Category Archives: accepting who you are

Wanderlust and the need for a routine

I suppose it was in some sense unavoidable for me to become a traveller at heart. Being born into a family of restless people I had to at least be somewhat affected. As it was, my lust for travel and adventure was planted in me even before I could walk. Perhaps even before I was born. My parents have always been keen travellers and did quite a lot of adventourous travelling before they had kids.

Especially my dad is restless at heart; he has an unsatiable need to wander. My mum is surely the more grounded of the two. Actually, she probably would not have travelled as much if it wasn’t for my dad. My dad always wanted to see the world from the sea side so when he had managed to persuade my mum to sail across the Atlantic with him as deckhands on a sailing boat he was naturally delighted. My mum less so. She likes sailing as long as the winds are calm and the waters glossy. Thus, she spent most of her deckhand time trying to cope with overwhelming nausea while my dad enjoyed himeslf immensely.

I was only a baby when I went on a sailing boat for the first time. The boat’s name was YoYo and my dad’s very first own sailing boat. He bought it before he even knew how to sail properly, but that was no hindrance to him. His philosophy was learning by doing and it seemed to work out fine for him.

Since then my dad bought an old ship carcass in Greenland while we were living there and worked on it for several hours every day until it was ready to sail. We then spent our summers sailing around the Greenlandic seas in The Northern Star as the ship was called. We also had a small speed boat that my sister and I practically grew up on, spending our summers sailing around the Greenlandic archipelago, fishing, and going camping on the islands. I remember those summers as truly magical.

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A on my brother’s and dad’s new boat, Starlet

I was a mere two months old when I sat feet on my first airplane. Going from Denmark to Greenland, where we were going to live for the next 4 years and where my sister was born.

My first actual memory from Greenland is one of trying to reach a keyhole that was exactly out of my reach with a key I had been given by my mum upon insisting on going home to bed while my parents were visiting a friend and talking boring adult talk. I was two years old. My mum had given me the key and let me go while secretly following me home at a safe distance. I remember desperately reaching for the keyhole while eventually peeing my pants and starting to cry.

My mum was surely very quick to come to my aid. Much quicker than my memory tells me; all I remember is reaching for that keyhole on a light Greenlandic summers evening and not being able to reach it. That’s my first memory of wandering into the world on my own. And the need has stuck with me.

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into the wilderness

The need to explore and to be in unknown places and situations. It is not because I love being uncertain about things and not knowing what things are going to be like. It is more of a feeling that I need more experience. That I still don’t know enough about life to be able to live it fully. But when I travel it is as much a journey inwards as a journey out into the unknown.

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an unknown situation all right

Travelling for me has changed over time. Travelling with A is a completely different experience from travelling on my own when I was younger. I think I have only really settled into travelling since I started travelling with A. It started with small trips when she was just a baby. We would take the train to Rostock in Germany to visit my friend, we would go sailing with the family, or taking small 1 to 2 week trips to other places in Europe.

My motivation for travelling with A is surely to give her the possibility of gaining experiences from the world that are invaluable for her. But it is as much a believe that these experiences we have together might help tighten our bonds and be a guide to us in how to live our lives in the future in the sense that we are inspired and enriched by the people we meet, the places we go, the cultures we are fortunate enough to have a small taste of etc. And last but not least, it is a need to wander. Is it selfish of me to take my daughter travelling for long periods at a time? You could say that there is an element of selfishness in it. However, since nomadic tendencies are a part of my person, it would be to deny a whole part of myself if I were to not travel, and that in turn would be to deny A that part of me. For sure, travelling is an act of balancing, but so is any other part of life. And if we are able to balance our lives, to get equally the amount of time we need for ourselves, to process our experiences and to just live and equally the amount of adventure that fits us, then I believe that travelling is truly worth it.

Like everything else in life you become more accustomed to travelling over time. You settle into a more relaxed travel pace. A and I have managed to slow down enough that it feels like we’re not on the move constantly and that has been a big help for us in appreciating things and places more. I have discovered that we need at least a week to feel at home in a new place, and much likely longer. Granted, A and I are going home soon. A has made it very clear that 10 months of travel is enough for now. We have agreed that next time we travel we will stay even longer in each place. Go to fewer places and stay longer in each new spot.

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Machu Picchu in the sunshine is a magnificent sight

I suppose A will be inheriting at least part of my wanderlust as it would be almost impossible for her not to. On the other hand, she has been very good at raising her voice when she had enough of new experiences. And I think part of what this trip has taught us is to know when to slow down.

There will be other trips, perhaps shorter, perhaps longer, in the future. We will learn new things from these trips. But we will always be able to look back on our journeys so far and remember all the things we learned. About ourselves and about the world.

 

 

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La Paz, where everything is to be found

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La Paz. This 1,something million inhabitants city seems so much bigger than it is. It is a bustling metropolis; Confusing, noisy, smog filled, yet so welcoming, charming, and filled with wonder. Women in traditional clothing and the ever present bowler hat jut along the streets side by side with smartly dressed teenagers, businessmen, and raggy looking street performers.

