Schedule time when you can optimally muse, analyze, reflect, and synthesize on an issue about which you feel ambivalent.
When I was a child, I promised myself to never say to myself: “Oh, how I wish I was a child again!”. I promised to never long for the mysterious kingdom of childhood, where days never end and everything is play and fun. I promised myself this because I knew how much I disliked being a child sometimes. I couldn’t decide anything, or hardly anything, I couldn’t just pack my bag and leave, I didn’t know enough about how the world worked to change it, I didn’t have any money. I knew that I would have that feeling, of course, all adults seem to say that they want to be a child again sometimes (and if I didn’t, there wouldn’t make sense to make the promise in the first place) — but I told myself that I should never ever forget what it really was like to be a child. I wanted to grow up.
One of the most attractive things about being a grown-up was the conversations you could have. I remember my uncle coming to visit us, and he and my mother sat for what seemed an entire night and talked about life and everything. I woke up in the middle of the night and could hear their voices, could sense that they talked about important things, things that mattered, and not the usual chit-chat. Almost as if they were the director and producer of the play about my life, and the spent the night deciding how the play would continue.
Year later, I read a poem by Andre Bjerke at school. It was called De voksnes fest (The grown-ups’ party) and it was about that very feeling: to lie there in your bed at night and listen to the grown-ups talking and laughing downstairs. How you longed for being a part of that mysterious party! The poem ends, however, when “you” are a grown-up and have your own parties: when you know that the magic was not being downstairs, and the mysteriousness was not knowing what the grown-ups talked about after you were put to bed. I read that poem when I was neither an adult nor a child, or both, and I remember saying to myself, perhaps I was wrong? Perhaps I am going to long for childhood anyway?
My mother has come to help us look after the two older kids when the third child decides to enter into this world. Last night, my wife went to bed at the same time as the kids, tired after a long day of walking and waiting and fighting the inevitable worries. I sat in the kitchen/living room (it’s really just one room) with my mother, writing a blog post, trying some Sudoku puzzles and failing miserably, reading my e-mail.
I made myself some sandwiches and sat down at the kitchen table, my mother poured herself a glass of red wine and joined me. And we talked.
We talked about births and parenthood, about my childhood, how my children differ from me and are similar to me. We talked about my brothers and how she for many years spent most of her energy looking after us (and that she has no regrets). We talked about people we know, about old friends and old enemies, places of the past and places of the future, this and that and a little bit of everything.
At one point, one of my sons called me, he wanted me to close the window, the curtain made too much noise in the draft. I closed the window and as I closed the door and went out of the room, I heard what he must have heard: my mother putting her glass down on the table. A chair scraping. Footsteps. Water running from the tap. A glass being poured. And when I got back down, he would be hearing laughter as well, and voices, his father’s voice and his grandmother’s voice. And I realised that he would be hearing the grownup’s party.
Our party: no music, no radio, just me and my mothers talking about and analysing and reflecting on things that matter. About our lives.
And I realised I enjoyed being a grown-up. And I realised I would never want to be a child again.
And I opened the door to my son’s bed room again, so he could hear us better.