Treasuring every precious Moment with my Baby – 5 Oct 16

Today I woke up in the morning, as usual next to my lovely wife and cute daughter. While Ramona went into the bathroom, I cuddled with Apra, enjoying the time before having to wake her up. And while holding her like this, I once more felt how precious this little being is in my life!

It is amazing how quickly time passes and how fast children grow! From the day she was born, I loved holding her in my arms! That feeling to be holding a tiny being that reaches just from your hand to your elbow, completely dependent on you and completely in charge of your heart, love and feelings!

In that time, I loved lying next to her or have her lying on my chest, listening to her breathing. After four-and-a-half years, too, I lie next to her or roll her over onto my chest. Now her long legs hang down and her little breaths often turn into mumbling in her dream.

Oh, does she dream! There are nights when she wakes up Ramona and me with her kicking legs or her loud dream conversations. Sometimes she laughs but sometimes she starts shouting out in protest, visibly unhappy about something. In those times, too, Ramona and I love to hug her and tell her that everything is alright, knowing that this calms her down each time.

What would life be without her? I cannot even imagine! Of course she tests her limits in daytime, of course there are more than enough instances of her fighting with the boys about little things, completely unnecessarily. But that is just part of the game, isn’t it? Growing up and making experiences, learning and exploring.

I am happy and proud to be her guide on this path – and I treasure such moments like this morning!

Jeder Augenblick mit meinem Baby ist wertvoll! – 5 Okt 16

Ich bin heute Früh aufgewacht, wie üblich neben meiner lieben Frau und meiner süßen Tochter. Während Ramona im Badezimmer war, kuschelte ich mit Apra und genoss die Zeit, bevor ich sie aufwecken musste. Und während ich sie so hielt, spürte ich wieder einmal, wie wertvoll dieses kleine Wesen in meinem Leben ist!

Es ist der Wahnsinn, wie schnell die Zeit vergeht und wie schnell Kinder aufwachsen! Von dem Tag ihrer Geburt an liebte ich es, sie in meinen Armen zu halten! Dieses Gefühl, ein kleines Wesen zu halten, das gerade mal von deiner Hand bis zu deinem Ellbogen reicht, völlig von dir abhängig ist und dabei dein Herz in seinen Händen hält!

Damals lag ich so gern neben ihr oder legte sie auf meine Brust und lauschte ihren Atemzügen. Auch nach viereinhalb Jahren liege ich noch oft neben ihr oder rolle sie auf mich drauf. Jetzt hängen ihre langen Beine zur Seite runter und ihre Atemzüge werden oft zu unverständlichem Murmeln im Traum.

Oh, und wie sie träumt! Es gibt Nächte, in denen sie Ramona und mich mit ihrem Treten oder ihren lauten Unterhaltungen im Traum aufweckt. Manchmal lacht sie, aber manchmal fängt sie an, laut zu protestieren und zu rufen, ganz sichtbar unglücklich mit irgendeiner Situation. Auch da umarmen Ramona und ich sie gerne und sagen ihr, dass alles in Ordnung ist. Das beruhigt sie jedes Mal.

Was wäre das Leben ohne sie? Ich kann es mir gar nicht vorstellen! Natürlich testet sie ihre Grenzen jeden Tag aus, natürlich gibt es mehr als genug Streitereien mit den Jungs um kleine Dinge, völlig unnötig. Doch das ist auch einfach nur ein Teil des Großwerdens, oder? Erfahrungen machen, lernen und erleben.

Ich bin glücklich und froh, sie auf diesem Weg zu leiten – und ich schätze solche Augenblicke wie diesen Morgen!

Don’t steal your Children’s Childhood! – 30 Sep 16

I yesterday wrote a little about the way parents try to influence their children to do what they want – obviously because they only want the best for them! There are instances however when this kind of behavior goes too far. You can see that in children talent shows a lot and you can see it in beauty pageants. When children are pressurized to practice and perform. When they have to spend hours in a day rehearsing and preparing for such an event. Or when they lose and break down crying.

