So its a Sunday afternoon, and I find myself pondering what it means to be family. I know my own is probably considered dysfunctional and I am so glad my daughters seem to be doing so well academically, socially, and physically.

With these little angels I find it difficult to hold back and avoid filling their heads with my own ideas about life; I want them to decide for themselves what they think, what they believe, what is right or wrong. But I do try to instill a deep sense of loyalty in them for each other. Frankly, and despite my continuing love for them and my hope that they will always love me,I could care less what they think of me or their mothers, or anyone else for that matter, because at the end of the day they will have each other for much longer than I will be around. They fight and play, they attack each other but always come to each others defense against any outsider. Even me. If I so much as scare one of them (as often happens after we’ve watched zombie movies together) and chase her around the house, the other two are likely to jump on my back and begin punching me in the face, putting me to sleep with a blood choke, and making me regret all the grappling and boxing I put them in.

With such beautiful and independent minds as theirs, I strained to find a simple but complete philosophy-a mantra if you will-something that they could repeat and understand everyday, and something that with time they could understand every part of it in a deeper sense. Something that would not be controversial, or indoctrinating, something that leaves them free to form their own ideas and still be good, happy girls:

-Be Nice
-Be Smart
-Be Strong

From The Golden Rule, to humanitarian work, to being diplomatic in a conflict between friends, to being the one to invite the underdog to your cafeteria table, its all there in two words: be nice.

Intellectually expand your mind. Academically achieve. Think about and evaluate claims, decisions, stories, and information. Know what to do in a crisis or at a dinner party. All of that is encompassed in these two words: be smart

Have confidence in yourself; know your limits and exceed them. Physical, mental, and emotional fitness are critical to your overall well-being. That and so much more can be understood in these two words: be strong

Our children are our most precious resource and I doubt that any of us always treats them as such. I sincerely hope that we can leave them in a better state then we have found ourselves and give them the power to make the world a better place for themselves, for others, and for future generations.