At the playground the other weekend, my 3-year-old and a couple of “big kids" were running around and climbing on everything, as you might expect. Then, out of nowhere, one of the big kids, maybe 7 years old, came flying off the “bridge” right at me. He landed from the 4-foot drop just next to me with a big, proud smile, and looked up and said: “I not scared of hypes.”
Off he ran.
I smiled at his use of “hypes” for heights. The joy of words and kids! But, I was also happy at how proud he was and that he was willing to show it (not to mention he had already been kind to my daughter, which, of course, made me like him immediately!).
I was curious about the fact that, while this young man wasn’t scared of heights, he knew, for some reason, it was worth telling me. He knew the concept: that being “scared of heights” is “a thing.” So, some adult had clearly introduced it, but it didn’t bother him. And, he was proud of that fact!
Did he know somehow that I am scared of heights? Did he know that I am also scared I will pass this along to my daughters? Was he showing me that it was possible to talk about it, but not pass it on?
Looking deeper, however, I realized this wasn’t the prompt for reflection this young man was offering at all.
…but, what about hypes!?
What about a fear of hypes? Is that “a thing”?
Social hype? Political hype? Media hype? The list of hypes goes on and on…
It turns out that, as a father, I am scared of hypes!
How do I keep my daughters from internalizing a hyped-up social, political, media-driven culture of fear? Of violence? Of more…more…more? Of never good enough? Of self loathing? Of manufactured beauty? Of fake “reality”? Of real fakeness?
How do I instill the tools to resist such self-destroying bombast when its sales and promotion attempt to consume them at every turn, trying to convert them into consumers of it?
Somehow, I must teach my daughters to look critically at media hyperbole and its political and economic beneficiaries. They must understand there is something more than endless escalation of conflict, whether interpersonal or international, fiction, “reality,” or reality. They must see beyond the false images of self and need and desire and womanhood they will be sold when I’m not looking.
How do I arm them with the nonviolent weapons of an independent mind? A critical eye on the world? A loving eye on themselves?
Will they learn that they can find no peace in their world without first finding peace in themselves?
Every day, this feels like the heaviest burden and greatest opportunity of being a parent.
So, as a father, for my girls, hypes scare the shit out of me!
But, for now, I have to just love and hope and work like hell that maybe someday my daughters, standing high, high (like crazy high!) upon a precipice (seriously, right at the edge!), grounded firmly in who they are, looking out over the beauty of the world, feeling its reflection deep within will say: I’m not scared of hypes.