You can get anything in this city. Markets practically overflow with clothes, food, juices, fruit, toys, mechanics etc.

The only thing missing here is wi-fi. We’ve been almost without wi-fi for a week. Unable to plan ahead our journey to Uyuni. We are leaving tomorrow. We don’t know where we will stay in Uyuni or what company we will go with to see the salt flats.

We live in a house in the northern part of the city. Close to the main road that runs through all of La Paz. It is noisy because of the constant stream of cars going by. But we have a kitchen and electricity, except for in the evenings. I have even been able to wash our dirty clothes in the sink out in the yard.

I am recovering from the stomach flu. Luckily it only lastet for one night. I don’t know what it was I ate. Maybe it was an orange juice from the market in El Alto, but I am not sure. By som impossible streak of luck A wasn’t affected. I guess she already had her bad luck when we took the bus from Lima. A was amazing the night I was sick. She padded my back and told me everything would be okay, she knew how terrible I was feeling. “Just let me know if you need anything, mom”, she kept telling me. My sweet A.

I washed my hair in a pot the other day. Our electric shower is boiling hot and it is virtually impossible to stand underneath the running water without getting scalded. I have been taking showers standing beside the running water using my hands to cover myself with water until they got too burned. A has decided not to try out the scalding water. I think it’s a wise decision.

We have been riding the teleféricos, wandering around downtown, going to markets and relaxing. A has enjoyed listening to audio books on her iPad. She has been enjoying our stay here more than I, I think. Her ability to settle in a place, even if it isn’t the most pleasant place we have stayed, is remarkable. She finds what feels good for her and then does that.

We met a woman in Morillo street who used to live in Denmark 20 years ago. She invited us into her home. But unfortunately she hasn’t been home the times we have tried to visit her. She spoke some Danish and wanted to speak some more with us, so as to awaken her knowledge of the language. These kind of things have been happening to us a lot. In Lima we met Daniel, a taxi driver, who let us ride with him for free and told us about his city. In Colca Canyon we met a Chilean family who gave us a bag of coca leaves because they were going back to Chile the next day. And in Arequipa we stayed with the most wonderful people one could wish for. So much friendliness and so much warmth and will to help. It is magic. Even in La Paz.

You may have noticed that La Paz isn’t my favourite place. But I think it could grow on me. If we stayed longer and perhaps in another place. But I still like it. The strangeness of the city, the surprising sights, the mountains that surround the city. Yet it also fills me with ambivalence. The stark contrasts between rich and poor, the many beggars on the streets, the hustlers, the corrupt police.

Our host is really nice. Adrian, he helps us whenever he has the time. He has taken us for salteñas and around town in his car. He has told us about his country. About Evo Morales and his desire to become a dictator, about the women wearing traditional clothes and coming to the city with their children in the months around Christmas to ask poeple for money, about El Alto and La Paz, about Sucre, and many other things.

A and Adrian have fun playing games in the evening and teaching each other Spanish and Dansih respectively. A’s English is so good she can easily hold a long conversation with someone. Her knowledge of Spanish is also growing. She uses little phrases and words in Spanish for fun when we talk, and she is curious about everything she sees and hears. It is truly a journey of learning and discovery that we have undertaken. For the both if us. We are learning about the world as well as learning about ourselves.

I am confronted with my fears often. People have told me I am brave for going on this journey. But I don’t feel brave. I am scared of so many things. Scared of the unknown. Even scared sometimes of asking for directions if I know I can’t ask in perfectly correct Spanish. But I am pushing myself through my fears, doing things anyway. And A is an ever present joy in my life, on our journey. So filled with joy, and wonder, and will to know. She is a delightful travel companion and I couldn’t wish for better company. I doubt I am as delightful to her sometimes. With my stressing about where to go, when to go, what to eat, and so on.

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a home cooked meal in la paz

I am still learning. And that is what counts. We are learning together. Living together. Travelling together. And we enjoy it ❤

Settling in the travel mode, or trying to take it easy

We have been in Peru for about three weeks now but it seems like much longer. All the places we’ve seen, all the people we’ve met and all the things that are so different and yet so similar.

I have still to get into the best suitable pace of travelling for us. It seems we haven’t yet found our right pace. And even though I am trying not to rush things it seems I can’t completely let go of the voice in my head telling me to figure out where to go next. So many places to see, so many places to go, so many things to do, and so little time.

Yet I am coming to the conclusion that travelling is not about going to as many places as possible as quickly as you can. Or rather, I already knew that, so the conclusion is that travelling is about feeling at home where you are. Being content with where you are and what you are doing. I know this intuitively. But why is the rushing so hard to shake?

It seems A is a much better traveller than I. She is where she is, whether it is a crowded combi bus in Arequipa’s crazy traffick or a quiet restaurant in downtown, or somebody’s kitchen etc. She settles where she is and lives in the now. It is wonderful to see her doing that. Not changing her ways no matter where we are. But growing with the person she is.

Still I can’t help but wonder how it may feel for her. Does she have enough time to savour all the moments. To process all the inputs that she gets. I am not sure I myself have had enough time so far. I am wondering if maybe Peru has too much to offer for two such dreamy souls as A and myself. If maybe the vastness of this country’s culture and geographic offerings is too much for us to handle. One single country and SO many treasures. It is absolutely overwhelming.

