I went for a long walk with my kids and my dog today. Ami (2) sat quietly in the stroller while Eliana (4) alternately walked, ran, and skipped beside, in front of or behind me. We talked about many important and philosophical issues that we don't always have the chance to get into during the hustle and bustle of dress-eat-school-home-play-eat-bath-bed on a normal day.
A couple of times as we were walking, our dog growled or barked at other dogs. Then one time a dog passed by and neither paid the other any mind. Eliana asked me why. I said it's probably because this last dog was a girl. The other dogs were boys. Boys like to fight. This was a simplification of the fact that male dogs are territorial. But then I continued with something like, "Did you ever notice that in your school the boys fight more than the girls do?"
Eliana responded "Sarah and Shelly once had a fight at school, but then Shelly wanted to say she was sorry."
Immediately I realized I had made a faux pas. I had perpetuated a gender stereotype, which I am usually very careful not to do. Without a moment's hesitation, I took it back. I said "You know what, you're right Eliana. Maybe boys don't like to fight more than girls do. Sometimes boys fight and sometimes girls fight." And I left it at that.
Everyone makes mistakes. As parents, sometimes our instinct is to defend ourselves as the all-knowing beings our children believe us to be. But I think it's more important to admit to them that we're not perfect and we don't know everything. How else are they going to learn that it's OK to not be perfect and to not know everything? It's more important that we teach them a thirst for learning and for finding out the truth. Spend time with your child reading books, going to museums and exploring the internet. Show them how much fun it is to learn new things, and how many new things there are to learn.