They say you can choose your friends but not your family. This means that for better or worse it looks like you are stuck with me for the remainder of our duration on this earth together. I love each one of you and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I asked us all to dinner last year with grand plans of making a noteworthy speech and beginning a grand tradition. I said a few words but was afraid I would bawl and embarrass myself (think Golfball but thinner) if I said more. So, this year I’ll write my thoughts and you can digest them on your own (maybe as you are digesting dinner)!
Life is a long journey filled with much change every year. We always hope each year is filled with more good than bad. But, as one of my favorite books starts, since life is hard that will not always be the case. This is a fact. I’m an optimist (deep down somewhere inside me) and this is how I saw 2017:
- Me – A great deal of my energy these days is career-related. This is to make it through the nation’s overpriced educational certificate system for my four kiddos. I love working in startups so I love what I do. I’ve been lucky to work in many successful ones and to learn a lot in the failed ones. I’m 3 years into Bluebird and not out of the woods yet but momentum is improving to be successful. My passion is financial planning and my other start-up MyMoneyTrainer is not where I envisioned it to be. I will keep at it and keep learning along the way. Preston sidetracked me with an investment idea that I’ve implemented and feel good about. Thanks, Preston! I hope all of you inherit a bunch of money one day because of it. Keeping up with all that and you guys and trying to not weigh 500 pounds and I’m good…and busy…and happy.
- Mom – As your kids grow up and move out that leaves momma bird with an empty nest and less to focus her time/energy on. Most of her adult life has been spent directly invested in each of you guys. You don’t need that level of investment anymore (thank goodness). As much change as you guys are going through in your young lives Mom is going through as much or more. This is life, but as you know Mom would be fine if each of you were perpetually 0-10 years old. I’m proud of Mom for going out and getting a job. Not only because of the extra money coming in but because I think it will help fill her life with the inevitable void of four kids growing up and leaving our little home. I think this has been an important development in her life…and a positive one. The kids/families she works with love her (and even hire her to work outside work too) and I think she works well with the team she is with. More people need Emily than just us…and that is a good thing (for her and them)!
- Preston – Preston has survived all my parenting mistakes as the guinea pig first child. Despite being the product of some pretty deep flaws in the slaw that others behind him did not have to endure he is the first of the Dean children to come completely off the payroll. I think he’d agree it hasn’t been easy and there is work to be done. Life is a journey and not a straight line. He has successfully moved out into the world and made his way. That is no small feat I promise (and he will tell you)! After a semester off school and then a slight detour in a new direction he has returned to the original path. I think this is a wise move. He is not out of the woods yet but I feel like he is heading in the right direction. Preston and I are two different people and I wouldn’t do some things the way he does them. This is mainly due to me having none of the natural talents that Preston has. Ha. Everyone has to figure out how to make a go of it in the world their way. There is no right answer. Different strokes for different folks. He and I talked about him having a higher net worth now than I had when I was 40. So Preston’s path seems to be better than mine!
- Emmaline – Emmaline is in year two of school which is about the same time I started figuring out what I wanted to be in life and back them up with real-life decisions about where I spent my time and energy. After a great first year in a faraway city, she has followed up all that change with a lot more changes this year. New home, new man, new lifestyle (new fake family…sisters), and a slight tweak to her major. Some of these have been easy calls and some were much harder decisions to make. I wish she would learn to love the financial planning side of life a little more than she does. But all that has gotten me is wealthy and dull/grumpy. She is working her way quickly towards coming off the payroll and figuring out what will help her be happy in life in her way. She and I talked about the things that make her happy would make me go insane. And that is fine! So again, different strokes for different folks!
- Molly – Hanging Molly’s senior picture on the wall made me realize our house is getting empty. She is finishing out her high school career strong. She is figuring out what her next steps are going to be. She is figuring out who those next steps will be with (current Facebook status = Single…I think?!!). To pay her bills she consistently gets up early to go work (time to make the bagels) which no one likes to do. For all her efforts she retains the title of highest net worth Dean child as she wraps up her high school career (and successfully navigated car ownership…ugh). I hope she reassesses things before getting drawn into an Audi payment (yikes!). I wish she wasn’t quite so excited/eager to move out of our seemingly wretched house. I too was eager to get out on my own and get my life moving in exactly the direction I wanted it to go. So, I understand and view it as a sign of strength. Still bittersweet. Based on her successes I’m sure she’ll do fine no matter what she decides to do on any of her upcoming important decisions.
- Max – Our baby! The rubber is about to hit the road quite literally! As the newest licensed driver about to hit the mean streets of NashVegas life is about to transform. As you gain the independence of the open road you also will have to learn how to navigate life without going broke (or in jail)! Your new freedom comes with a constant tug of responsibility. Although I foresee many fewer hours of screen time in your future I do not doubt that you’ll be just fine. I would say Max has surprised me with his academic performance this past year but that would be a misstatement. Many times, in Max’s life I have seen him do things that I wouldn’t have thought likely and wondered where the talent comes from to do it. This year has been no exception with school and sports. Like his brother, he gets none of it from me is all I can say. I’m excited to see what the next few years bring and also not excited because this poor kid has to live alone with Mom and me. I’m sure he will be banging down the door when it is over! It will be bittersweet!
This is how I see everything from my limited perspective. There is plenty that I don’t see because I’m not you. I don’t know every detail of your life. I don’t see all the good or all of the bad. I hope no one close to me is ever going through anything bad that they would not let me help them with.
I’m proud of each one of you (Mom too). You kids each can go do life and be successful on your own without any hand-holding. Not many kids today can say that! All you guys may think you are just normal but I’d say you are all well ahead of normal/average. I know this to be true and don’t say things that I can’t back up with facts just to be all mushy. On a variety of measures, you each are well ahead of your knucklehead peers. That makes me proud. Good job! So keep doing the things you are doing. I think in general, despite some setbacks here and there along the way, this past year we are all better today than we were a year ago. If we can say that each year I call that a win!
Regardless, through it all, we will always have each other. As we embark on a new year I want to make sure that no matter what happens the six of us come together at least once each year and celebrate the good and bad from a prior year and reset our focus to make the coming year what we desire it to be. Life has a funny way of turning out the way you spend your energy each day. Sometimes life will just punch you in the gut, but on balance I think generally life winds up how you make it. I know my life has followed this for the most part. I am a big believer in not squandering your time/talents and always pushing your life in a forward/positive direction. I think it is just like a healthy savings account happens because you save a little and do a little more when times are good for when times are not so good. I think if you do that with your life that you will live a happy life and be valued by others. I hope you agree and have learned that too!
Some years when we come together there might be more people at our table as people come into the lives that are important to us. Some years faces that were with us at one time may no longer be with us. We carry on with whoever is here! Regardless, no matter where we are, where we are headed, and where we have been we are a family. Know that your mother and I will support you as much as we can in whatever you do. Know that we expect each one of you to do the same for each other. Support each other, lift each other up, tell each other when they are being stupid, help each other when someone asks you for help, and tell each other they are loved. With billions of people on this earth, it is the Dean family against the world!
I wish you all the best in 2018! I hope to not only be your family but also to be your friend. I hope that you find what brings you happiness in your way this year and every year after that (and that it is legal). If you need us for anything always let us know! I Love You!
[originally published] 1/3/2018 (at a noteworthy New Year’s family dinner)