Even the people who live here that we have talked to say there are SO many things to see in Peru you wont be able to do everything in an entire lifetime. And I agree.

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upon climbing a small mountain in Arequipa
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A has an eagle (I think) on her head

So, it is with the knowledge that our travels are not going to show us everything, nor are they supposed to, rather, they are going to let us grow as people, open up our minds and hearts, and give us unforgettable memories, that I post this. And I am happy about that.

The trouble with gender roles

All men are liars, said Roberta Muldoon, who knew this was true because she had once been a man. – John Irving, The World According to Garp

A likes to dress up. She has always liked role play and enjoys it very much to this day. She will dress up as anything. It could be a polar bear, a turtle, a witch or Harry Potter. She just likes the feel of trying out different roles. She does not distinguish between what is ‘girlish’ and what is ‘boyish’ she just dresses up however she feels like. And this gives her a freedom to pursue different kinds of expressions that I believe are very valuable for her.

She has always liked to paint herself with the designated face pencils I’ve bought her and lately she has taken to experimenting with my make up. I very rarely wear make up but I have a few items I have picked up through the years. A will spend hours in the bathroom painting herself with lipstick, rouge or different eye shades. She uses the colours differently than I would have done and usually paints her whole face. Then she comes out for me to admire her art work.

I have been ambivalent as to whether I should talk to her about natural beauty and how make up really isn’t necessary when you’re young (or ever). But I have resolved to thinking I shouldn’t try to persuade her one way or the other. I’d much rather she experiments from time to time because she enjoys dressing up and painting her face than I’d want her to feel like it’s not okay to try to express yourself in certain ways.

It is a controversial subject around here. There are many different approaches to make up, from totally banning it until the children are teenagers to encouraging your child to wear it. But I don’t want to do any of these things since I think banning it puts a certain value into make up that has you thinking it is something you wear when you are older for reasons yet unknown and it makes it a kind of forbidden pleasure. And encouraging it is just weird. I think it is problematic to put that kind of value into make up when obviously one should only wear it if one feels like it. No matter one’s age, or gender, or orientation.I would never tell A she can’t paint her face. I wouldn’t tell A she couldn’t paint her face if she was a boy either. I think it is paramount to be free to experiment and express yourself in all kinds of ways growing up. It is here the foundation is laid for how well you know your own preferences when you are older.

A doesn’t only like to dress up and paint her face. She likes all kinds of activities. Tree climbing, biking, swimming, playing video games, watching movies, reading books, roller skating, playing with lego, playing with dolls, slacklining, ballet etc. etc. These are activities that many children like (and grown ups too for that matter). And I think they are activities that all children should be able to try out to the extent they wish. I have never put emphasis on a certain activity because I thought that would be more suitable for A to do given her biological sex. I want A to be free to engage in whatever activity she chooses so that she can try out everything she wants to to see if she likes it and what she likes the best. How else will she learn what feels good for her?

When A was born I had chosen not to know her sex because I didn’t want to have any preconceived ideas about my child or any preconceived expectations about what kind of person she would be. Many people choose to know their child’s gender beforehand for different reasons but some because then they can buy clothes of the ‘right’ colour and gender specific toys and so on. I didn’t want to do that. In fact I think it’s scary how much emphasis is put on dividing people based on their gender. It still shocks me to hear the expressions a ‘girl’s colour’ and a ‘boy’s colour’ used even though I’ve heard it many times. And most children in the Western world are exposed to this kind of language from the moment they are born.

A loves her short hair. She has tried growing it longer on several occasions but she always ends up cutting it off. She cuts it herself and she is always thrilled by how it looks and feels afterwards. She likes short hair. But she dislikes when people mistake her for a boy. And I am always surprised that people consequently do this because of her short hair. I can see how sometimes you might think she’s a boy. But always? And always because of her short hair? There is a notion here (in Denmark at least) that young girls have long hair. As a matter of fact, all the other girls we know who are A’s age have long hair. I am not bashing long hair (my own hair is long) I am merely pointing out that there is a norm here that could make it difficult to do things differently. Also, we know very few young boys who have long hair, though I think it is more common than the young-girl-short-hair scenario.

In our society, especially through mainstream media, we are constantly target for extremely stereotypical, sexist, patriarchal etc. narratives about gender and gender roles. I am appalled by some of the TV shows that A sometimes watches and, alas, really likes. But I don’t want to tell her what to watch and what not to watch. And don’t get me started on some of the commercials that mix in with her games on the ipad. It. Is. Terrible. The way gender is portrayed as a completely defining character trade. This way of talking about gender is so inherent in our language use I think a lot of people don’t even think about it. Of course one way to be rid of this particular issue would be to not have a TV (it is actually not something we have had for that long and we are considering selling it) and to not use electronic devices like ipads and computers etc. I have a lot of thoughts on this matter, but since this post is not about that I will not get into it here.

