I am well-aware of my helicopter parenting. I am anal retentive to a fault. Perhaps one parenting aspect that others find extreme is the unwritten list of forbidden words in my house. And I’m not talking about swear words. We don’t say “butt.” We don’t say “fat.” We don’t say “stupid.” And we never say “hate.”
In my opinion, “hate” is perhaps the most overused word (other than “cute” by young parents) in American society. We “hate” broccoli and spinach, we “hate” math class or the history professor, we “hate” this shirt, that song, even that color. But we also hate it when people lie, and steal, and rape, and kill, and behave in other immoral ways. We hate it when people infringe on our rights. We hate hate itself.
Hate is such a powerful word, I get uncomfortable applying it to trivial things in my household. I don’t hate mushrooms, but I don’t like the texture. I don’t hate doing dishes, but it’s by far my least favorite chore. I don’t want my kids to go around “hating” things because I think it breeds an atmosphere of negativity. Also, it’s a lazy way of expressing oneself. I don’t wear yellow, not because I “hate” it, but because it washes me out. I don’t “hate” driving, but it is a task that makes me uncomfortable because I’m always aware of the inherent danger and responsibility associated with it.
When we constantly “hate” throughout our day, we are teaching children to take the easy way out with intolerance relating to the little things, so how will they react to the big stuff? What becomes the default answer when they encounter a situation or person they are unfamiliar with, or one that places them outside their comfort zone?
Allow me to give you an example of what happens. I used to be an English professor at a prestigious and conservative university. We got to choose several elective texts to teach our classes and I decided to push the envelope a little and do the play M. Butterfly. The play depicts an intimate relationship between a male French diplomat and a male opera singer masquerading as a woman and is an allegory of East-West relations.
I walked into class the first day we were to discuss the play and before I had even said anything about it, a young man in the first row exclaimed, ” This play sucks and I hate it.”
“Why?” I responded calmly, waiting for some type of comment about how it was confusing with all the scene and time changes.
“Because it’s about a fag,” he responded.
“Did you read it?” I asked him.
“No, but it’s about a fag, so I hate it,” he concluded.
“Your comment is exactly why we need to read it,” I asserted.
Let me look at the issue from a tangential, but related, view. Recently, I decided to indoctrinate my 4-yr old daughter into the world of Disney princesses with a couple classics. We started with The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty. My daughter generally doesn’t like shows with “bad guys,” but she seemed okay with how things worked out and the happy endings. Then we watched Cinderella. It’s amazing how seeing a film through a child’s eyes can make you stop and think. She was very confused by the wicked stepmother’s actions; whereas Ursula and Maleficent are evil witches and accomplish their bad deeds through evil spells, the wicked stepmother is simply a bad person. My daughter had a tough time wrapping her head around that–“But why is she mean, Mom? Is it because of a bad spell?”
I found her bafflement comforting. Hate is ugly.
What about you–are there any unusual forbidden words in your house?