Not a Babysitter!

I met our neighbour, an old Taiwanese guy, in the afternoon.

He: “Hello! Aren’t you going to work?

Me: “No, these days I am not working. I am taking care of my daughters!

He: “Ah! Babysitter!

Me: “No! I am their father!

He: “Yes! Babysitter!

At that moment I felt slightly upset without clearly knowing why. Yet, it was easy for me to forgive him right away, because he is an old Taiwanese guy who doesn’t know it better. Most men, here, are not involved in raising little children, it is completely on the Moms, often with the help of the Mom’s mother or mother-in-law. When fathers or grandfathers are contributing anything, it is mostly really just some supervision, playing, or taking the kid to the playground (babysitter job, indeed). Bathing babies, preparing food, changing diapers, putting them to bed – no way!

When Tsolmo was born, my wife stayed at her parents’ place for the first 40 days. Her Mom made food (special regenerative maternity meals) and bathed Tsolmo. This time, with Ana, my wife stays at our home and I do everything (plus entertaining and containing Tsolmo). When my mother-in-law heard that, she didn’t agree to it. She gave us money for hiring a household helper. Fortunately, I could convince my wife that we don’t need that! This really would have made me upset! I am not such a fool that we need a stranger to take care of MY daughters, do our laundry and keep the house clean! As a compromise, we ordered maternity food from a delivery service, because I am not very familiar with what kind of dishes a Mom needs after giving birth.

So far, 18 days after Ana’s birth, I still enjoy my role as father of two. My wife regenerates very quickly, has good mood and a reasonable mind. Ana is mostly sleeping and eating (breast-fed), doesn’t cry much, and obviously doesn’t have any trouble with anything. It is my job to give her a daily bath, which we both enjoy! Tsolmo needs most attention. She welcomed the new family member quite well and treats her with care and respect. Yet, I sensed a sign of jealousy recently: She wants to be carried much more than before June 12th, both at home and on the street or in the park. She didn’t realise her new role as the older sister, yet, but still wants to be the little one that is taken care of. But all in all, she is still an angel that is very easy to take care of!

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In this regard, I am happy we did not ask a household helper to come to our home! We don’t need help! The luxury that I, the father and husband, can be home and do everything has many advantages:

  • My wife feels comfortable and relaxed, because at home and with family (and nobody else) around, the environment to recover is the best!
  • Tsolmo grows up in a critical phase (the “terrible two” year) with her father around, being familiarised with the man of the house involved in housework and daily routines, therefore not developing a gender bias.
  • Tsolmo and Ana hear not only Mom’s Chinese, but also Daddy’s German! Tsolmo’s German was lagging behind the development of her Chinese, but recently it caught up rapidly!
  • I am very happy that I can bring in myself usefully, reduce the burden of my wife, feel like a real father, and spend quality time with my daughters! Yes, also bathing and changing diapers is quality time, because it is the best chance to form strong bonds with my kids!
  • We as a family create home, which is a constant process of momentary construction of atmosphere. If I was at work and instead an uninvolved household helper in our apartment, it would just not be the same!

I am not a babysitter! I am a father! One fourth of this family, with an important position to occupy and a role to play! For no money in the world would I want to miss this opportunity! I don’t say that from a selfish and egoistic perspective, but with the firm conviction that daughters want and need time with their father, and that wives are helped the most when their husbands are around as active and engaged parts of a family.

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Family complete!

What’s that? The name of the blog changed? Tsolmo and Ana? Who is Ana??

Surprise! Tsolmo got a baby sister! On June 12th at 9:35AM (Taiwanese time), Anasuya was born! A healthy girl, very tiny, but with greatness ahead! With her arrival, our family is complete!

chulai

More about Ana will follow soon. Currently, we are still in the hospital, my wife recovering from the C-section, Ana recovering from the shock of being ripped out of her comfort zone, Tsolmo trying to entertain herself and the entire hospital floor, and me trying to keep everything together.

Of course, everything I wrote so far as “letters to Tsolmo” may also be understood as messages to Ana! From now on, I use this platform to address both of them, unless I explicitly state it at the beginning of a post. For all other readers: I hope you will still find this blog or some of its posts entertaining and/or inspiring!

