By Freya Pauluschke
My friends always describe my parents as “hippies” which is kind of true. Our family home is colourful, artsy and a bit greenie. We have a poster with the earth on it hanging on the kitchen door which says “Die Mietsache ist schonend zu behandeln und in gutem Zustand zurückzugeben,” in English “the rented property is to be handled with care and returned in good condition.” My mother is free-spirited and creative. She always wears colourful flower-barrettes in her long grey-white hair which she often pins up into a big bun and her sense of fashion is quite different from other mid-fifty-year-old mums. Meaning she sometimes wears a pink or purple tone-in-tone outfit, pink Converse Chucks with different coloured and patterned shoelaces or on another day she wears a black or grey outfit but not just a pair of jeans and a shirt, more edgy and grungy with leather boots and a velvet blazer. My father used to be cooler when he was younger but now, he can even be a bit square. He used to have long curly hair to the navel, do motorcycle tours in a leather jacket, paint his bathroom pink, and fly-poster for concerts. His hobby was making music and he was a steward at concerts and managed the checkout at clubs which means he was also the bouncer. I guess one could say my father and his friends were the people their parents always warned them about. Today my dad’s outer appearance seems quite common but deep inside he still has that unconventional attitude sometimes. One can say that both of my parents enjoyed their youth to the fullest.
My sister and I had a quite independent upbringing. We learned how to cook on our own very early and were always included in any handcraft stuff my parents were working on, for example building my bed, fixing a flat tyre, cutting a hedge or felting coasters. In contrast to students who were driven to school every morning until 10th grade by their parents I wanted to walk alone to elementary school after a few days in first grade. No matter what others might think of us we were always told to be ourselves.
There is one thing that sets me apart from my friends and a lot of people, mostly girls and women: the fear of being alone at night outside in the dark. I am not afraid to walk home alone at 3am, not even if I have to pass a district or street which is known for let’s say being criminal, intoxicated or just homeless people. I always asked myself why I am not afraid of walking home at night through the dark streets like all my other friends. I believe the reason is that my parents used to clarify what I should do when something happens to me in emergencies from early on. Another important reason is that my parents never caused me or my sister to be frightened. I am sure that there are many mothers who will pay the cab for their children or offer to pick them up instead of letting them walk home alone at night. My father always says: “See how you manage to get home on your own.” I always did and I still do; this is their way of parenting. He never drives me anywhere unless the destination is far away and hard to reach by public transport or I have a lot to carry. I am not one of those kids who could always rely on their parents to pick them up from a friend or from school although they could have easily walked the 15-minutes-way. Our parents always supported my sister and me in what we wanted to do. There has never been an unhealthy amount of pressure to achieve. As long as we were happy with what we were doing, they were too, and I think that is not self-evident.
I grew up without a TV and I still do not have one. My childhood consisted of playing outside in the woods or on the streets of my neighbourhood. Unlike other children around me I got a mobile phone late at the age of 14. When I see kids and teens today, I am shocked by their behaviour and attitude towards mobiles. Especially, when I see a mother with her four-year-old child in a buggy. She is on her phone, maybe calling someone and not paying attention to her child. But in fact, the kid does not even need her attention because it stares at the screen of another mobile, playing some game at full volume. I think such situations are very sad to watch because I have the feeling that those kids are growing up in the wrong way. Parents should interact with their children. These young kids get used to a surrounding of stupid mobile phone games and absent parents. I think they do not discover their real environment enough. Children should play in nature and come back home full of dirt and holding an earthworm in their hands. They should have the freedom to stare at foreigners, noticing anyone who looks different from whatever they had seen at home and ask openly for example why the, for adults obviously, pregnant lady in the tram has such a big belly. Kids should walk around with a curious glance and enjoy the adventure of a long train ride by watching these beautiful yellow rapeseed fields rushing by.
One might say that the upbringing of my parents influences the way I want to raise my own children and yes, that would probably be true. But still, I do not want to be exactly like my parents, I definitely also had my difficulties with them. Nevertheless, I strive to not be a bog-standard mum. I want to be a carefree but not a careless parent. I want to have an amicable relationship with my kids, but I do not want to be the “best-friend-mum”. I do not want to be a square with a mania of cleaning my all-white-plain-and-minimalistic-decoration house because that is just boring, unloving, and impersonal. I want to have a Villa Villekulla with self-made art by the whole family hanging on petrol blue, pink or mustard yellow walls. I do not want my kids to grow up with a lot of technology because I did not either and that did not cause me any harm. But I want to watch independent, intellectual, and aesthetic films with my children. I want to do dance-afternoons to old songs my parents used to jam to. I will not be a bog-standard parent.