Year-end thoughts: Family

img_20161224_182444523My family is important to me, but I don’t always take the time to nurture those relationships. Because we all get along reasonably well, and we’re all pretty busy, we kind of stay on cruise control, and most of the time that works out.  Lately, I’ve been feeling like we need to pay more attention to our family unit, especially as it’s about to go through some major changes. So from youngest to oldest, nearest to furthest, here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about and will be thinking about in the new year.

Geeky Girl. Geeky Girl is in the midst of college decisions. She’s heard from 3 of the 4 early action schools she applied to (all positive so far), and will hear from a fourth in early January. She has most of her applications in the regular decision pool, and will probably make her decision later in the spring, unless she decides one of the 4 early places is super appealing in some way.  She already has options, and will have some more, I’m sure.  I don’t think the decision will be easy.  This has been a very different process than Geeky Boy’s, who I just hoped would get in somewhere and then when he did, I hoped that he would stick with it (he didn’t, more on that below).  But, Geeky Girl has been much less stressed about the process than some of her friends. She has never been attached to a particular school.  She likes the schools she’s applying to pretty equally.  They’re similar in their educational approach.  The differences are primarily about location (she’s all over the map), specific programs, and of course, money.  How much we can afford will play into her decision.  She’s got an affordable state school on her list, and one school has already given her a nice scholarship package, which makes it affordable as well. Another reason we’ll have to wait to decide as we wait on financial package decisions, some of which have come with acceptance and some will come later in the process. So we’re wound up in this process until April, and then, once we know where she’s headed, we will have to process the fact that she won’t be living with us anymore. Geeky Boy ended up down the road from us, and yes, it was an adjustment, but we still had Geeky Girl at home, so in many ways, not much changed about our basic routines.  This will be different.

Geeky Boy. Geeky Boy, as mentioned above, didn’t make it through college.  He’s made another attempt by going to community college, but that, too, img_20161225_101134784didn’t work out.  He’s now living with us (it’s cheaper than living on his own), and figuring out what’s next (the latest slide from college happened around Thanksgiving). Long time readers know he suffers from depression.  He’s had lots of ups and downs and recently, had a pretty major down, though things are up again now. He has medication and professional support, but we all think we could be doing more to help.  Mr. Geeky and I want him to at least get a job and support himself, and Geeky Boy wants that, too, but doesn’t quite have the tenacity to find something.  He also relies on public transportation and/or a bicycle, which limits his options. We’re getting an up front and personal look at what job prospects are like for those without a degree and without certain basic things in place, like the easy ability to get from point A to point B on time.  So, on the agenda for the coming weeks is getting a driver’s license, which might expand some job options for him.  And I think there will be some tough love involved in this whole process, some parameters on the living arrangements and some support for the family as a whole.  We have friends and neighbors with kids in similar situations, which makes it slightly easier to accept, but doesn’t make it any easier to figure out what to do.  Every situation is slightly different. Every kid is different.

Mr. Geeky.  Mr. Geeky and I are both starting to think about what’s next for us.  Sending Geeky Girl off to college will mean a little more flexibility in our lives.  It won’t matter so much where we live.  We have no immediate plans, but we’re starting to think about where we want to be in 5 years or 10 years and what we want to be doing.  The election also prompted some thinking along these lines, for me more than Mr. Geeky, I think.  But still, we both have a solid skill set and we both have 10-20 years of work ahead of us, and we’re both sort of wondering if we could put that skill set to use in a way that might have a broader impact. Regardless of what that means career wise, we (me again, but in conversation with Mr. Geeky, of course) have been thinking about getting our ducks in a row and really living the way we want, in the house we want, in the location we want, doing what we want.  Being academics meant we went where the jobs were, and we like where we’ve landed, but we want to think about whether this is really where we want to be.  It makes sense to us to begin to enjoy the hard work we’ve put in to get where we are.  We won’t have the financial means to do whatever we want, but we could probably make some changes in some way or another to relax a little more, enjoy a little more.  So there’s some work to be done and conversation to be had over the next year to figure out what’s next.  Some of that will depend on the outcomes for Geeky Girl and Geeky Boy, of course.  But we’re starting to realize we’re at the point where our lives aren’t completely dictated by what’s going on with the kids.  It’s an interesting feeling.

And the rest. Our extended families live far away, and we haven’t been great about keeping up with them.  I’ve kept up with my dad fairly well as he’s traveled to places close to us and we’ve made a point of meeting him.  I haven’t been to see Mr. Geeky’s family in a while, though Mr. Geeky has, and there are plans for a family reunion this summer.  And my mom is the furthest away.  Thanks to a college reunion and college visit, I’ve seen her a couple of times recently.  But they’re all kind of last on our planning list.  We squeeze visits in when we can.  But we should do better.  It’s a lot to keep up with.