Die beste Mama!

[today in German, sorry!]

Liebe Tsolmo,

heute feiert Deine Oma ihren 70. Geburtstag. Leider konntest Du sie bisher noch nicht oft treffen (immerhin zweimal für jeweils einige Wochen), da wir in verschiedenen Ländern wohnen. Lass mich Dir aus diesem Anlass mehr über sie erzählen.

TsolmoOma

Deine Oma ist meine Mama. So wie Du Deine Mama lieb hast, habe ich auch meine Mama lieb. So wie Deine Mama natürlich die Beste ist, ist meine Mama für mich auch die Beste. Obwohl das natürlich kein Wettbewerb ist, habe ich dennoch sehr gute Argumente auf meiner Seite, wie ich finde:

  • Meine Mama macht die beste Erdbeermarmelade und überhaupt das leckerste Essen. Vor allem aus all den Früchten und Gemüsen, die wir im Garten hatten! Das führt direkt zum nächsten Punkt:
  • Meine Mama ist die fleißigste Mama von allen, und zeigt dabei enormes Durchhaltevermögen und auch Opferbereitschaft. Das Leben auf dem westfälischen Land war sicher nicht immer einfach, und auch nicht unbedingt ihre eigene Entscheidung, aber sie hat zum Wohle ihrer Kinder niemals aufgegeben, uns diese Kindheit zu ermöglichen! Dafür verdient sie ewige Dankbarkeit!
  • Meine Mama sieht auch mit 70 noch nicht wie eine “Oma” aus! Kerngesund, topfit, junggeblieben und kräftig. Vor zwei Jahren noch im Taiwanischen Gebirge gekraxelt, im Moment Vollzeitpflege Deiner Urgroßeltern – das zeugt von beeindruckender Agilität und Lebensenergie (körperlich UND geistig)!
  • Meine Mama zeigt ein hohes Maß an emotionaler Kompetenz. Natürlich werden Mamas manchmal sauer, so auch meine. Einmal, nachdem ich meine kleine Schwester (Deine Tante Julia) im Badezimmer angewiesen hatte, die gesamte Klopapierrolle abzurollen (weil das lustig war), hat sie mir eine Ohrfeige verpasst. Dabei ist ein bereits lockerer Milchzahn ganz abgefallen. Das war ein Schock für meine Mama, die sogar deswegen geweint hat (ob ihrer affektiven Gewalttat gegen ihren Sohn). Dies ist noch heute ein Thema bei Familientreffen, zeigt wie sehr sie dieses Ereignis bewegt hat, aber auch, dass meine Mama stets fürsorglich, liebend und emphatisch war und ist. Das habe ich als Kind natürlich gemerkt und hatte nie Zweifel daran, von ihr geliebt zu werden.
  • Meine Mama hat eine der wichtigsten Charaktereigenschaften, die ein Mensch für ein glückliches Leben braucht, in besonders ausgeprägter Form: Geduld. Ob bei Hand- und Hausarbeiten (beim Nähen, Stricken, Bügeln, Gemüseschneiden), bei Hobbies (Kaligraphie, Kartenspielen), in der Kindererziehung (wir brauchten ja auch manchmal etwas länger…), im Auto auf der Autobahn oder im Münsteraner Stadtverkehr, bei der Arbeit am Postschalter – meine Mama hat einen ausgezeichneten Umgang mit der Zeit, nimmt und lässt sich Zeit, gibt anderen Zeit, und hat “warten” niemals wie etwas Unangenehmes aussehen lassen. Besonders das Letztere hebe ich hervor, weil das für meine Entwicklung womöglich von entscheidender Bedeutung ist: Von ihr habe ich dieses “nicht-warten”, das “Sein-im-Hier-und-Jetzt” und dessen Vorzüge gelernt, was sicher auch dazu beigetragen hat, dass ich buddhistische Praxis und Lebenseinstellung attraktiv finde.
  • Meine Mama ist klug! Vernünftig, rational, pragmatisch, weitsichtig, und auch praktisch geschickt und versiert in allen Lebenslagen. Das mag sie von ihrem Vater (Deinem Uropa) gelernt haben, einem Inbegriff der deutschen Kantischen Verkopftheit. Während es Dein Uropa jedoch bisweilen arg übertrieben hat mit dem Ernst und der Erwartung an die Mitmenschen, doch bitteschön das Gehirn zu benutzen, hat meine Mama sich selbst und auch andere niemals so unter Druck gesetzt, sondern bei allem Geist auch den Spaß am Leben, den Sinn für die einfachen Alltagsfreuden (Kniffeln beim Nachmittagskaffee), die Wichtigkeit von Freundlichkeit, und den unbeschwerten Klönschnack mit Nachbarn und Freunden nicht vergessen.

