Family, Vocation, Community

Friday 26th August, 2016                                                      

Today at the meet and greet at the children’s new school The School of Understanding (SOU) I felt alienated because of not understand the language. I thought the school is supposed to be bilingual, as such I would expect some degree of translation for non-Dutch speaking parents. While the director presented the vision of the school to us, the children went off to their respective classes for an hour. They were both very scared, but managed. The school will allow them half days for a few weeks, which is good. They need a gentle start. I had not intended for them to have to start school so quickly after arriving here, but I guess it is out of my control. The Dutch are very strict about school attendance. They police school holiday leave and families travelling outside of curriculum holidays can be fined heavily. It’s a stark contrast to our lives in Australia where we’re free to home school.

After our introduction to SOU we rented bikes and rode around Vondelpark. Gabriel said ‘Mummy, it’s like we’re riding on flying horses,’ it just felt so good to him. It was liberating to ride around the park in sunny weather after days of over-exposure to urban life, endless trams and walking everywhere. The children have had to contend with tagging behind me while I run around getting stuff for our new house and visiting the consulate to obtain our residency permits, and so on. Moving countries is intense and quite stressful. Of course, it is also an enormous privilege to do it the way that we are doing it. That is, not as refugees, or under the auspice of ‘terrorism.’

I’ve been tough on the children at times in this move, I guess because I’ve been put out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I see myself overly stressed, too quick to anger. I see the influence of my father – the bull-cow. I will have to learn to hold my temper better. It’s true that I am very loving and nurturing too. Better sleep is the answer. And in order to sleep well it’s necessary to exercise well and eat well. 

Jon says he loves the children and me and that he works these hours because he loves us so much. I guess I could see it a bit more his way and be kinder to him, rather than make his excessive working and screen time mean abandonment. He is drinking a lot here, perhaps to combat stress. I’m not convinced that city life is conducive to a healthy lifestyle for anyone. I can’t see this as more than a short stint in our lives, although I’m seduced by the idea of living in Continental Europe, particularly because of the proximity to the Mediterranean. I vacillate.

I wonder what success is? I guess it’s different for everyone. For me it is three things: 1. A joyful and loving family life whereby we all thrive independently as well as foster wonderful relationships with each other (Plus, a magnificently home and garden/ a space to hold the gezelligheid). 2. Having a vocation, doing beautiful work and rolling out an excellent oeuvre. 3. Fostering a wonderful community around my family (including school). I would like to start a gezelligheid community dinner here on a monthly basis, rather than on a weekly basis like we did back at home with our hygge dinners. Jon and I desperately need a fortnightly date night too.

Having completed my doctorate in creative writing recently (and on the back of my Masters in Creative Arts) I’m in a transition space. I need to get to the next level, which is publishing in book form. I need to learn to champion myself to follow my dream and keep doing great work on an ongoing basis. It is only through championing myself that I’ll be able to champion my children to fully become themselves and pursue their dreams in life. At any rate, I will try to realise these three goals in my life time, perhaps in the time I’m here in Amsterdam: family, vocation, community.