23 January: The birthday that lost its birthday boy

Three years ago, we celebrated my fathers birthday for the last time.
We no longer celebrate this day, belonging to a quirky, funny and playful man who made detailed medal statistics on all winter sports.

A man who spent his life always trying to understand more about people, and collecting old toys & merch, never completely growing up.

Today, rather than celebrating my father’s day, I was attending the funeral of a much younger person. If they meet “up there” I am pretty sure they would have a lot to talk about. As they were two unique persons with a special talent to share their warmth and making people feel comfortable in their strong and real presence.

And probably, they and the others that left earth a little early would look down at us, and shake their heads at all the stupid stuff we do that takes away fun, joy and quality from our lives. Stressing too much about details, nagging, dieting, distrusting, rushing, arguing, fearing and protecting ourselves from being hurt – as well as from being loved.

I do still celebrate my father. Not on his birthday, but every day of the year.

I celebrate him by using him as inspiration for my parenting. Not always succeeding, but hoping to be an engaged and playful mother for my sons. Some of you will probably raise your eyebrowsat this, but I am the not so serious/grown-up mother who jumps in the bed and water pits with my 2-year old rather than telling him not to. Who learnt him to poke his tongue out, to say poop and laugh when he farts. Who splashes back when he soaks the bathroom. Who rarely can keep serious when he does something funny, even if it’s something he shouldn’t do… I also can be strict, raise my voice and set boundaries. But I chose to parent by dialogue, empathy and inspire his independent thinking and problem-solving skills, and encourage his positive will to cooperate with us, rather than being the hierarchical mother who instructs and directs.

This choice enable me to enjoy parenting much more than I’d done otherwise. I am not fond of rules for the rule itself, and I like to be impulsive. It makes me feel alive. So when we can, we take our time and we have a lot of fun together. I follow their small big steps curiously, rediscovering the small miracles of life (such as the moon that appears some nights), waving goodbye to the tram and investigating car tires on the way from kindergarden. Instead of always hushing and insisting on “indoor voice” we occasionally go outside to scream. Instead of getting them over in their own bed/room as early as possible and scheduling strict routines, we co-sleep and cuddle, letting their altering and developing needs form our routines. I don’t have a strong opinion on other people’s choices, but for me it has been important to enjoy the everyday time with the kids as much as I can. Putting them to sleep can take from 10 minutes up to 2 hours, depending on how the day has been, but normally we’re at home anyway, and usually it’s a really nice time together (unless I’m in desperate need of space). Reading a book or making up our own stories, laying cheek to cheek and hearing the child breath soften as they fall asleep. A small hand holding my ear or hand.

What formed my personal choices so far is the all too familiar realisation that life is short, and its up to me to make the most of every day with them. And that if I waste this precious period stressing too much about what “everyone else” does, trying to fill traditional external expectations, I will only end up regretting it later.

When this is said, I do make all sorts of mistakes as well. I lose my temper on occasions, and I don’t always follow my ideals. I’m an average person and an average parent. My kids will probably find loads of things they’d prefer differently handled. But I hope they’ll always feel loved and respected, no matter what they do, which choices they make, and who they grow up to be.

That is what my father gave me, and that is something I celebrate through my own actions. Every day.

“Life is not for amateurs. Sometimes I feel like a freakin’ amateur” (Quote by my father)

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