1984-08 - with mother

Ich könnte natürlich noch mehr auflisten, aber ich will Dir ja auch die Freude nicht kaputtmachen, sie selbst bald besser kennenzulernen. Dann nämlich, wenn wir nach Deutschland ziehen und Du sie viel regelmäßiger treffen wirst. Meine Mama ist ein Familienmensch, und es wird ihr daher eine Riesenfreude sein, Dich und Deine Schwester beim Aufwachsen zu begleiten, zu babysitten, zu spielen, und noch mehr. Bis dahin wünschen wir ihr ALLES GUTE ZUM GEBURTSTAG und senden einen Brief voller Liebe und Anerkennung!

Happy 2nd Birthday

Dear Tsolmo!

Today is your 2nd birthday! For two years you breathe this planet’s air now, and you never stopped giving us maximum amounts of joy and amazement, triggering our unconditional love and endless happiness! Our angel! We celebrate you every day, but today is an opportunity to share the joy with everyone who wants to join in! Happy birthday, Tsolmo!

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It is also an opportunity to reflect on the past two years. Three things amaze me the most: your eating habits, your sleeping habits, and your health. They are so remarkable because I expected these to be the most difficult aspects of fatherhood, but they go astonishingly well!

I am in charge of your food, at least your regular meals. You eat everything I prepare for you! All the vegetables, fish and seafood, beans and grains, all the spices (Italian herbs, curry), Goji berries, etc. You love to eat fruits (especially bananas, guava, tangerines, apples, papaya, cherries, and even buddha heads!), and often prefer them over cookies or other snacks. We almost never have to throw away half-eaten meals, and you often don’t need any snacks between meals (except fruits). We seldom have “drama” at the dining table, and if so then because you want to play with toys or read books while eating which we sometimes don’t allow (for practical reasons). I am sure you get all the important nutrition in sufficient amounts so that we don’t need to give you any food additives. At the same time, you don’t eat too much fat or carbohydrates (sugar, starch, flour). You are physically very well developed and strong, also very active. Currently, your 92cm height and 13.4kg weight are at the upper range of 2-year-olds worldwide (according to a WHO table).

Besides the unproblematic eating behaviour, you also sleep extraordinarily well! We often put you to bed at 8pm or a bit later. Usually, you sleep latest at 9pm. You seldom wake up during the night. I mean, REALLY SELDOM! I can count the events with two hands, and all those happened during an illness. We can always sleep until 7am, at least, often even longer. Additionally, you have a nap of 90-120 minutes after lunch. I believe, this good sleep has several positive consequences, like a very stable temper, high mobility, activity and energy during the awake time, good attention and curiosity, good mood and playfulness!

Both, eating and sleeping, definitely have a positive impact on the third astonishing fact about your life so far: You have never been really sick. A few (maybe 5?) light illnesses (colds) with elevated temperature (which hardly count as ‘fever’) and runny nose. Teething hasn’t been any problem, you never (NEVER!) had any digestion problem like stomach ache (as far as we can tell) or diarrhea, you never vomited, you didn’t even have rashes on your butt! The worst problem you have to deal with is mosquito bites that we can’t prevent 100%.

Probably, all three aspects are connected and related. Good sleep means good activity. Good activity means good appetite. Good appetite means enough nutrition. Everything together means good health. Good health (physical and mental) means good sleep. And so on. I hope we (your parents) and you in cooperation can keep this cycle running for as long as possible!

