"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 1, 2012
Let's Play Nice
by Melissa Howell

It was a beautiful autumn day, and I was walking around downtown Denver with a group of children. As a chaperone for my son’s fourth grade field trip, I was responsible for seventeen 9- and 10-year-olds. We saw our lovely Capitol building, examined some interesting exhibits outside of the art museum, marveled at the plethora of amazing buildings, and learned about our state’s history at a new museum.

Except for a few squirrely kiddos, it was a largely enjoyable experience. At one point I was overcome with emotion, and I thought to myself, “How grateful I am to be a mom and be here helping my son and other children expand their educations and experience new things.”

And then I overheard another boy say to my son, as they walked just a few steps behind me, “Is your mom nice to you? I think she’s a wonderful mother.” Fortunately my son answered “yes,” although I’m sure there are days he’d be tempted to answer “no,” like when I am really mean and make him do homework before playing or give him consequences for a bad choice. You know, the really brutal things.

Nevertheless, the exchange broke my heart.

It was a saddening reminder to me that too many children have moms who simply aren’t nice to them, for whatever the reason.

Whether I’m reading a book or watching a movie, instances of abused, neglected and unloved children hit me on a deep level. Yet many children experience these situations in real-life; often times, they are children we may even know.

In the few years I’ve had children in school, I have made the effort to volunteer, chaperone, assist with class parties and the like whenever it is possible, and in those precious moments I’ve had children tell me about parents in jail, parents they are not able to live with for whatever reason, and other heartbreaking situations. I never ask, but in being told I am reminded how much some children just need a kind and caring heart turned their way. It devastates me.

Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up (admittedly I get caught up) in trying to be a perfect mom, or a supermom, that we forget what is most important. We might spend more time planning our child’s party than we spend with our child. Or we are too busy with whatever to take time to really listen to them. It’s like being in a Relief Society lesson or a school class that has lots of pretty accompanying bells and whistles, pictures and handouts, but the content is lacking real substance.

Are we mothering with substance? Are we being nice? What does a nice mom do, anyway?

Sometimes the word “nice” gets the shaft. It’s not an exciting word, maybe even considered a little blasé. But when looking at it through a child’s eyes, I begin to see the significance of the word. It’s really the essence of what a child wants in a mother.

A nice mom gives of her time. There is something to be said for simply being there, to listening and giving undivided attention when necessary. Many moms make countless sacrifices for their children.

A nice mom gives rules and consequences. This might seem contradictory, but a mom who truly cares knows that being a cool friend is counterproductive, but lovingly giving guidelines and enforcing them gives children security and is a crucial form of love.

A nice mom gives of her love. Moms show love in different ways; some are more affectionate than others, some are more verbal than others. Regardless of how we show our love, we shouldn’t assume that our children know we love them. It should be something they hear and feel on a continual basis.

A nice mom gives of her talents. We all have been endowed with certain abilities and talents, and using them at times to uplift and strengthen the rising generation will enhance the lives of those who benefit from our talents, as well as our own lives.

A nice mom is involved in her community and reaches out to uplift other children. We can bring joy and kindness to other children, if only for a few minutes or an hour here and there. We should be careful to pass judgment on children’s home and life situations, but remember the old adage that the children who are the most difficult to love often need it the most.

Maybe it’s true what they say, that nice guys finish last. But I am fairly certain that nice moms don’t. And when we play nice, it is the children whose lives we touch — from our own, to those we are called to serve, to those we guide through a busy museum — will come out at the most deserving winners.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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