Little Reflection on Fatherhood
Yesterday 8 years back my father lost his struggle with cancer. It was inevitable and he had peace with it. It was sad for him, and for all of us around it. We didn’t make a memorial day really but obviously our thoughts were with him. The loss of my father came after the loss of Inge’s mother a year earlier and Inge’s father 25 years ago. So we sort of know what it is.
I was thinking yesterday about the good times my father and I had together and the support that I still feel. This also sparked some reflection on fatherhood in me yesterday. The responsibilities and opportunities of it. And how I approach and do it consciously and subconsciously. My late father lost his father when he was 6 years old, during the second world war, and although he didn’t talk about it much as he didn’t want to put himself in any victim-role, he missed the role model that father’s play and the fatherly support growing up into adolescence.
But yes I reflected on my role as father yesterday and came to the conclusion that all big choices consciously made over the last 8 years since we got kids were in line with our family values and those choices were serving our children; well….at least that is what I believe. The decision to leave Europe and do a sabbatical year 5 years ago, the decision to stay on Bali after that gap year to spend time as a family with a ‘free’ life compared to the life in the Western world, the travelling that we love to do and to pass on that wanderlust to Thijs and Isis, the move to the South of Bali after wonderful years in the North in our own Villa Bloom.
But with respect to the smaller things I realized and recognized that I can be a more involved father, more present in the now and more flexible. Which values do I want to instill? Is there consistency or some inconsistency between my intentions and my actions?
Although I work in a relatively flexible schedule, I do make a quite some hours and the time difference with Europe regularly means that I miss some ‘after school’ time with Isis and Thijs because I am caught up in Skype calls. And, often my thoughts are somewhere else when I am with the kids, adding things to my to do list in my head or quickly reacting to something on my smartphone. You probably all know what I am talking about.
Yesterday I thought let’s take more – often small – opportunities to support my kids in whatever they like to see me, or get my help on. I decided to be present at the Olympic games at school today from start to finish including opening and closing ceremonies to watch Isis and all other children making their sportive efforts and having fun. I could easily have filled that time with my work, or writing this blogpost, or all else that is screaming for attention. But I didn’t. I was there, and Inge had made the same decision that I only found out this morning. And it’s been noticed by Isis that we were there, I can’t get her happy face out of my head. And you know what… I loved it.
We haven’t gone the usual story, as we took our children out of the safe context and social structure that we had in the Netherlands, and put ourselves on the path of adventure. We have put a huge responsibility on our own shoulders because you never know how things will play out when you make such bold moves that we did. We didn’t travel to Asia for an expat job, we came to Asia as a life adventure. We wrapped other decisions around it. And although we have some doubts sometimes, almost every day it feels good and in line with our destination as individuals and as a family. But it’s the small interactions and attention on a daily basis that matters as much, and intuitively we can feel exactly where we are. I learn a lot from Inge in that sense, with her framework for a balanced life. I feel satisfied now and I know there will be many small next opportunities daily to play the father that I want to be!