I believe this kind of issues start when parents want their children to fulfill their own dreams. When they want their children to go places they always wanted to go but never could. They dream of fame and being known, of prices and recognition – and want to achieve this through their children!

A child would never, by himself, spend four or five hours rehearsing one and the same thing every day so that it gets perfect! These little girls whom you train to be princesses with doll-like appearance and behavior, would just like to play in the dirt sometimes, too! They want to get their hands full of paint and they want to climb on trees.

Instead, they learn a behavior which is completely unnatural for them and they have to train and train and train. They lose a part of their childhood, a certain innocence and freedom which only children have, only those who are little and don’t have any such burden yet! But you put that burden on them!

I once saw a video clip in which participants in a girls’ beauty pageant answered the question what they would like to do if they had a free day. ‘Go to the playground’ and ‘Just watch TV and play’ were followed by ‘I want to eat without having to stop!’ I felt these girls were not only stopped from playing like kids should but also already forced to keep a diet so that they fit certain beauty standards!

It is this kind of situations when I wonder how sick our society has become! That this is not only acceptable but that people wish for this. That parents don’t see how this ruins their children’s childhood!

No, again, I will not go for fame or money – but for fun and happiness! Don’t do this to your children! Let them play and be kids!

Klau deinen Kindern nicht die Kindheit! – 30 Sep 16

Gestern habe ich ein wenig darüber geschrieben, wie Eltern versuchen, ihre Kinder dazu bringen zu tun, was sie wollen – natürlich weil sie nur das Beste für sie wollen! Es gibt jedoch Augenblicke, in denen diese Art von Verhalten zu weit geht. Das sieht man oft in Talentshows für Kinder und auch in Schönheitswettbewerben. Wenn Kinder dazu gedrängt werden, zu üben und Leistung zu erbringen. Wenn sie Stunden mit dem Üben und der Vorbereitung auf eine solche Veranstaltung verbringen. Oder wenn sie verlieren und dann weinend zusammenbrechen.

Ich glaube diese Art von Problemen beginnen, wenn Eltern wollen, dass Kinder ihre eigenen Träume leben. Wenn sie wollen, dass ihre Kinder dorthin kommen, wo sie immer sein wollten, was sie jedoch nie geschafft haben. Sie träumen von Ruhm und davon, bekannt zu sein, von Preisen und Anerkennung – und sie wollen das durch ihre Kinder erreichen!

Ein Kind würde nie selbst jeden Tag vier oder fünf Stunden damit verbringen, ein und das Gleiche zu üben, um es zu perfektionieren! Diese kleinen Mädchen, die ihr zu Prinzessinnen mit puppenhaftem Aussehen und Verhalten macht, würden auch gerne manchmal einfach im Dreck spielen! Sie wollen ihre Hände voller Farbe bekommen und würden gerne auf Bäume klettern.

Stattdessen lernen sie ein Verhalten, das für sie komplett unnatürlich ist und sie müssen trainieren und trainieren und trainieren. Sie verlieren einen Teil ihrer Kindheit, eine gewisse Unschuld und eine Freiheit, die nur Kinder haben, nur diejenigen, die noch klein sind und keine solche Last tragen! Doch du bürdest ihnen das auf!

Ich habe einmal ein Video-Clip gesehen, in denen Teilnehmerinnen eines Schönheitswettbewerbs für Mädchen die Frage beantworteten, was sie tun würden, wenn sie einen freien Tag hätten. Auf die Antworten ‚Auf den Spielplatz gehen‘ und ‚Nur fernsehen und spielen‘ folgte ‚Ich will Essen, ohne aufhören zu müssen!‘ Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass diese Mädchen nicht nur davon abgehalten wurden, wie Kinder zu spielen, sondern auch bereits dazu gezwungen werden, eine Diät zu halten, so dass sie gewissen Schönheitsidealen entsprechen können!