As a parent I think it is important to be aware of these stereotypical narratives. At least so that I can talk to my child about them and let her know that we are all different people with different ideas and preferences. And you don’t have to act a certain way or wear certain clothes just because you are a girl or a boy. I hope that if we talk about it often enough and I am able to convey the necessary knowledge about stereotypes and gender roles, that A will feel equipped to follow her own path. And that she will have a strong enough foundation to not conform to any restrictive and rigid norms.

I am no expert on this subject and I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes, though I probably am stepping on some (but then I hope they are the right ones. Wait, what?) I simply think we should be aware as parents, and as people in general, what kind of signals we send to our children. There is nothing wrong with talking about feminine or masculine character traits or subscribing more to one than the other. It is the conformity that is problematic. If we teach our children to conform to certain behaviours or looks because we think that is more appropriate given their biological sex I am afraid we could possibly damage their self esteem.

Say you are a girl with short hair who likes to run around naked in your back yard in the rain and shout loudly (enter A). Shouldn’t you be able to do this without anyone raising an eyebrow? Granted, this is a funny image and of course you’re allowed to be amused. But don’t be offended. Or say you’re a boy with long hair who likes to wear a skirt and play with dolls (enter….anyone…hello?) shouldn’t you be able to do this without anyone making fun of you? I think you should.

I loathe expressions like ‘be a nice girl’ or ‘you are my big, strong boy’ for many reasons. For starters it is completely condescending and totally manipulating, but it is also sexist. And that is probably the worst part.

Another aspect of this is how we talk to our children, especially girls, about beauty. I try to be very conscious about how I talk to A about beauty. I think it can be potentially problematic to put too much emphasis on looks. There is nothing wrong with talking about beauty of course, but putting too much emphasis on it could, for young children, devalue other, just as important, if not more important, features. Beauty is not a character trait. It is external. And it cannot be defined just like that. Beauty has a thousand different expressions and all colours and shapes. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. And there is nothing wrong with talking about beauty. Surely, the beauty of our world is something worth talking about. But there could be something potentially wrong with how we address our children on the subject.

If, for example, a young girl is always told how beautiful she is, what could this do to her self esteem? Could it bring her to think she must always look a certain way to be beautiful, or that beauty is what makes her valuable, or that beauty, in and of itself, is something she must strive to be all the time? And what about the young boy? Does he also want to hear how beautiful he is?

I don’t have all the right answers here. Maybe not any of them. But I do know this. Gender roles are to be questioned and devalued not conformed to. And we can best do this by starting with how we communicate with our children about them.

What are your thoughts on gender roles in our society?

Here is A in some of her many, wonderful expressions. I adore each and every one of them.

 

Loneliness

Loneliness is a terrible feeling. Yet most people know it. Loneliness is an emotion that can manifest itself physically making the person who experiences it overwhelmed by sadness and desparation.

Loneliness has nothing to do with actually being alone. I have often been alone without experiencing a trace of loneliness. You can experience loneliness when you are in the company of others because it occurs when you are not able to talk to the people around you about how you feel and what you are thinking about or worrying about.

All people need good friends and strong, healthy relationships in their lives. The need for other people to listen and offer validation to your thoughts and feelings. And the need to be able to do the same for those people. This need is even described in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is very probable that if you don’t have this need fulfilled you will experience loneliness.

I have often talked to people whom I think of as intelligent (both emotionally and otherwise), funny, interesting, caring, attentive and many other things and had them express feelings of loneliness to me. I am always surprised because I can’t imagine that this person would feel lonely. But then again I am not so surprised because it is a feeling that prevails in our society. And I think it is an increasing tendency today. There are many examples that it is an increasing tendency but some of the examples are; the increasing number of young people who are experiencing emotional distress due to feelings of loneliness etc., increasing numbers of people who live alone, increasing numbers of attempted suicides amongst young people, increasing numbers of kids who are bullied in school etc. The list is long.

I am not saying that all this is caused by loneliness. To be sure I cannot know all the factors or even what role loneliness plays in these numbers. I can only know how common the feeling is, because I have talked to people who have felt it, and because I know what the feeling has done to me when I have felt it.

Unfortunately, loneliness is almost inevitable if you are a single parent who unschools. It is great to spend all day with your children. But you need the company of other adults whom you feel deeply connected with too. And it is hard to come upon if you are always parenting.

The few times a year that A goes to visit her biological father are not enough for me to seek out new and interesting and lasting and healthy relationships. More often those times are spent doing practical things, working or writing. Put simply; I spend those times alone. Because you also need solitude when you are a single parent.

Our society is not built in a way that makes it possible for single parents, or indeed any parents, to seek out new friendships or other strong relationships while at the same time parenting your children. The most it amounts to is chit-chatting for a few minutes with random people at the playground or the library or whereever else you happen to be visiting. And chit-chatting or small talking does not prevent feelings of loneliness.

Being an introvert myself I don’t even enjoy small talking. I can do it if the situation prescribes it, for example if I hitch a ride with someone I wont just sit there silently but rather chit-chat in order for the situation to run more smoothly. But it isn’t something I enjoy, except if I think that the person who picked me up is actually interesting. I hitched home yesterday from my parents’ place since A has gone to see her biological father. I was picked up by four different people and I had one remotely interesting conversation which ended before it had begun because the person had to drop me off since he wasn’t going any further.

