Be Brave, Be Kind, Be Wise

Back to school. Time to start being responsible(ish) again. Sigh.

I’m not sure if I’m a Tiger Mom or a Sloth Mom or a Shark Mom or an Exotic Albino Sandflea Mom or what. Honestly, I don’t know what in the name of Athena’s flashcards I’m doing most of the time. (Which is why I almost never write about parenting here.) I just try to apply some method to the madness, focus on what might be the most important values, and hope I’m not doing anything that makes these little people decide to be strippers or bounty hunters or mimes when they grow up.

One of the few things I do as a parent with any confidence and regularity is send my children out the door with these words every morning:


It’s kind of our mantra, I guess.

If we have a few extra minutes over breakfast, sometimes we elaborate on the finer points of our little code of ethics with a repeat-after-me Q&A. Like so:


Q: If something is hard to do, is that a reason not to do it?
A: Nope. That’s a reason to be extra proud after we’ve done it.

Q: What if we’re afraid we won’t be good at something?
A: Don’t think about being good at it. Think of it as trying something new.

Q: Do we choose to do something or not do something because we worry people will talk about us?
A: No. People will always talk. We can at least give them something interesting to talk about.

Q: Do we have to be the best at everything?
A: Nope.

Q: Do we have to do our best at everything?
A: Yes. Always.

Q: Even math?
A: Even math.


Q: Do we ever do something that will hurt someone else?
A: No.

Q: Do we ever take or break something belonging to someone else?
A: No.

Q: If we do, by accident or on purpose, harm someone else’s body, feelings, or property, what’s the first and most important thing to say?
A: I’m sorry.

Q: What do we do if we see someone who has nobody to play with, sit with, or talk to?
A: Play with them. Sit with them. Talk to them.

Q: What do we say to every teacher and staff person we see?
A: Thank you.

Q: Do we ever make fun of our own sibling at school?
A: No. Save that for home. Just kidding.

Q: Do we tell the truth?
A: Yes.


Q: Do we do anything on purpose that could result in our own serious injury?
A: No.

Q: Does every single thing that pops into our head need to be said out loud at the moment we think it?
A: Dude, seriously. No.

Q: Do we say or do something just because we heard it on TV, saw it on YouTube, or read it in a book?
A: No. This is real life.

Q: What about cutting holes in our school clothes with scissors like that time ONE OF YOU CAME HOME WITHOUT THE LEGS OF YOUR PANTS — is that a good idea?
A: No.

Q: Do we do anything AT ALL involving comedy and a toilet?
A: No.

And so: If you do decide to be a stripper, a bounty hunter, or a mime — be a brave stripper; a kind bounty hunter; a wise mime. Do your best, always.


You got this, kids. Go get ‘em.


  1. Not a mom, but am going to share with the legions of moms I know..and also the legions of humans I know. Good human-type advice and a great way to start my day. Thanks!

  2. Mimes are creepy, so yeah, definitely steer the kiddos away from that one. Being a bounty hunter sounds dangerous so nix that one too. But a stripper… now I was one of those and it took me 18 or so years at my straight job to get anywhere near the same paycheck. Although the straight job had health benefits…

    Seriously though, I love these lessons. Can I send you a 28-year old kid who never got them so you can pound them into him? Emphasis on the pound if need be.

  3. Beautifully written, as usual.. I don’t think I focused on the brave part enough but I am in awe of my son, living downtown Chicago when going to school, taking all the scary public transportation, and being successful at the whole mess, so I guess he somehow absorbed the brave wave. The girl child is more closet brave. She doesn’t realise how brave she really is… I do recall stressing being truthful, especially with me. (cause you know mom will always find out)

  4. Darling, I am a teacher and, as someone who tries to focus the madness into method, I’m planning on freakin’ papering my classroom walls with this! (And not just the part about thanking your teachers… )
    The interesting thing is that sometimes it takes wisdom to know what the kind thing is and bravery to be able to do it. Thanks for taking the time to focus on such important values with your little people. 😉 You’re alright by me, chica!

  5. I need to print this out and read it to my future, mime, bounty hunter and stripper ( I think the four year is already in training!)

  6. Reblogged this on life on wry and commented:
    Since school starts Monday and so many things are already starting to run through my head that are freaking me out about having both kids in high school this year, this post that I am re-blogging is timely.
    Even though I think she has kids that are younger, all of these things still apply, some of them even more so.

    Many of these things I wish more people taught their kids. Especially the parts about being kind and brave.
    PS: check out her penguins too.

  7. OMG, this is one of my favorites of all your many great posts. If every parent had these sorts of conversations, it would send positive ripples through schoolyards, companies, countries….

    My daughter is a second-grade teacher. I’m going to give this to her to share with her kiddos’ parents.

    Good job!

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