Es ist diese Art von Situationen, in denen ich mich frage, wie krank unsere Gesellschaft eigentlich ist! Dass das nicht nur akzeptabel ist, sondern dass die Menschen sich das sogar wünschen. Dass Eltern nicht sehen, wie das die Kindheit ihrer Kindheit ruiniert!

Nein, ich strebe nicht nach Ruhm oder Geld – sondern nach Freude und Glück! Tue das deinen Kindern nicht an! Lass sie spielen und Kinder sein!

Let your Children make their own Mistakes – it helps them develop their potential! – 29 Sep 16

I mentioned yesterday that all parents want the best for their child. It is natural and normal to think in this way. There is however a certain struggle, too: a lot of parents keep their children too safe in the belief only they know what will be best for their child. Sometimes they forget that you have to make mistakes to find out what you want and that kids may go another way than they think!

This is a phenomenon which I have seen in many different countries and cultures, which is why I can confidently say that it is a parental issue. We all act according to our own experiences. That is simply normal. If we have faced difficulties in life, we try to prevent our children from getting into those same situations. We want to share our experience so that they have benefit from it.

That is the reason why for example Indian parents want their children to become doctors and engineers: they see in their surrounding that people with these jobs had the most success. This is why parents in the west take their children to dancing and singing competitions and push them to practice more and more – because they see how much fame and success those have who start early and work hard.

It is fully normal and of course also right to teach your children from your experiences. What we have to take care of however is one simple thing: we still have to give our children the freedom to develop their own wishes and let them explore who they want to be and what they want to do.

In this process, every child will make his own mistakes. It is natural and even necessary. Children who grow up in a bubble of security, whose parents protect them from each and every mistake, will not learn that in life there are situations of disappointment and also failure. You will not always be safe of mistakes, pain and negative experiences! This all is a part of creating your personality, finding out what you want and need.

At the same time, you should not push your children to do something they would not want to do just because you think it is what is good. It may be good for you but not for your children! It may just be the wrong thing for them or absolutely nothing that they would be happy with!

With these words I reach the point which I believe we really need to focus on: the happiness of our children. Let them do mistakes while guiding them gently, with love and in a way that they know they are free to do what they wish while you are providing the support of your experience! Let them find their own happiness, even if it goes against what you think would have been the best for them.

Should it go wrong at some point, be there for them. Just a shoulder, a helping hand. Without judgement or a ‘told-you-so’ attitude. I know, you will say ‘easier said than done’ and you are right, my daughter is only four-and-a-half years old but you know, I have every intention to keep it this way and know that I will be successful with this, too.

Lass deine Kinder ihre eigenen Fehler machen – es hilft ihnen, ihr Potential zu entwickeln! – 29 Sep 16

Ich habe gestern erwähnt, dass alle Eltern das Beste für ihr Kind wollen. Es ist ganz natürlich und normal, so zu denken. Es gibt jedoch auch einen gewissen Zwiespalt: viele Eltern behüten ihre Kinder zu sehr, in dem Glauben nur sie wüssten, was für ihr Kind am Besten ist. Manchmal vergessen sie, dass man seine eigenen Fehler machen muss, um herauszufinden, was man machen will und dass Kinder vielleicht einen anderen Weg gehen, als man denkt!

Das ist ein Phänomen, das ich schon in vielen verschiedenen Ländern und Kulturen gesehen habe, weshalb ich zuversichtlich sagen kann, dass es ein Thema von Eltern ist. Wir alle handeln nach unseren eigenen Erfahrungen. Das ist einfach nur normal. Wenn wir im Leben Schwierigkeiten hatten, versuchen wir, unsere Kinder davon abzuhalten, in die gleichen Situationen zu kommen. Wir wollen unsere Erfahrungen Teilen, so dass sie daraus Nutzen ziehen können.

