I wake up to the birds singing, and check my clock. 5.50am. It’s the best alarm clock. I wonder if they are larks? I have no idea and it throws me. It’s a poignant reminder that I’m foreign here.
I do really like it here though. I don’t know what it is exactly, something about the lifestyle, the cycling everywhere, the not having to worry about a car, the girls both being in school and the mental space in my head and in my life that that has created. I feel more like myself again. And there is something different here, about how you are expected to parent. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s an effortlessness to it. A relaxed, good-enough attitude.
Yesterday, as the girls and I cycled around Vondelpark, deciding which playground to go to, I couldn’t help but notice the number of kids out and about, completely unsupervised. A group of boys were playing soccer in the field, they couldn’t have been more than eight years old.
The girls decided on the tunnel slide park, and as we pulled up, I noticed once again, that all the parents were seated on the benches around the sandpit, while the kids dug in the sand, or climbed on the bars or chased each other around the trees. No one was hovering, or even watching. Two women were sitting, chatting, one of them handed over a drink bottle absentmindedly when her son returned. She didn’t even pause in her conversation. Other mothers were busy on their phones or reading. There seemed to be an assumption that the kids will be fine.
I watched a video clip on Facebook, it had come out of the USA, it showed a father sitting on a park bench on his phone while his daughter played. Unbeknownst to him, a stranger came up and enticed his daughter away, carrying her off without a sound. When he finally looked up, his daughter was nowhere to be seen. It’s a fair point, I guess, but watching those kinds of videos tend to make me hypervigilant. Those are the videos that make me feel like parenting is a relentless 24/7 job.