Three Helpful Mantras

Have Fun

Be Safe

Make Good Decisions

Call Your Mother

I wonder if Son will take the keychain that bears these admonitions to college this week? I bought it for him on a whim a few years ago, thinking it was both wise and funny. And now it’s our shared mantra. I have recited the first three often while dropping him off at work all summer (how FUN to commute with him every day!), when he goes out with friends, and now as he prepares to leave for school. We have abbreviated it to HaFuBeSaMaGoDe (“hah-foo-bee-sah-mah-goh-dee”); I made a phone keyboard shortcut for it, which I’m sure will get plenty of text use in the coming months.

Last November I wrote 30 posts of ethical earworms–catch phrases for core values and life skill practices–with which I wanted to infest the kids’ brains. Try new things, ask more questions, persist, rest, trust your worth… Reality now hits that Son will really not be around every day, and HaFuBeSaMaGoDe is the one mantra (which I did not write about) that I hope will stick best. It could be an effective guide for behavior, as well as our little ridiculous inside joke.

Maybe he will also remember “Call Your Mother” (CaYoMo) weekly and as needed.


I have said and shared this mantra for many years now–even made bookmarks for friends one Christmas–but I forgot that I had written it on the blog even before my pause post last year. While scrolling through old emails and links this weekend, I came across it in another self-directed stress management post from November 2020 that lists One Day, One Moment, One Breath at a Time, my go-to mindfulness expression, as one strategy for coping with post-election fallout.

I saved ODOMOBaaT to post for the kids’ 30th, concluding life skill earworm last fall. I still wear the ring I had made, reminding me to take one breath. In hard times, I hope the catch phrase really does catch us–helping us all maintain confidence in our strengths, seeing where we can exercise our agency, even (especially) in situations where we don’t necessarily have control.

Totally Normal, Sucks Rocks

It really does take a village! Because without fellow moms, launching kids into adulthood would be exponentially harder. It’s just so intense, so profound. One of Son’s best friends’ mom is a clinical psychologist; she knows professionally how child, adolescent, and adult development manifests. She is also a human with normal parental emotions, and we support each other. We share (vent, complain, commiserate) about our feelings, compare experiences (oh, so yours doesn’t tell you things, either?), and remind each other that the boys’ separation from us parents is necessary and healthy, and we should encourage it. “Totally normal, sucks rocks,” we say, acknowledging the coincident polarity of joy at their budding independence and grief at the end of childhood–the inevitable and bumpy transition in relationship. We acknowledge what is, and how we feel about it, with radical acceptance, nonjudgment, and self-compassion. Since both of our birthdays are around this time, I made us each a t-shirt with the mantra printed boldy. We can wear them proudly; I bet people who see us will relate.

There is just something about short, meaningful phrases. They cut through the haze of emotional hijack and mental muddle like the brightest of flashlights. They help us put down our perseverations, our circular and redundant obsessions in negativity and victim mindset. The best ones apply across diverse circumstances and life domains; they are timeless and ground us in the reality of what is. They help us move through stymied resistance, toward clarity.

What helpful words and phrases emerge often in your consciousness and conversations? How do they help you cope and relate with your circumstances, surroundings, and other people, especially in distress? Where did you pick them up, and with whom to do you share them in solidarity?

Fall is my favorite time of the year. Wishing you all time and space to pause, reflect, and settle into peace a little more each day.