Das ist der Grund, warum zum Beispiel indische Eltern wollen, dass ihre Kinder Ärzte und Ingenieure werden: sie sehen in ihrer Umgebung, dass Menschen mit dieser Arbeit den größten Erfolg haben. Deshalb bringen Eltern im Westen ihre Kinder zu Gesangs- und Tanz-Wettbewerben und bringen sie dazu, immer noch mehr und mehr zu üben – weil sie sehen, wie viel Ruhm und Erfolg diejenigen haben, die früh begonnen und hart gearbeitet haben.

Es ist völlig normal und natürlich auch richtig, seinen Kindern von seiner Erfahrung zu berichten und demnach Dinge beizubringen. Worauf wir jedoch achten müssen ist eines: wir müssen unseren Kindern trotzdem die Freiheit geben, ihre eigenen Wünsche zu entwickeln und sie erforschen zu lassen, wer sie sein wollen und was sie tun möchten.

Auf diesem Weg macht jedes Kind seine eigenen Fehler. Das ist natürlich und sogar notwendig. Kinder, die in einer Blase der Sicherheit aufwachsen, deren Eltern sie vor jedem Fehler bewahren, lernen nicht, dass es im Leben Situationen der Enttäuschung und auch des Misserfolges gibt. Man kann sich nicht immer vor Fehlern, Schmerzen und negativen Erfahrungen bewahren! Das ist alles Teil der Persönlichkeitsfindung, herauszufinden, was man will und braucht.

Gleichzeitig sollte man seine Kinder nicht mit Druck dazu bringen, etwas zu tun, was sie nicht tun wollen, nur weil du meinst, dass das das einzig Gute ist. Das mag für dich gut sein, aber nicht für deine Kinder! Für sie mag es das Falsche sein oder absolut nichts, womit sie glücklich wären!

Mit diesen Worten komme ich an den Punkt, auf den wir uns meiner Meinung nach wirklich konzentrieren müssen: das Glück unserer Kinder. Lass sie Fehler machen, während du sie sanft leitest, mit Liebe und auf eine Weise, dass sie wissen, dass sie frei das tun können, was sie wollen, während du sie mit deiner Erfahrung unterstützt! Lass sie ihr eigenes Glück finden, selbst wenn es gegen das geht, was du für sie für das Beste gehalten hättest.

Sollte irgendwann etwas schief laufen, sei für sie da. Einfach eine Schulter, eine helfende Hand. Ohne zu urteilen oder eine ‚ich-hab’s-dir-doch-gesagt‘-Einstellung. Ich weiß, ihr könnt jetzt sagen, das ist einfach gesagt als getan und ja, meine Tochter ist erst viereinhalb Jahre alt, aber wisst ihr, ich habe fest vor, diese Einstellung beizubehalten und ich weiß, dass ich auch hierbei erfolgreich sein werde.

Daycare Center for your Child – and what is left for you? – 28 Sep 16

As a parent, you obviously think about what is best for your child. In fact, that is your main aim: creating a surrounding for your child that will guarantee the best future and make him or her happy. Over this however, I sometimes believe many people forget that these children also need their parents physically. They need them to be with them as well!

It was today in Gurgaon when Ramona and I talked about this once more. We were at the hospital for a checkup of my father’s knees. He has had his knee replacement in March and some issues which he wanted to talk to the doctor about. It is a big private hospital that we always go to and where Apra was also born. You walk in and you see happy nurses and coordinators, you talk to the doctors and you feel good about consulting them.

We were waiting for our turn to go into the consultation room when Ramona said to me: isn’t it nice here in the city? People have their job, like here in the hospital, they work their hours and are happy, then go home and have their family time. It just felt like they are having a good life.

When we were sitting in the cafeteria – after having talked to the doctor who had recommended some exercises to my father – we looked out of the window. Next to the hospital, there is a playschool which we have seen grow over the course of the years that we have been visiting this hospital. Now we could see a big new banner next to their name on the top of the building: ‘Open till 7:30pm!’

