How to raise a hater

Three years ago, I saw a window into how you raise a hater. It was at, of all places, the movies.

I talked with my daughter, Paige, about it. She was there. She didn’t hear what I did, but she heard something else like it. I shared my experience and insight with Shahla. She encouraged me to blog about it, but the words got stuck. A lot.

When the world is full of haters, it’s not a good place for Sam and people like him, who need us to be our best selves. People are loving and generous for the most part, but I’ve seen the dark side, too. It’s easy to feel noble and loving and generous when it doesn’t really cost you.

After a white boy drove to El Paso in order to shoot innocent people yesterday, the words finally started to flow. We talk about preparing for mass shootings in the newsroom. We know we must. There’s nothing about our community that’s special. The haters are here.

Three years ago, I watched a father teach his son how to be a hater.

Oh, it wasn’t obvious. The boy didn’t even know he was being taught to be a hater. And the father didn’t know he was teaching it, either.

To get passed down, these things have to go slow. A father loves his son and wants to be loved by his son.

A trailer played for Hidden Figures, the movie based the early days of NASA and the first flight to the moon. I sat next to the father in the movie theater. The trailer made him uncomfortable. In between stunning images of rockets blasting through space, hints of the little-told story about the pivotal role that black women played in the program unfolded. He could bear it no longer. He leaned over to his son, who was probably 8 or 9 years old, and said, “We won’t be seeing that.”

I knew why he was uncomfortable. But his son didn’t. After all the previews played, the father said, “There are lots of good movies to see.” And the son added, “But not that space movie.”

A boy loves his father and wants to be loved by his father.

We were all there to watch Moana. Did the father not know what this Polynesian legend was about? Apparently not, Paige said, because after the movie he kept asking his wife: but where did they come from?

The father had too much discomfort. A family has to find a place for the discomfort when father is afraid. The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many. To get passed down, these things have to go slow.

Our kids will do things, learn things, seek things that make us uncomfortable. We have to let them. They will still love us. They are becoming their own. They want, and can, do like we did when we were young, and make the world a little better than it was before. If we don’t let them, they won’t be resilient enough to survive all these changes. They will become a snowflake.

Or worse.

A hater.



  1. Ann Hatch on August 7, 2019 at 12:13 am

    So subtle, so innocuous, planting such a seed that grows and warps souls. We obviously can plant those positive seeds and thoughts and grow a better next generation.

    • Peggy on August 7, 2019 at 12:30 am

      We must, Ann. We must.

  2. Annette Fuller on August 7, 2019 at 11:15 am

    A crystallized moment that carried a lot of weight. What strikes me is you saying the man felt uncomfortable. That means fear. Yes, the world needs now more than ever for us to choose to be our best selves. I will re-pledge this to myself every day.

  3. Peggy on August 8, 2019 at 2:55 am

    Annette, thank you for that gentle reminder that every day when I wake up, I can make the simple pledge that I will be my best self today. 🙂

  4. Cindy Breeding on August 10, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I am so afraid for my Mexican-American family. I know it’s weak to confront fear with more fear, but I keep wondering if these people I love will be shot, maimed, rounded up and detained. It makes me feel impotent, guilty and dirty.

    • Peggy on August 10, 2019 at 3:53 pm

      My family is mixed, too. Most of us are building a much different community of love and attachment than seems to be understood and communicated politically. We have to fix that.

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