Every morning when I part with my sons , the last thing I tell them is to “Be good, be nice, be you and have fun.” It started with the older boy a couple of years ago, something I’d say when I dropped him off at daycare. Our younger son is only just now able to sort of grasp the words, so he started getting the treatment earlier this year.
What does it mean? That is, what do they think it means? And what do I mean by it?
This is not as easy to answer as it should be, maybe.
What, exactly, am I asking my sons to do when I tell them to be good, be nice, be you, and have fun?
Is it as simple as minding the teacher or daycare attendant? Following directions? Being a good listener? Standing in line when instructed to do so? Cleaning up after an activity? Eating the food in front of them? Using an inside voice? Doing your own school work?
Yes, but not entirely. All of those things are part of being good, sure. And I guess that’s what they probably think I mean. But what I’m really telling them, I think, is to lean toward the light. Say “no” if I turn out to be Darth Vader. Which could totally happen.
What? Don’t hit or kick or trip or push or pull or bite or otherwise molest others? Don’t yell and turn purple if a game of Candyland or Beyblades goes awry? Help a kid out if his or her backpack spills out into a mud puddle? Share your dessert at lunch? Say yes ma’am or no ma’am? Please and thank you?
Sure. Of course. And I hope that’s what they hear. But I also hope that right now, at this age, they’re forming the habits that help them be the kind of people later on who are admirable. One of my little pieces of advice is “Make a smile your default facial expression.” That one hasn’t taken hold just yet. (And geez. I certainly don’t follow my own advice on that one. My default expression is Monday Morning After Rush Hour But Before Coffee. I’m working on it.) Still, if they’re nice, maybe they can make others smile. And that’s pretty important, I believe.
I doubt this one quite registers, actually, even with our older son. I’m not entirely sure what made me kind of tack it on the first time I said it. It just kind of came out. I think maybe it was an involuntary reflex, a spasm of rebellion when I heard the words “be good, be nice” come flying out of my mouth for no apparent reason. What I meant was be good, yes. Be nice, of course. But most important? Be who you are, not who others want or expect you to be. Find that spark of self and cling to it for all you’re worth. Find it. Follow it. Trust it. Question it occasionally, allow for imperfections. Embrace those imperfections. Learn from them. And just be you.
This I added about a year into the morning ritual, because, hey, maybe I can pretend they’re actually doing something because I told them to! I think it’s the one area where my meaning and their interpretation intersects. A kindergartener and a preschooler need no advice from me on how to accomplish this. Doesn’t hurt to remind them, though, that I know what’s important to them.
Be good. Be nice. Be you. Have fun.
I don’t know if they remember the words during their busy day. Oh, who am I kidding? Our older son doesn’t stand there all reflective and say, “Oh, hey, I better not cut in line here … Daddy said to be good.” And if some kid comes along and snatches one of Chris’ toys during playtime … woe be unto that kid. But if I say it enough, and live by it myself (ha!), and just keep saying it, and saying it, then maybe it’ll stick. Maybe.