Seeing this, Ramona and I both felt the same: what a pity if you have to give your child into a playschool or daycare center like this. You wake up your child in the morning and do the morning routine with brushing teeth and breakfast but there is not much time until they have to be in the school and you at work. And then you are busy until the evening at 7:30 pm! Pick up your child, now an evening routine of dinner and bedtime story – and off to bed.

What does your child have from you? What do you have from your child? Do you get to spend time together at all? The need for such a daycare center shows me that there is something going wrong! And this is part of the corporate world: the pressure, the time that you have to spend there and the loss that your children face because you are not there for them or with them.

Isn’t it horrible that it is like this? And that’s what I prefer about the life in a small town like Vrindavan: people here may earn some less money. We may also have less options when it comes to shopping and the like. What we have however is time for our children. That is a generalization of course. The trend is going towards the style of big cities however. It is a pity that this is happening…

Wherever you are and whatever you do for a living: I am still very strongly of the opinion that it is better to earn a bit less money, to live a bit more simply – but be happy!

Parents of a School Girl – working on perfecting our daily Tasks! – 22 Sep 16

I already told you that Apra started going to a school in Mathura in July and that this has changed our lives once more. Yes, ours, not only Apra’s – because we are now parents of a school girl which is a fully new dimension of parenting!

I would not have thought that sending your child to school would involve so many extra tasks! Well, the first thing is that there has to be a regular rhythm of bringing her to bed and waking her up now. As we have anyway changed our lifestyle with the opening of the restaurant however, it was not difficult to implement that, too – and while bringing her to bed it mostly Ramona’s task, I am the one waking our little angel up in the mornings. I am not sure which task is the more difficult one! 🙂

We are not only responsible for sending her to school, though! At the time of her admission, we got some papers with instructions and we are doing our best to follow them – but as first-time school-child parents, I know we are still working on the details!

Obviously, there is a dress code. For normal days, this means school uniform, which is quite nice as we don’t have to think about what to dress her in. There are however also ‘Fun Fridays’ – on each Friday, the children of Apra’s class can come in regular clothing. That clothing should however fit to the ‘Colour of the Month’, which is yellow for September for example. At least a small part of what she is wearing should be yellow!

Oh yes, and Fun Fridays also means that you can bring ‘Fun Food’. That is an exception to the normal rule of giving her only healthy food in her lunchbox. Ramona had her own struggle with that, as ‘healthy’ for a regular Indian family may very well include deep-fried potatoes – but not pasta with vegetables! Well, we found a good average with parantha and vegetables!

Of course there are more special days like the 15th August, India’s Independence Day, on which you should send your child in traditional clothing, days on which the kids do arts and crafts and you have to send plain flutes, glitter, decorative bands and more.

Then there are ‘PTMs’, which are ‘Parents-Teacher-Meetings’. We had our first one this month – because we forgot to go to the one in August. So we arrive there, Ramona and I, thinking that we will go and talk to the teacher about Apra and leave. But oh, there was an exhibition of what the classes had produced in artwork over the past month and all kids were there and playing and proudly showing their parents everything… well, next time we will bring Apra as well! 😀

As I said, we are working on the details and we are confident that we will improve our parenting-school-skills over the next weeks and months!

Why we needed to change Apra’s School – 12 Sep 16

I just realized that during the time in which I wrote less blog entries, I missed telling you of a very important event which has brought again a big change to our lives: Apra has officially started going to school!

Maybe you remember how I told you last year that Apra had joined our school. With her three and a half years, she was still very small and we had no intention of really sending her that early. We are generally of the opinion that children need the time in that age to play and not sit in school for learning, as it is so often here. However Apra’s Ashram brothers all went to school in the morning and so she also very much wanted to go – and she enjoyed going to the classes where teachers were singing and playing with the kids!