2nd-birthday

My Misanthropy – 1. The Roots

I confess it: I am a misanthrope. Misanthropy is defined as hating people or mankind as such. Hate sounds a bit too strong to me. Yet, I can’t deny that my image of people and of mankind as a whole is very negative. I guess, that is a very important part of me, one that you (Tsolmo) will be exposed to sooner or later. Therefore, I dedicate this and the next five blog entries to this topic. I will start with an attempt of a short self-analysis to find out what made me a misanthrope. Then, I will reflect on friendship and on the idiocy of people. A four-dimensional model of responsibility will support my claim that we may expect more from people. Moreover, I will widen the scope from individual people and social collectives to mankind as such, examining anthropocentrism and the inevitable failure of the human race. The series can’t be complete without a link to Buddhism and its cure against hatred: compassion and loving-kindness.

It is important to point out one thing: I don’t suffer from it. I hate people because they lower my life quality, not because misanthropy is a kind of phobia, mania or psychopathic disease. Someone with arachnophobia usually doesn’t suffer from spiders themselves, but from the phobia that causes unpleasant states of mind in the presence of (harmless) spiders. Not spiders are the problem, but the phobia! These dispositions are irrational and the result of a malfunctioning or distorted psyche. Misanthropy is different. As I like to explain in this series, there are good rational reasons to justify a misanthropic mindset. The view itself doesn’t cause me any trouble. I don’t feel mentally exhausted, scared, or puzzled after moments in which misanthropy is manifesting itself. When people or mankind show their despicable features again, I feel rather confirmed in my misanthropy. Therefore, not misanthropy is the problem, but people!

quote-misanthropy

1. My Narrative

The first question is, of course, what the roots of my negative image are. I believe there are basically two influences: My experiences with being bullied and teased, and my upbringing in a very rational spirit (“If you just use your brain properly, you will never face any trouble!”).

I don’t want to blame it on the countryside. I don’t think rural people (at least in Germany) are different from city people. All kids are exposed to social interaction. Yet, living in the countryside might have had one significant impact: I could choose to live remotely in my own world. In this world, life was harmonious and simple. Out there, in the social world, at Kindergarten and primary school, and later at secondary school, life was not that easy. For a reason that I didn’t understand (and still don’t understand), other kids (mostly older boys) teased me. On the school yard, on the school bus, in the village. Maybe my introverted and shy character gave them the expression that I am weak and a good target for their fun. For me, it wasn’t fun, though. What’s wrong with those boys? Why can’t they just accept me and see my qualities. Being told that I am smart very often by parents and teachers, I liked to believe it. I was also able to build magnificent Lego castles and could even play drums. So, why the hell would they tease me? There was only one possible solution: They must be stupid. Unintelligent. Not able to see beyond the narrow margin of their stupid life. Not able to grasp the implications of their actions and words. Not able to see things from someone else’s perspective, from MY perspective! I assume, it was during those primary school years that I formed the strong conviction that being smart always results in being nice, and that people who are not nice and kind must, therefore, be utterly foolish and stupid.

This idea had a serious consequence, according to my logic: If everyone was as smart as I am, then the world would be full of nice and kind people, and there would be no bullying, no unfairness and injustice, no exploiting of the weak by the dominant people, no misery.

The teasing of the primary school village boys turned into bullying at the secondary school. Classmates – even those I considered my friends – had fun calling me “farmer”(even though my family didn’t have a farm, just a house in the countryside) and making nasty comments about it (like “Ew, there comes the farmer again, what a stink!” or “Will your father come to pick you up with your tractor?“). I hated that! Those spoiled city kids, what do they know?! In the countryside, I could play drums without bothering the neighbours, and I could even have my own country Pannonia! Why can’t they appreciate those benefits or even envy me for having that kind of awesome life, but instead have to make it look like I am a fool?! I was quite confident and knew that they are wrong. What bothered me more was: Why are they doing that? Again, there was only one plausible solution: They must be stupid! I started keeping track of my classmates performances with a little book like those used by teachers to note down marks and students’ performances. Florian made a stupid comment about my jacket: 6! Anika smiled at me: 1! Stefan wanted to know where I bought that new cool pencil case: 1! [Note: In the German school system, marks range from 1 (very good) to 6 (insufficient).] Then, at the end of the year, I knew who was my friend and who will not be my friend. It wasn’t that serious, I guess. For example, Florian (a real example) became my bandmate later, so I was obviously good at forgiving. Yet, it shows how serious this thing was for me, the 13 year old Jan.

