In my last post, I talked about my early days in McLean and the changes over the last 10 years.
I want to waffle on some more about this special place because it also provides a backdrop for some of the decisions I may need to make over the next year or so. It is special enough to limits the paths I might choose. But you need context…
Kids change everything. If you’ve got kids, you know that. If you haven’t, you might not really get it, even if you try scratching your forehead in an intelligent-looking manner.
It’s like talking about sex. If you’ve never had sex, you don’t really get what the fuss is about, although you may note that a lot of people seem to spend a lot of time talking about it.
It’s also like facing mortality. Until the first time you realize you nearly died, and that one day you will die, it’s just a distant concept for wrinkly people to worry about.
Kids demand everything of you. More than you can give. They’re not mean, they just want all your love, all your time, and anything they see in a shop window (or online, or in a friend’s hands, or passing by, or….). But they also give so much back, more and more over time. They work themselves into almost every part of your life. And one day you wonder how exactly you’re going to cope when they’re all grown up and working on their own futures and families.
I wouldn’t trade my girls for anything, for any alternate future. They sprang into life in different ways and on different schedules. Only one was truly planned, the other two just decided it was their time to show up.
I want the best for them, which is how this rambling text (finally!) connects with McLean. This area is darn nice, so quiet and safe, and so unpretentious that it’s an ideal place for kids to grow up. Bikes aren’t stolen, the local weekly newspaper reports minor thefts as “crime” and there’s usually one police car assigned to the entire area.
I lived in a small village outside Bern, Switzerland, for a few years and know you can find quiet and beautiful in many places. But one key advantage to being here is that there are so many professionals and so many bright and interesting people that the administrative backdrop to civil life is bearable. Public meetings have sensible discourse, concerned citizens self-organize and wield powerful influence that keeps local politicians in check, and a well-funded community center provides entertainment and classes for young and old. There’s a tolerance for varied viewpoints that isn’t found everywhere in America. The residents are a cosmopolitan mix, from many countries and other parts of the USA, representing racial and political diversity.
It’s biggest failing is that it’s not equipped for making life too much fun for the older teens and young adults. I am writing this in a coffee shop. It’s the upper floor and the views of budding trees and established greenery is very pretty and settling. This coffee shop and much of the intellectual liveliness switches off with the setting sun, families retreat to their homes early, and the nightlife is almost non-existent. It’s also going to be a big surprise to many of the kids growing up here to discover that most people don’t have the financial freedom and material possessions found around this area. Moving into a shared college/university dorm and living that spartan lifestyle has to be a shock!
So my kids get a safe and straight upbringing at excellent (free) public schools. But a little ‘living wild’ also brings a little education and preparation for the realities of life. How do you avoid the worst of life and its myriad possible addictions if you’ve never been exposed?
Since I can’t make life perfect for me or the for kids, it seems that I’ve come as close as I can get for now. I want to make sure that whatever happens, I find a way to keep them in this area until they’ve finished high school. I can’t guarantee them a complete family anymore. I can’t guarantee them happiness or satisified ambitions, but being here does give them more than they can get in most other places. Their networks of friends are virtually all good kids that both nurture and challenge them. If my troubles end in divorce, they have good support systems that won’t eliminate their sadness and worries, but they will at least make life a little more bearable while they repair themselves and grow stronger.