How To Explain Hate to a Child


The title of the post suggests that I have an answer for this. I do not, not yet and maybe never. But I see this coming in the future. It will be a while before we really get into speaking about hate, for now we are talking about what it means to be friends, to like or dislike people.

The day of my son’s birthday party there were parties held for two other children at the school who also happen to be his age. Some of the guests had already RSVP’d for the other party, but their mother’s told us that they would try and make an appearance.

At this age we are still at a point at which you invite all of the children in the class, regardless of whether your child plays with them or not. It is still a magical time in which we pretend that everyone likes each other and that we are all friends. To a certain extent there is some truth to that, but sometimes this practice bothers me. Not everyone is going to get along, some people will dislike others. And my beautiful baby boy is not going to be friends with everyone, no matter how stupid I think giving up his friendship may be.

So part of me says that by taking this approach we create a problem and that we should be more honest in our approach. And part of me says that honesty will come in time. Prior to the party my son went over the guest list with me. He named everyone in his class and asked if they were coming. When we hit the ones who were not coming he was upset, especially in the case of the few who were going to the party of the boy in the other classroom.

Suddenly he was more aware of his place in the world and a little hurt that his friends might not make it to the party. I felt very badly. It is a lesson that he is going to have to learn and in truth I think that it is ok for him to learn that you do not have to be friends with everybody. It is nice if you can be, but it is ok if you are not. Everyone is different and it is ok not to play with everyone. We are going to hold off on that one for a bit, because it is a little bit too sophisticated for now, but it is coming.

In the interim I had to explain why people go elsewhere. My sister has three children, but they all live back East so he has been the star grandchild and even though he has a little sister, at 6 months he has yet to see the impact from her being here. In other words has very loving grandparents who have been doting on him and sometimes he doesn’t quite understand that the world doesn’t revolve around him.

So you are likely wondering how and why I became concerned about explaining hate to my son and daughter. There are people who hate us for religious reasons, the antisemites of the world. There are people who hate us for being American, and there are the people that hate us for reasons that cannot be explained,but how can hate be explained anyhow. It is not a rational thing.

I do not believe that we are hated by a majority of people. I am not paranoid, I do not think that everyone is out to get me. Although as a child I did worry about this. My mother tells a story of when I was around 3 or so. I would introduce myself to children and then hit them. It was my own preemptive strike, or so I explained to my mother. I also climbed on the stove, stuffed raisins in my sister’s nose and threw eggs. I’ll save the stories of what I did after the age of 4 for a different time.

I suppose that there are a few reasons that I think about this. At the gym we sat in the steamroom discussing the War on terror, suicide bombs, Osama, 911 and the move by some Russians to try and ban Jewish groups. Hate was part of every discussion, in large part because you do not want to believe that someone could consciously fly a plane into a building just to make a point. You wanted to say that they hated us so much that their anger blinded them and caused them to lash out in the most terrible way. Because the thought that they engaged in this after rational thought is so much worse.

There are monsters in the world, monsters that look like you and I. I am not real sure how to explain why they are here and I will promise to protect my children from them. If it means dying so that my children will live then I can do that, my life for theirs.

And now I can hear a few of you asking why this seems to have gotten so dramatic. Well, it is because I am a passionate person and the passion inside consumes me. It is a fire that burns white hot, I cannot contain it, I can only direct it. If we are going to have to fight for Tikum Olam, to repair the world then passion is something that can be used as a tool. If we are going to fight hate, well again passion is a tool that can be used.

Hatred may be passionate in it’s nature, so there is something fitting in using passion for good. But I really do believe that if we want to make a difference it will require a deep passion for change. It will be part of the engine that motivates change.

If I fail to wake up, if I die in my sleep I want it to be said that Jack was a passionate man who wanted to make things better for his family and those he cared about. Act globally by thinking locally. Improve things around you and watch that improvement touch other lives.

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