In my childhood, I was the ultimate pleaser. As an only child, grandchild and even only niece for the first 10 years of my life, I had this upside down pyramid of elders hovering above me, who all had their own expectations from me. And sometimes those expectations would differ from each other. My grandfather from father’s side would set totally different social rules for me than my grandfather from my mother’s side. And my mother’s sister would disagree with my mother’s views; putting me in the middle as the sitting duck. All highly interesting from a family constellation point of view, but highly exhausting for an only child, grandchild and niece. I was constantly running around trying to please everybody in my family; switching masks where ever I went and whomever I was facing.
The good that came out of it though, was that at some point while growing up, I started to notice what was happening and revolted. Even though I was programmed to please my elders; I began to refuse to behave the way expected of me. In my late teens, I packed my suitcases and started to travel; working my way around the world as a stewardess and tour guide; ending up a student in different ends of the world as well as an expat in Singapore.
Along the way four children stepped into my life; and while raising them; leaning on my experience as an only child, grandchild and niece; I basically set one rule, which was:
I’ll do anything you like as long as I like it too
In daily life this meant I would for instance take them to the movies; as long as I liked the movie. I would take them to a theme
park; as long as I liked the theme. I would take them to a holiday resort; as long as I could jusitify the setting and sustainability.
4 minors in a monastery with silent breakfast.
In that context, my now 25 year old daughter reminded me the other day, how I took her , her older sister and her two little brothers to the Kripalu Yoga Institute in Lenox Massachussetts, during the summer holidays of 2003; combining a trip to Martha’s Vineyard with a yoga methodology course.
“What were you thinking” she questioned me; her arms folded looking at me as if I were the child needing to be reprimanded;’What were you thinking taking 4 minors to a yoga institute where they they had silent breakfast?!”.
“I supplied roomservice” I retorted, remembering carrying trays and trays of breakfast from the dining room buffet to our family room. My daughter softened and admitted she and her siblings had liked Kripalu, an old monastery now wellness centre. “There was this enormous lake at the bottom of a hill with canoes and an area for swimming.” she remembers.
To this day I am grateful to their father for spending 4 days with 4 kids in the beautiful Berkshires, giving me space to do my thing. And hey, what a unique experience it was and memory it now is.
Ingrid Schippers, June 12th 2018
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The spoken version of this blog, features as end note on ‘Dutchbuzz’, the radio hour for Internationals every Tuesday from 10 to 11 pm on ‘Den Haag FM and can be found in the Programme Archive of the Dutchbuzz podcasts, dated June 12 , 2018.