The first – and only – time I heard it, it stung like a knife through my tender mommy heart. My son, the threenager, was aiming his frustration toward me. He was upset with me for some typical three-year-old reason that I have since forgotten. He hesitated before he found the word his young mind was searching for.
“I…I…I hate you, mom.”
My head whipped around while an aghast, “Excuse me?!” slipped from my lips.
On the one hand, I knew it was inevitable. He’s a kid; I’m his mom. He will be angry with me sometimes, and the word “hate” is thrown around far too casually these days. I’ve been guilty of using it in my times of frustration, and hearing my son say it reminded me that I have to do better.
There are a lot of four-letter words that I don’t want my kids to say, but “hate” is one of the worst.
Sure, I don’t want my kids walking around spewing profanities, but nothing carries the weight of the word, “hate.” Because, to me, saying you hate something, or worse, someone, is a hard line in the sand. It’s big and it packs a punch. It’s definite. Hate implies no room for love or tolerance.
Of course, I knew my son didn’t mean it when he said he hated me. He was angry and emotional, and I could see the regret on his little face as soon as he said it. What I hope to teach my kids is that words do matter. Words hurt people and divide people.
But there’s a beautiful thing about words. They can uplift people and inspire them. A kind word can change someone’s entire day.
My son now says that “hate” is “a naughty word.” And with ears like a bat, he polices the usage of naughty words in our household, and he’s quick to call you out on it. Just the other day, his grandma was visiting and was talking about some technology gadget (go figure), when she uttered the H word.
“That’s a naughty word, Grandma. We don’t say that.”
What I learned from this experience is that I want to teach my children how to be intentional with their words. Mean what you say and say what you mean. And there is only room for love and kindness in this world.