As we gather for our traditional Thanksgiving feast in Northern California the idea of what family means to my own family has come into the forefront. As it is now just the three of us defining what this means has been very important. Both of my parents died young, my extended family is in Canada and my late husbands family is in Texas. Together my daughters and I have created a family comprised of friends from our small town, friends we’ve made in the Bay Area, and old friends from college, traveling, and the grade school I attended.
We have lived in the same traditional two story home for the past two decades. As a family we had traditions and routines for each holiday and every day life. There has been a shift this year as now both girls are away at college.
On Wednesday morning we gathered in my formal dining room. My daughters arrived twelve hours apart and we sat together in happy silence. I made them a chocolate velvet cake and we sat drinking coffee and eating warm cake on china plates. Before they came home I warned them that I wanted to talk about our family.
For most of their lives our family has revolved around what I thought was important and they were required to abide by my rules and by what I valued. For a long time I valued education, but not grades. I valued independence, and deep ties to friends and community. I valued nature and conservation. I valued philanthropy and giving back. Now, I wanted to find out what my daughters valued. I wanted to talk about our collective futures and what they see as our family legacy.
Prior to their arrival I made some notes and did some research on family mission statements.
Truthfully, I was expecting some resistance. We suspended family meetings several years ago when carpooling was no longer a summer necessity.
I was surprised at how willing they were to discuss our family and I was surprised by what they valued. I asked questions for clarification, but mostly listened. What they valued broke down into three categories:
- Financial Security
Together we determined the meaning of each of these factors, and then broke them down to make them actionable.
Education & Financial Security
Student Loans & Scholarships: Strategies for keeping grades up and applying for scholarships to reduce student loan debt.
Graduate School: Manage grades and finances for graduate school.
Ocean SF: Working collaboratively to grow the brand.
Real Estate: Decision to rent our Tahoe property. Holding real estate investments for the future.
Giving Back: Importance of financial security in allowing us to give to our charities and causes and also be generous with our friends.
Responsibility: Taking responsibility for all aspects of our lives. Being honest about what our needs are.
Accountable: Do what we promise. Create more family traditions so everyone knows what to expect. For example, the first night of each break is spent with family.
Compassion: Listening without being judgmental. Kindness towards each other in all ways.
Clearly communicate. Do not over communicate. Return calls promptly, within a few hours. Don’t expect immediate response from anyone other than Mom. Mother must respond immediately 24/7. Schedule one weekly three way call.
Next, we will write our family mission statement, but it will include growing and learning together to be better people, furthering education, ensuring we are financially stable in the future, not just for ourselves, but to give back to other people.
Love and blessings to all.