are most likely doing so among friends of the opposite gender.  I’m not asking anyone to deny obvious trends.  And there is also common ground-  bacon, for example.  Bacon, like Robert Downey Jr. or Portia de Rossi, elicits universal lust.  No gender bias.  I’m just stating the facts.

I won’t even ask you to stop attacking things.  You can attack domestic violence if you want to.  Attack that all day long, I’ll hold your drink while you fight and I’ll ‘tag in’ when you get tired.  Being the betting man that I claimed to be at the beginning of this story, I’ll bet that when you thought ‘domestic violence’, you thought of a man harming a woman.  I’m a man.  I don’t harm women.  I know women who violently harm men.  Please don’t lump me into that Ism solely because of my gender.  Attack the crime, not the (admittedly) statistically dominant gender in that realm.  When you spend your time attacking me for something you think I might do simply because of which gender I am, you’re starting a new fight with someone who was once your ally.  And I will fight you.  I promise.  Your attack on me solely because I’m a male who you think might commit a crime simply because other men do, is an attack every bit as brutal as the domestic violence you and I are currently united against.  Please don’t do that.  In the end, our common foe will defeat us both.

The list of these examples goes on and on.  Could we please stop that?  Work to stop the behavior, not the race or gender of the human that the accountants tell us predominantly exhibit the behavior.  Statistics tend to round off anomalies like myself.  I don’t care to be discounted as spare change, and I bet you don’t either.

If someone is doing something you don’t like or believe to be wrong, tell them to stop doing that thing.

“Pick up your socks and put them in the laundry, don’t be a slob!”  is far more effective and productive than “You’re acting like your Father!”  Attacking the Father will have no effect on the behavior you dislike, and it is likely to create an entirely new and different struggle.  Counterproductive.

“I don’t understand why you’re so upset…  what’s bothering you, Baby?”  is far more effective and productive than, “You’re acting like your Mother!”  Attacking the Mother will have no effect on the behavior you dislike, and it is likely to create an entirely new and different struggle.  Counterproductive.

“Ohhhhh look another person who can’t merge into traffic.  They should really make sure people can merge before giving them a driver’s license.” is far more effective and productive than “Women drivers!”

“For the busy parent on-the-go, this is a healthy snack choice for the lunch box.” is far more effective and productive than “So simple even a man can do it!”

While those are intentionally light-hearted jabs, the same holds true for matters of more serious consequence, such as “Men are too violent.” and “Women are too emotional to hold powerful jobs.”  Violence and emotion are behaviors.  Men and women are genders.  Let’s stop crossing those concepts.  Attacking the man or woman will have no effect on the behavior you dislike, and it is likely to create an entirely new and different struggle.  Counterproductive.

My children were created by combining myself with another human being, just as society was created by combining men and women.  Attacking the gender of the offender is every bit as damaging to our society as attacking either parent of the child.  In essence, we’re attacking ourselves when we do so.  Karma is just a mirror that reflects back upon us the evils or errors we transmit.

My old friend Karma wants me to ask all of you which gender generalizations still exist because of the influence gender has on our behavior, and which gender generalizations still exist because we perpetuate them with our words?   Do you know?  Karma does.  And as long as we keep pissing Karma off, Karma will continue to teach us this lesson until it is learned, and learned well.

Isn’t it amazing what kids can teach us if we listen?  My kids taught me all this without having any intentions of doing so.  And, admitting to myself that I was wrong to do what I said I did at the beginning of this story led me to see that I was probably wrong about similar behaviors on a grander scale.

Undeafen your ears, folks.  You aren’t smarter than a 5th grader.

Footnote:  I just read this to the boy before posting it.  He said, “You should have named it ‘Man vs. Woman, the Hopeless Battle.”  I think he gets it…

Cheers from The Human

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