The things is, western societies are not built in a way that aims at preventing loneliness. How can they be if the sole purpose of the state and the great capitalist institutions is to make good consumers and to control citizens? How can people/children learn to talk with and listen to each other when it isn’t taught in schools? How will children learn to build healthy relationships when noone is there to teach them?

As a single, unschooling parent I am struggling with strong feelings of loneliness from time to time since I have no like-minded community to turn to where I live. I am working hard so that A will be better at forming healthy relationships and seeking out community in the future and be better suited for this than I have been myself. The best way I can do this is by being there for her, validating her feelings and thoughts, creating a respectful environment for her to grow up in and being as authentic as I can be as a person.

To be that I need to validate myself as well. But that is an entirely different subject.

What are your thoughts on loneliness?

Achievement is not everything, not even close

There is an emphasis on achievement today that is completely out of proportions. Our lives, from the moment we are born, focuses almost solely on what we achieve. Who we are is pinned on what we have accomplished and we learn to narrate about ourselves in a way that puts emphasis on what we do and all the things we have done and are planning to do.

It is as if achieving (exceptional) things has become a goal in itself and while it isn’t per se a bad thing to achieve things there is a problem with the way we value what a person has achieved or what a person does. It creates a believe that the goal is to accomplish something and that the process is not important and this is a mistake.

When something interests A she will pursue it with the kind of enthusiam that characterises a child. Immediate, strong an undenying. She can have enthusiasm for something for a short period of time or for a longer period. It all depends on her mood, what it is she is doing, the setting and lots of other things. The main importance of being free to occupy your mind and body with what you find interesting is that you do it because you are motivated to do it. You don’t do it to gain recognition.

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museum of natural history
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a big block of ice
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pouring water down a hole

The problem with doing something with the sole purpose of gaining recognition for the outcome is that the sort of recognition you get is usually based on the set of values that dominates our society today. At least in great parts of the world, and definitely in the Western societies those values focus on achievements mostly and for a great part academic achievement. I am not saying there is anything wrong with academic or any other kinds of achievements. What I am saying is that these aren’t the only skills we should pay attention to. There are MANY more skills that are of equal importance to the well-being of our society as a whole and to the well-being of individuals. All kinds of skills are needed if we want a harmonic society. And if we place too much emphasis on a certain set of skills a huge part of ‘lesser valued’ skills are going to be forgotten or abandoned. As of now a great deal of very important skills have already been forgotten or abandoned. For example the knowledge of how to grow your own food. This is not something that is taught in school, at least not in Danish public schools. One could suspect that this isn’t knowledge the powers that be would like children to have.

The process, which is the part where you learn things is also forgotten if the focus is mainly on the goal. There goes pondering, contemplating, re-focusing, changing your mind etc. all down the drain. These are important things to go through in order to find out what you actually like to do.

I hope that providing A with the freedom to choose what she wants to do and not putting more value into certain (more academic) things she does can help her to develop the skills she feels she needs at a certain time and the confidence to pursue them.

The freedom assigned to her to abandon any project she may have started and pick up a new one provides her with the confidence to start new projects because there is no pressure to finish a project she may have lost enthusiasm for. As a parent I sometimes have to remind myself that this is a good thing. On many levels this is a good thing. It is a good thing because the initiation of a new project (this doesn’t have to be some kind of huge accomplishment. For all I know it could be blowing up a balloon) comes from the ability to come up with ideas which come from her own head. Ideas that have not been put there by somebody else. This is not to say that being inspired by others is not a good thing; it can be a very good thing. It is also not to say that coming up with ideas is a goal in itself. What I am pointing to, really, is the importance of being able to trust yourself and your own abilities and to feel comfortable with your own abilities. That is what I hope for A to be able to do.

If you are not all the time reminded to think that there are some things you do that are better to do than other things you will not automatically value your own accomplishments all the time. What you do will not be the core of who you are. The things you do are a part of who you are of course, but they shouldn’t define you as a person. And they certainly shouldn’t define some people as ‘better’ than others.

A while ago A was very into playing the ipad. Especially the game hay day which, as far as I know, is about getting your online farm to flourish by developing it in all kinds of ways. You have to sell stuff in order to earn money to buy other stuff that you can use for improving your farm and so on. Well, while I am not always myself that enthusiastic about playing video games I do understand the value of having an interest in a particular game. I see that she is really into it. She is on skype chatting to friends about what she needs to buy and sell etc. and she tells me about how she just set up a new machine on hay day and so on. Thus, there are many more aspects than the game itself to playing this game.

As a parent who has been schooled all my life I sometimes find it hard not to judge her activities and interests exactly because I myself have been put through the whole system of value and judgement that the educational system is. It is a system that wants to mold you and put you in a box from a very young age and people are so used to being judged that by the time they finish school they are judging themselves just as harshly.

The importance of moral support from loved ones

Spending time with loved ones is something that means a lot to us. In everyday life we are just two people in our immediate family, A and I. We really enjoy being just the two of us. No question about it. We are used to spending our days in each others company and we are very good at getting out and about when we feel we need that.