So we let her go and encouraged her, too. Soon however we noticed that it was not as easy as we thought: Apra has her own mind and started wandering in between the classes, sometimes sitting here, sometimes there. The teachers enjoyed playing with the little one – but that was obviously not helping her learn and at the same time disturbed the other classes! And whenever she felt like, she would return back home, walk into our office and declare that she was done with school for the day!

We realized that our school, as much as we wanted her to learn here, would always present exactly this problem: she would not be one among others and home would always be too close! For a certain discipline which she would need to learn in life, she would need distance in between home and school! But what to do? We know that schools in the surrounding all use violence in their daily teaching – something which we would not be able to bear! Did we have any other option?

It was in the last summer holidays that a lady came as a guest to our restaurant who had been working in one school in Mathura that we had only heard about until that point. We had tried to find out where it was but found it difficult online. In our talk with her however, we asked very clearly whether corporal punishment was used there – and heard that it was strictly forbidden! It was music to our ears!

We immediately called and went the next day to visit the school – and were amazed! There, in Mathura, not very far away from our Ashram, we found a place that actually matched our philosophy, where children could learn in playful way, where violence was strictly banned and where there was no pressure on the little ones! Activity classes have more importance and there are lots of playgrounds, sport areas and fields for games on the huge grounds of the school. The teachers whom we met were lovely and the principal’s words explaining their philosophy so much matched our ideas, we immediately paid the advance for Apra’s admission fee!

And that’s how, on 4th July 2016, we walked into the school, Apra in between Ramona and me, in her new school uniform and incredibly proud! Apra and Ramona had made a ‘Schultüte’, which is a German tradition for the first school day, a large cornet with little presents for the child – and after a few hours at school, she was allowed to open it, finding sweets, stickers and a pencil case for the big school girl!

So now we are officially parents of a school girl – and of course I can already tell you some stories of how this has changed our and Apra’s life!

Indians hit their Children in public Places – and don’t feel guilty about it! – 8 Jun 16

In our restaurant, we witness again and again something which we have been working against for many, many years now: domestic violence against children. Unfortunately it is so common here in India that no day passes on which we don’t see a child getting hit or at least threatened to be hit. In the middle of the restaurant, where everyone else can see and hear it. Without shame or guilt. It is normal.

I knew this. I have always known it because I grew up here. For Ramona, this came as a shock which was revealed over time. In the past years, it was more an issue which we saw at schools. Obviously: we had sponsored children in other schools and corporal punishment was the issue we faced. We opened our own school and taught our teachers how to teach without violence. It is a never-ending topic as you have to repeat those talks, workshops and classes whenever new teachers join! It was direct interaction with teachers, not so much with parents – although we of course saw that, too.

With Apra’s birth and in the years that followed, we were strongly reminded that this was also a domestic problem in people’s families. Children of staff members at the Ashram were hit – and we opposed it. We created rules for staff not to use violence or even violent language at our Ashram. It was our small world here and we lived in here.

Now, with the opening of the restaurant, the outer world has come to us and this aspect of it is something we don’t like. Something we strongly dislike even – but which we cannot help or change except for making small changes in our own surrounding.

There are small children who are simply hungry, waiting for their parents to order and then get food. They get impatient, cannot sit still and play with the cutlery, the cloth napkins and crockery. Sometimes there is only the threat: ‘Stop it now or I will hit you!’, ‘Keep on doing this and you will get slapped!’ and so on. More than that, we can see the action right away: a slap in the face, on the hands, on the buttocks. And then talk just goes on.

It is normal, for everyone around them, too. Just we are sitting there with the feeling that we want to object, that we want to jump in and protect the child. The urge to tell them not to do this in our restaurant. In the end however, we are the ones who seem strange here. The ones who do it differently.

After all, our guests are all educated people. While the parents of our school children were from what society would call a ‘lower class’, we are speaking here about the upper middle and higher classes.

This, my dear readers, is culture. It is one of the dark aspects of our culture. I hope it will vanish someday. We will keep working against it anyway and just hope that others will follow so that we will see the day on which no child is hit in our restaurant!