Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Be Good

“Be good.”  (Even ET was at it for fek sake) “Be good or no-one will be your friend.”  “Be good or no-one will like you.”  “Is he/she a good baby?”  “Be good or you’ll go to hell.”  “It’ll be a black mark against your soul.”  “Be good, Santy’s robin is watching.”  “What goes around comes around.”

When I was growing up, be good or no-one will like you/be your friend were mantras.  Two horrible mantras.  Fek that shit.  It is completely impossible and unrealistic to expect to get through this life without someone somewhere not “getting you” or for someone to “not like you” for no other reason than they just don’t like you. 

It’s ok that not everyone will think you are marvellous. 

It is also pretty much guaranteed that you will encounter people who are not to your taste either.   

And guess what?  That’s ok too.

What’s not ok is to beat yourself up over it. Be better than that.  Be stronger than that!  

How many of us have been asked if our baby “is good” at only two weeks old.  A tiny baby, new to the world, busy eating, sleeping and pooping. Who gets a “bad” baby?   I’m not going to go into the physiological reasons why a newborn, indeed any baby, cries so much in the early days.  But is that not just a delicious excuse to soothe them? 

Going to hell.  In my head this was a place with volcanic like fires and a Minotaur in the corner.  Another version of the carrot on the end of the stick, a ploy to beat us all into obedience.  Ditto the black mark against your soul.  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t get any of it but I believed it.  Does that make sense? 

Santy’s robin lives in our garden in winter but I tell our boys that he is a spy! The boys think this is cool. 

What goes around probably does come around.  But we still shouldn’t relish in it. 

So here’s an idea.   

How about being kind to yourself instead.  Give yourself a bit of a break.   

Especially at this time of year.  There have been some horrific, desperately sad stories in the media in the last six months alone.  Two little babies killed on an innocent walk with their father.  A pregnant mother dying alone leaving two small boys motherless.  A shooting in a cinema in America, killing dozens.   Young girls taking their lives as a result of cyber bullying.  Two young sisters falling foul of the same fate within six weeks of each other.  And more recently, just mere days ago, small children dying in another senseless act of madness in Connecticut.    

It is all so short.  So fleeting.  So now.

So why aren’t we enjoying it more?  Why are we so rushed, so hell bent on being ahead all the time. 

Human life is so fragile, so easily wiped out, so easily forgotten about. 

Lately, a young man lost his life when he fell in front of a bus on a busy Dublin street.  A similar accident happened some years back on the daily commute from Dublin.  A male pedestrian stepped too close to the kerb and lost his life to an articulated truck. 

The news swept through the bus and I found myself looking out the front window at the body of the man lying on the road.  Minus his head. 

The driver of the truck, completely oblivious to what had happened continued on his way and was finally stopped at Newlands Cross. 

We sat there for over an hour and during that time watched as an ambulance and Dublin fire brigade arrived on the scene.  The body of the man was loaded into the ambulance and the rest of his life, the one that was swept from his shoulders, literally hosed off the street and swept into the gutter with one of those yard brushes.

That image stayed with me for a long time.  How easy it is to clean up after a life. 

Someone out there had given birth to that man.  He had a family, maybe a wife, maybe children.  But he was here.  He had life.

And it was wiped out in minutes. 

Like those babies, the pregnant mother, the people at the cinema, the teenage girls, those children and their teachers in the school the morning the gunman entered the premises.
It’s hard not to think of the families and how they would have been located afterwards.  How they must have felt on hearing the terrible news of the senseless deaths of their loved ones.

The circumstances of their passing.

It’s hard not to imagine those people saying if only I had asked them to stay a bit longer they would be here today.  If only she had received help sooner, perhaps she would still be here and looking forward to Christmas with her four children.  If only they went to an earlier show.  If only they had spoken to someone, anyone, our children would still be here with us.

And maybe, just maybe there was one thank god I kept her at home today because she said she wasn’t feeling well.

The last thing my mother used to say to us each and every morning, as she stood waving us off to school, was “be good.”

I think I was.

She still says it to me today if I am going somewhere. 

I think I am.

I tell my kids to “have fun” when I wave them off at the school gate.

I know they do.  I don’t know what the future holds for them but I do know we are extremely fortunate to live in a country where the laws are different and yes, they may be bullied, but the chances of them being gunned down in cold blood are very, very remote. 

So by all means be good.  Be very, very good.  To yourself that is. 


  1. That must have been a horrific sight from the bus. How awful.

    I never understood the people asking me if my wee fella was a good baby. I mean, I really couldn't process what they meant by it. (Of course, I was a bit hazy in those days, and they probably just asked the question they always asked without ever stopping to parse it for themselves either.) But exactly: what the heck is a "good" baby? How could any baby be bad? Grrr.

    Great message, thank you.

    1. I used to say "no. he's not good." They'd look at me with surprise/shock/mouth agape. And then I'd say "he's great!" Catches them every time. And yes, I agree. It's just a stock phrase people trot out.

  2. I can relate to so much here from the annoyance at the 'good baby' question to the fact that I always think about the mothers of people killed, what it takes to bring a life into this world compared with to take it out of this world and how 'fragile' we are. I still find it hard to be nice to myself though! It's all so funny! Brilliant, thought provoking read

  3. Be Good at who treat Be Good..Vise Versa