But spending time with our loved ones, familiy and friends, always adds that very special feeling of being part of a bigger thing.

Stepping off the hamster wheel has not been an easy thing for me as a single parent. There is a lot of pressure on families with children in our society. Especially single parent families. Being a single parent with no other parent involved adds an extra difficult dimension to the role of the parent. You are the sole person responsible for your family’s well-being. That leaves a lot of single parents tied up in a tremendously hard game of survival and looking-your-best-while-your-doing-it. I am not just talking about the financial aspects, being able to provide for your family, mostly I am talking about the need for acceptance from the surrounding society, the need for moral support and people to talk to and to share your thoughts with. I have seen enough single mothers struggling to get by (somehow it’s usually mothers) to know what I am talking about. Well, I am one myself, so at least I know what am talking about.

When that kind of pressure gets put on someone it is hard to think outside the box. It is very difficult to realise that you can choose to step off. I know it took me a while. I was 25 when I got pregnant with A and I was doing my degree in English and literary history. I wanted to write and be in publishing. I finished my BA when A was just a baby and then chose to take a year off from my studies to work a little and be more with A. When I finally finished my masters I was 31 and had been schooled for about 20 years of my life!

A was five when I decided to pull her out of kindergarten and actually let her live and learn at her own pace. This was a fantastic idea!

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Christmas 2013

But it was not an idea understood by everyone. Neither did I expect it to be. And it has been difficult at times to keep my head up and trust that I am making the right choices for the both of us.

An important ingredient to the recipe of following your heart is that people around you, that you love, support you in your choices.

There may be things that you do not agree on with the people you love. And certainly my family do not always think my choices are reasonable, they may even think some things I do are crazy, but ultimately I know they love and support me in the way I choose to live. That makes things easier when I am having those moments of doubt and despair that everyone has.

Supportive network is one of the most important things in terms of happiness. You need people around you who are understanding of the way you live your life and who encourage you when things are difficult. I am not talking about financial support here, that is an entirely different issue. I am talking about moral support. People you can talk to about the things that worry you or scare you or annoy you. The knowledge that someone will open their door for you and let you in when you have something you need to talk about. Community is always important of course, belonging is always important, but it is especially important when you step outside the norm and especially if, like me, you are a single parent with no partner.

There have been times when I have thought I couldn’t go on doing what I am doing. Times when I have had enough of all the questions about why? and what I do about socialization? and how will A learn this or that? And why don’t you want to have a real job? I actually get intruiged when people ask questions because that indicates interest. It is when people feel they have to express their own take on what I do and how I choose to do it that I feel annoyed. I don’t think it is anybody’s place to express their opinion about what I am doing until I ask their opinion. It is also not my place to judge their choices or tell them how wrong I think they are, unless they ask me.

Anyway, those times when you feel you’ve had enough of other people’s judgement or stupid remarks about how you live your life you feel very appreciative of being able to turn to the people you know have your back. They can kind of save your day ❤

We are lucky to have supportive family and friends. Perhaps they do not always agree on what we are doing and how we choose to live our lives but they are accepting and they understand that it is important for us to know that they are there for us.

Do I want my child to assimilate?

To answer the initiating question; NO!

When I first started looking for schools for A I was in a completely different mindset than I am in now. I was in the autopilot-mindset, the mindset of not-thinking-just-doing-what-everybody-around-me-is-doing-without-questioning, I was acting like a robot. What made me re-consider my previous form of action was of course not something entirely new to me. I guess I had been questioning how people act and react for a long time. As a child I know I did a lot of questioning. So, it wasn’t new to me to try and find different solutions. But what made me act on my questioning of my surrounding society was my master thesis.

I had decided to write about sensitive children since I was very inspired by Elaine Aron and since both I and my daughter are highly sensitive and since I am very interested in the way children grow up and react to their surroundings. I had to combine the subject of sensitive children with something having to do with Europe or a country in Europe since my major was European Studies so I chose to write about the upcoming public school reform in Denmark and how it could possibly affect what Elaine Aron calls highly sensitive children.

To sum up, the school reform in Denmark, which has recently stepped into effect, involves the idea of an all-day-school. Dear reader, if the notion of all-day-school does not ring an alarm in a parents ear I’d say the parent hasn’t thought about what this concept implies. Well, ALL my alarms were ringing loud and clear. There was clearly something wrong with this idea. The idea that children had to be in school for up to 8 hours a day compulsory. Starting at the age of 6. I am well aware that some countries have children starting school at the age of 4 and so on and try to guess what I think about that. The reform involved a lot of different technicalities such as the idea of inclusion, the notion that school is a place for everyone and so there were to be no more special classes for children with special needs – everyone had to be taught the same way (how do people get to the point where they think this is a good idea??), the idea that the kids did not have to be supervised by a teacher so the teachers could be substituted by nursery teachers while they tended to their other tasks (such as preparing classes etc.). There were LOTS of new ideas involved in the reform that I am not going to go further into here. In any case, the reform did not appeal to me. And it did not appeal to the teachers who were doing all they could to prevent the reform from being adopted. Sadly, the teachers did not succeed in preventing the reform. Partly, if not entirely, because of lacking support from their surroundings, especially from the parents of the children who would be the ones most severely influenced by the reform.