I am not a psychologist. Maybe my retrospective analysis is simplistic and plain. Certainly, the logic that I am a misanthrope because classmates made stupid comments is fallacious and too simple. Yet, I believe that the discrepancy between my peaceful and idyllic countryside life and the unpleasantness that I was exposed to whenever having to deal with other people plays a very important role in developing this negative attitude towards people. A seed was planted: Be careful! Don’t trust anyone! People don’t have the capacity to understand you! See what stupid things they do all the time! This seed was watered at countless occasions! The boy scouts summer camp, the rock festival, the carnival parade, the local fairground, any public place – everywhere stupid people doing stupid things that make this world a worse place! Of course, this is not true, but this is what I perceived (and still observe). With this mindset, I retreated more and more into my world, delving into my hobbies with a rather small circle of close friends.

Another factor seems important: News. Problems everywhere! I didn’t mind poverty, crime and war. That was a human problem. But I was seriously concerned about the destruction of our planet by the human race. Loss of rainforest, pollution of air and water, destruction of landscapes by industry and agriculture. A life form that destroys its own habitat – how stupid is that? On top of that, the church (and religion classes at school) wanted to tell me that mankind is the crown of creation. What a bullshit! We are like a disease for this planet! This insight raised my misanthropy to the global level. Not only the idiots around me bother me, but mankind as a whole! Beautiful and innocent species go extinct because of human stupidity! The ecosphere suffers from the ignorance of men. There is a clear parallel to me suffering from the idiocy of people around me. I understood and felt for the planet! Both of us, Earth and me – that was utterly clear to me – would be better off without people!

I use the past tense because I thought like this at the age around 18. In parts, I still think like that, but in the meantime my thoughts and reflections became a little more sophisticated and differentiated. As I explained in the introduction, my misanthropy is not a misled sociopathy, but the inevitable result of my experiences and observations. Two problems arise from it: If I hate mankind (as in every human), how can I love you (and everyone who means something to me), or does it mean that I also hate you (and my wife, my friends, my parents, etc.)? And: If I am such a hater, wouldn’t it be better for society to get rid of me, or at least sanction my negativity and my insulting attitude?

The first problem: I find it totally legitimate and acceptable to make a clear distinction between the particular level (me and my personal relationships, interpersonal ties and emotional connections, etc.) and the general level (mankind). My capacity for love is not interfered by my misanthropy. I value my family and my friends with a healthy portion of emotions involved and with the moral integrity that may be expected from an educated member of society. Moreover, needless to say, my misanthropy is purely intellectual, but never violent, aggressive or attacking (neither with hands nor with words). I admit, I don’t care much about people dying in wars or in natural disasters as long as I don’t know them. But I will, of course, to the best of my abilities, always protect you (Tsolmo) and my dear ones from any danger, harm or threat. More about that later!

The second problem: You (the reader) may find it disturbing that I judge you as stupid even though I don’t know you. I said it, right?: Everyone is stupid! How offensive! You may give me animal names or use other swear words, telling me what I can do myself. You may block my blog or unfollow it, and never visit it again. Haters are not welcome in our contemporary societies. Yet, be reminded: I try my best to explain my views. I try to examine the (psychological) roots as well as the logic and heuristic of my current conscious worldview. I will give reasons and arguments (in the next 5 texts of this series). If there is anything wrong with my idea, there will certainly be a way to convince me of that. It’s just that nobody succeeded with that, yet. I want arguments! The burden of proof that people are NOT stupid and that mankind is NOT a problem for this planet is on you!