Father’s Day is celebrated around the world on very different times. In Estonia, we are celebrating it on the second Sunday of November.
I am not very big on such holidays and making special plans for them. Yes, we can put more focus on certain things on those days, but I think the attention on what matters should be present in our relationships every day, not just on that particular day, to fade away again until the next year comes around. So, today is Father’s Day and any other day.
One of the hardest questions to answer for most people, including myself, is: “Who are you?” At times we respond simply by saying our name (Are you really your name?), or by stating what we do for a living (Does work ever truly define us?)… We can also be “lost” and that is also a role we have in this world.
I don’t have a mind blowingly simple answer to the question of who I am. In short, I AM! I am alive, meaning I exist and I am here, thinking, doing, not thinking, not doing.
Going a little deeper without getting too philosophical, we all are the sum of different ideas and teachings we get exposed to and expose ourselves to, different roles we assume over the course of our lives. To me, all these roles require learning, so I see myself more and more as a student of life. In a way it is one of my daily goals to have some discomfort and embrace something I did not know before and then continue with a new understanding or skill. Being in a comfort zone for too long is nothing other than stagnation.
Of all the roles, big and small, I take on in this journey called life, the closest to my heart is my role as a father.
Over seven years ago, when I cut the umbilical cord of my son, he shortly after grabbed my index finger and I was deeply drawn into this moment with my eyes wet.
I thought I had it all figured out, when life soon taught me that I had no idea. With the years, I have learned a lot about myself and my past; I have let go of things, re-created how I experience the world and through all that I have also shaped how Tristan sees himself and the world around him. (Part of that journey you can read about here, in: “How I got into meditation…”.)
And this is not a one-way street. His world has also formed mine a lot, for instance by adopting more of a beginner’s mind. Why is it so important? Because cultivating a beginner’s mind gives the mindset to look at life from a new angle – it is the state of freshness in the mind, that is awake and open to many possibilities. Curiosity and wonder for the unknown. A beginner’s mind gives you the tools to look at preconceived ideas from a new perspective along with vulnerability to let go of old stories.
But back to why the father’s role is so important to me.
Earlier this year, when Tristan turned seven, I wrote:
Happy birthday! Seven years of..:
…love and faith
…support and trust
…mistakes and learning
…giving and receiving
…knowing and not knowing
…smiling and laughing
…letting go and welcoming new
…change and growth
Very simply put, that role is so important to me because I love him. When we look deep into each other’s eyes, we truly see each other. I want the best for him and that sometimes means I let him face discomfort, even though I could prevent it, so he can grow as a human being.
Seeing myself in him is not just the same blue eyes or light hair, I often see a very similar character in him, of the man I am today, not the kid I was at his age. That makes me smile, because I was not a very happy child. It also worries me at times, when he acts the way I am not happy about, because I recognize that I act the same way and I am the one who needs to change his habits. Yet, he is also very different. With his own thought patterns, that feed on information from the world that continues to grow around him.
As human beings we are often ranked in different charts, or lists… top 10 this and top 14 that. We should not compare ourselves with others, our kids with other kids, but I think it is good, at times, to compare our children to the child we once were. In our case, it gives me peace because I see there is a big difference. Not financially or otherwise materially. The 7-year old me was growing up in Soviet era Estonia, while Tristan lives in an independent country in a globalized world with healthier relationships to people close to him. He is happier, calmer inside, feels safer, has the courage to look straight into my eyes and talk about what bothers him, to put his head on a pillow in the evening and smile.
Over the years, I have learned from my experience and other fathers around me that in order to be a good father, who makes a positive, long-term difference in his child’s life and who nurtures growth, you have to be a good example. At peace with where you are, with a strong understanding of what is behind, what is no longer needed and what you are creating daily in your mind and in your physical world. Ready to embrace the unknown and without room for a fixed mindset! But with the courage to be vulnerable, to be honest, if you don’t have the answer or have done something that needs to be changed.
And there are moments, when together with him, I continue learning and understanding things about myself and my past.
A few months ago, a friend of mine invited me to film a Porsche track day. My focus was up in the air with a drone and Tristan used the DSLR on the ground. At one point, he accidentally pushed the DSLR over on the tripod and it landed on the concrete. I don’t know what people around us expected, but it looked like I should have given Tristan a big, loud rebuke. Instead, I just froze in a flashback. In that instant, the kid in me realized what would have happened to him 30 years ago if he had dropped the camera. After my 30-second-freeze, we calmly talked about what to focus on next time, so it does not happen again. Sure, I was sad about the camera, because it was a pretty big financial loss. Yet, it allowed me to break the “spell of the past” by becoming aware of my own story and deal with anger and frustration in a kind way and thereby establish a different experience for my son. (The drone footage from that event with some shots taken by Tristan can be seen here.)
It is not always easy and pure bliss as it might seem to people who see your life through social media posts… There are times when I am still struggling with my own limitations and making mistakes, but I am more and more aware and making changes much faster. After all, not knowing and making mistakes is part of being human, though it should not be an excuse to be a jerk in any relationship. If I do not smile after a long day or am not very communicative, Tristan will eventually make me smile or make a remark like: “You really need to drink some tea and meditate later” or “why don’t you write this down if you forgot it?” In those moments, he is my mirror. These are valuable nudges to slow down, to look within and build awareness.
And perhaps we are given a chance to re-create ourselves through our children… A change in the future generation by adapting our own by taking responsibility to leave our children behind more grown and more in peace than we were left by our parents. By reaching higher levels of personal development by continuously working on ourselves. Through our actions we are planting daily new seeds that create the future.
But back to this special regular day. My father lives thousands of kilometers away and I sent him a message earlier today to thank him. Without him, I wouldn’t be here, in this world, and I am very grateful for all the experiences and where I am in this life. All the hardships that came through that relationship have played a very big part in my personal growth.
For Tristan, it is a special day. They talked about it at school and over the years I have really enjoyed the special events at his kindergarten. He continues to be proud of me, he respects me, he drew some pictures, we had some cake, but in general it is just another Sunday where we experience the world in its rich and awe-some ways. No magical “let’s do this today!”.
Instead we look outside and try to see new opportunities to seize the day. Like doing snow angels in shorts, because it makes us feel alive, it is a good way to boost our immune systems and it is just fun!
In the end, I am not this mystical creature that this day should be about. No father should strive to be such a father. I would not be a father without him being my son, meaning this is not my day. This is our day. We grow separately as individuals and we grow together as father and son.