The mere idea of having to sit still for so many hours listening to what someone else thought appropriate knowledge I was already having a hard time thinking about how A would react to. And the idea that she would have to sit there with 28 other people who probably didn’t want to sit there either… the idea just did not appeal to me. So I was adamant that A was not going to go to a public school since they had all just been made worse than terrible. Hence, I started looking for private schools. I investigated the Steiner philosophy and liked a lot of the ideas, I talked to people who had had experience with Steiner schools and found that many children had had terrible experiences at Steiner schools, including mobbing and ridiculing. A and I visited a few schools and I continued my investigations into which school would be better for her.

As I did my investigating I started looking into alternative ways of schooling, I read a lot of material online. I became a member of the online community mothering, which is a wonderful community where lots of inspiration can be found. I started reading John Holt’s work, I found out there was something called unschooling, I started reading books about unschooling and reading blogs about it, I found out people were actually doing it all over the world. There were even families in Denmark doing it!

That’s when I decided that there was NO reason A should go to school, no reason for her to be forced to learn. She already was learning all the time. I took her out of kindergarten and we began our unschooling journey together.

Then came all the questioning from my surroundings; how will she learn this and that? what about her social skills? (this one is a killer!) what do you do all day? isn’t it boring? where are the challenges? how about your economy when you don’t work? (this is actually my biggest challenge since I don’t always get a lot of work as a freelancer), what if she wants to go to the university? and so on.

I have learned to answer respectfully but I would like to answer with a little more bite. I would like to be able to move the focus to what is actually wrong with schooling. Why am I not the one questioning my surroundings? I suppose you can say that I am doing that just by my presence as an unschooling single mum.

I have thought about some of the questions I could ask back: why is it important to assimilate? why do you want your child to learn reading at age 7? why is it good to be surrounded by peers for 8-10 hours a day? why is it healthy to be ‘socialized’?, when do you talk with your child?, what do you and your children do ‘for fun’?, what do you have to do to ‘learn’?, how are your mornings?, how are your evenings?, do you like your job?, could things be different?

These are questions that I often wonder about and that I think are appropriate to ask people who ask me the previous questions. Not merely to get an answer, since I suspect I know some of the answers already but simply to get a different perspective on things. Maybe get people to think a little about how they do things. It is in the process of questioning things that you start to have new ideas. And this is where the going gets REALLY interesting!

So, I suppose what I wanted to say with this post is; ask away!

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Free birds

About enjoying the moment and letting go of your fears

We are still in Koh Samui but in a different location. I chose to move to a less crowded beach and it was a good choise. We now live in simple beach huts again which is much to our preference. When we get here A immediately starts unpacking while she muses on how we’ve come to our new home. She empties our backpacks and finds room for our clothes on the shelves. We sit down on our porch and enjoy the beautiful scenery hot and exhausted from our long walk to our bungalow from the main road. We muse over the birds and tiny lizards we see and contemplate going for a swim. I love when A is excited about something. She gets a special look in her eyes and her whole body beams with excitement and happiness. I just love this moment and I know that moments like these are worth it all.

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A found a huge bamboo stick when we went to buy supplies. She had to bring it back home
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If only I knew how to cut and eat jackfruits. They are right there for the taking
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Impressive trees
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Care for a banana?
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Sharing a water melon

Our best moments are always when nothing is planned out. When we just go with the flow. When we enjoy the moments for what they are. A seems to be doing this regardless. But I have to let go of my inner planner and my fears. It is somehow always easier to let go when you’re on the road since none of the daily humdrum from back home gets in the way but it still takes a lot of effort for me. And when you are travelling other fears and questions show up like where will we go next?, is it going to be safe?, what kind of people will we meet? Most of the fear is not actual fear but plain anticipation which in my case sometimes will turn into worries or fears. It is something I have always had to work with. It is about letting go in my case. Trusting that I will be able to handle the situations we get into and taking responsibility for the situations we do get into. It is one thing about travelling alone with my child that I think is so much more challenging than anything else. I have noone to consult with. Nobody who listens to my worries, even if they are sometimes irrational. It is definitely the hardest thing about travelling without another adult partner.

When I do let go, however, things always turn out fine and we are having a wonderful time.

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Maenam beach, Koh Samui
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A found a coconut
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Mango shake – yummy!

Thoughts on beauty: why does it play such a big role?

‘Okay’ my friend said to me as we were carefully walking on the icy pavement ‘if you could change ONE thing what would it be?’ She said it with a kind of daring that implied I wouldn’t know what to say anyway. Well, I wouldn’t change just one thing would I – that would look strange. I’d change multiple things starting with my nose, which I would make smaller and narrower. Then I would make my cheekbones higher, my mouth slightly bigger, same with my eyes and I’d make my forehead a bit taller. I was complaining to her about my looks. We had just been to the cinema and seen some of all those beautiful people that star in movies and that kind of beauty almost always makes me feel slightly envious. At 33 I haven’t yet come to terms with how I look. Exactly because I never thought I was pretty enough.

