My Legacy

I just finished watching the movie Boyhood.  It’s a unique movie that follows a boy from first grade through his first year of college, a total span of 12 years.  It’s the only movie that I know of that was filmed for that long.

In the movie, the boy has a series of role models.  Some of them were good models, and some not so good.  It got me to thinking about how I am doing as a role model for my girls.


Several years ago, I wrote down four things that I would like to be my legacy for my daughters.   They are:

1) Know that you’re loved.

2) Be safe.

3) Get a great education.

4) Leave this world a little bit better than you found it.

If my girls know those, feel them, and accomplish them, then I think that I will have prepared them for a rich and rewarding life.

That would be a nice legacy.


Know that you’re loved– this is the most fundamental one.  It started 20 years ago when Heather popped into our lives, and it continues to today.  We make sure we tell the girls we love them, and we try to show them, too.  Not with objects, but with our time and our attention.

We try to have dinner together every night (not so easy with a college junior and a high school freshman…).  We try to tuck them in when we can.  We hug.  We laugh together.  We cry together.

They are loved.  I know it.  I hope they know it.


Be safe– if I could bubble wrap them, I would.  Think of the Marlin character in “Finding Nemo”.  I want to protect them forever, but I can’t.

But they can.

They know about seat belts, and air bags, car inspections, tread wear and tire inflation.  And smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.  About 911 and cell phones, and spare batteries, and emergency rooms and CPR.  About swimming with a buddy, and life jackets, and no texting in the car.

About no drinking and driving.  And that I’m willing, (no questions asked) to be the designated driver at 3am.

No questions asked.  I mean that.

If it’s a difference between a body bag and some interrupted sleep, please call me at 3am.  I won’t ask about how much you drank, or what you took.  I want you home safe and sound.

I do mean that.


Get a great education- My girls go to (or went to) a high school that has been in the Newsweek top 200 the last two years.  It was 26 last year, 51 this year.  20,000 high schools are evaluated, and this one is in the top 50.  Both times it was the top ranked high school in the state.

That’s nice.

But education is more than what happens in school.  Education happens (hopefully) at the dinner table.  And when we travel.  And when we serve.

Education means more than facts and figures.  It means that the girls know how to balance a checkbook, and save and invest.  It means that they know how to obtain a passport, and pass through customs and immigration.  That they know how often to change the oil, how often to change the batteries in the smoke detectors.  That they know how to vote, and why.  That they know what to eat, how to eat, and how to take care of their bodies.  And their minds, and their souls.

It means that they know how to live.


Leave this world a little bit better than you found it-I sometimes share quotes with my family and friends, and two of them are appropriate here.  One quote is from Mother Theresa, who said “we can do no great things- we can only do small things, with great love”.  The other quote is by Margaret Mead, who said “ never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

I absolutely believe with all of my heart that my daughters can change the world, and that they can do it with great love.  They already have, and they will continue to do so. They are committed, loving souls.



Where does all of this come from?  Why do I think about this stuff?

I went through a period in my life (my teens, twenties, some of my thirties), where I struggled with this stuff.  There were times I didn’t feel safe (spend enough time huddled under a desk during a nuclear drill as a 5-year old, and you start to think about why you’re under the desk….).

I tried my best to avoid a great education.  My parents toiled so that I could go to the very best schools, and I wasted it as a 17-year old.  I wasn’t ready.

And fundamentally, I wasn’t sure whether this world was better off with me in it.  I couldn’t point to anything and say “I did that” or “I helped with that”.


All of that has changed for me.

I am loved.  By Theresa and Heather and Dylan and Darwin.  Maybe by some of you, too.

I think I’m safe.  I did fasten my seat belt this morning, and I will tonight, too.  I will write about some of the safety stuff in another essay.

I did get a great education. (It took a while, but I did).

And I see bright spots in my life today.  Role models who have shown me how they make a difference in the lives of others.

I hope I can share that with someone else.  I may have already.

That would be nice.


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