Beauty comes in many shapes for sure. But here I am adressing the standardized image of beauty that is plastered all over our billboards and our screens. The image that covers the front page of our mainstream beauty magazines. The image that crawls into cartoons and toys and every movie or tv-series we watch. We all know what beautiful looks like.

This post is about women because I have a woman’s perspective on this issue and because I mostly know of women who have these concerns. Admittedly, I am generalising a lot since it is not a post about diversity it is a post about the mainstream beauty ideal and how it affects women and girls. Because, lets admit it, it does affect women more than men. It is a rare woman who is completely satisfied with how she looks. Some women, I feel confident saying, are less concerned with their appearance than others. Either they are what has been termed ‘classically beautiful’ and have a natural beauty about them that they have been complimentet on all their lives or they are confident and have a healthy relationship with their bodies and their looks, which make them attractive even if they are not ‘classically beautiful’. The last ones are probably the luckier ones since I know very beautiful women who still do not think they are pretty enough. Because in the end it is probably more about self-esteem than anything else.

I am neither of those women though. I am ordinary looking and my shy personality does not help my looks. I have always looked quite ordinary and was not one of those girls who was always told how beautiful I was. I looked plain as a child too. Then again, I was not concerned with appearence as a child. Beauty was never a big thing at my house. My parents did not put a big emphasis on it. They did not dress me or my sister up or tell us we were pretty little girls or princesses. I don’t think it was a consciuos choice my parents made to not emphasize beauty, they simply did not pay attention to the matter. So we never worried about looks. But we also never got a chance to explore it.

As a young child my hair was cut in a boyish short hairstyle that actually made people think I was a boy. I don’t think I minded my hairstyle but noone ever asked me if that was actually the hair I wanted. I was a tomboy so I probably did not seem very girlish but I remember feeling frustrated when grownups thought I was a boy. That said, I think I was mostly happy and carefree not having to bother with being a pretty little princess (or not being one). And I never worried about my looks. All that came later on. But of course I had a sense of what beauty was, I saw it everywhere in my surroundings. When I looked at my barbie dolls I instinctively knew that they were beautiful. I saw my mother’s women’s magazines and knew that the models in them were beautiful. As I have mentioned I am talking about the standardized image of beauty that has been chosen over a long period of time mainly by the media and the movie industry but also by people in general. This standardized image is quite stereotypical even if it changes a little over time or if sometimes a different looking beauty arrives on the scene. The image features certain measures and certain bone structures that are required to be considered ‘classically beautiful’. I knew that Sophia Loren was beautiful even if I didn’t know who she was and that some of the girls from my school were ‘very very pretty’ because everyone thought so.

My parents never seemed concerned with beauty. They let me wear what clothes I wanted and mainly put an emphasis on the clothes being practical. I don’t remember having any desire ever to wear fancy dresses. My own daughter is quite a lot more fancy in her style of dress than I was. I have had to swallow my ideals and I have even changed my mind on the subject since I first became a mother. I started out being absolutely adamant I would not put any emphasis on looks what so ever. I would not encourage dressing up and I would not use certain words like ‘pretty’, ‘cute’ or ‘beautiful’ and I would not under any circumstances say that this and that is a girls colour and this and that is a boys colour and so on. I would not put emphasis on superficial things like looks and clothes or encourage certain types of behaviour by attributing value to them. While I think there is a lot of wisdom to this ideal and while I do my best not to judge certain behaviours or attribute value to others I think there should be room for my daughter to explore being girly. I don’t want to take that away from her and not let her dress up if that is what she wants. There should be room for her to explore her own beauty and to feel like a princess and look like one. There should be room for her to find her own ground and define herself what beautiful is. Whether it is wearing a fancy dress or running around in a jumpsuit.

We recently went to a wedding anniversary party and she chose to wear an epic pink robe that she had acquired for christmas. She looked very pretty. The pride with which she carried herself and the delight she took in being perfectly dressed up like a princess indeed made her look adorable. She was by far the most dressed up female at the party as well as the youngest. And she dressed up exactly because she wanted to. Not for everyone else. Just because she wanted to look like a princess who was going to a party. She was also sporting a little bit of her grandmother’s lipstick and a touch of rouge. But that did not keep her from playing hide and seek or play wii and eating a ton of bread. She was still herself, my A.

The point I am trying to make is that since we cannot avoid the standardized image of beauty maybe we can find a way to work around it or live with it. Maybe we can find a way to talk to our children about it to make them realize that beauty does come in many shapes and that even if beauty is a BIG thing it is not EVERYTHING and that even though some people think we ought to look a certain way maybe they are not always right. But of course it takes work. We need to be able to accept ourselves and how we look in order to make our children feel good about themselves too. Especially our girls, since they are the ones most vulnerable when it comes to beauty and standardized images.

Sorry for the rant. I hope at least some of it makes sense. And I apologize for everything that is missing in this post. There were a lot of more things I thought about saying. But maybe they’ll follow in another post.