I recently watched a movie in art cinema for the first time in two years. In it, androids replace life partners, programmed to make their counterparts happy. In order to reach as exciting conversation partners, they are connected to search platforms, digital libraries and music databases.
With this Joker, they are well versed in all areas of public and private education, from the current art market to first aid, and can read a poem on the fly and calculate the minimal risk of a traffic accident with an improved sitting posture. Instead of sleeping at night, they put the books in order and clutter up and wake up in the morning with fresh coffee and fresh flowers. I was a little jealous of her. No procrastination, no vortex of thoughts, I can’t just lie on the couch watching stressful Netflix. Start, deal, tick.
Now, of course, I am not robotic and should sleep – but can I also speak Korean today, would it be wiser, more successful and happier if I had read ten pages in a non-fiction book or learned Korean for ten minutes every day since my youth ?
The film continued the thinking I had carried with me for so long: the question of how I could have improved my life in the past and what advice I would give my children on their way to investing time. “If they sleep a little every day, run a little or ski, learn French or read a few pages of guidebooks, after a few years they will naturally master all these skills perfectly,” I understand. My husband says, “That’s nonsense.” “We never wanted our parents to tell us what to do and when. Children should find out for themselves what they want and how much time they want to devote to it. They have to experience it for themselves.”
I know. These experiences also include the discomfort after 20 years of not being more diligent, attentive, or even cooler at the time.
I read again today that Americans spend five hours a day on their smartphones. Five hours of wasted life, well, at least four and a half hours if you subtract half an hour for socializing and making appointments. When I think of all the things to use this time around, I almost feel dizzy.
Going to sports, playing board games, sleeping, doing yoga, meeting friends, drinking wine, etc. If you have young children, you can understand how valuable ten minutes is. However, I also have three to four hours of smartphone use time per day, which my phone shows me.
As a mother of two very young children, I am currently still very much shaping their lives. I decide what I cook for them (that’s not necessarily what they eat later), when they go to bed (but unfortunately not when they wake up) and how they spend their time (as far as our ideas align). I’m not a fan of filling her days with dates.
I go to kids’ gymnastics with Max once a week, and the rest of the week we leave afternoons free from the much-discussed and never-before-seen boredom. Max has always loved and played beautifully when we just sat down. We didn’t have to play along, just to be there. “Be more, do less” is a mantra I come across often on Instagram. It’s only been a part of my life since I had kids.
Of course, when you think about what you want for your children, you inevitably think of your childhood and the ideals and desires of your parents. Playing a musical instrument and playing sports was mandatory for my parents. I learned to play the flute fairly well, but even though I ran out to play handball week after week, I never became a great player. I should have been braver and just changed my sport. I only started dancing when I was a teenager and found my passion in it.
The idea that my kids might spend their youth lounging, smoking pot, or playing computer games bothers me. I’ve also had phases where I was primarily occupied with computer games, telephony, or high school crushes.
Instead, I prefer to imagine that I can pass on their enthusiasm for diving and the underwater world to them, and we study together in Egypt for a diving exam. Not being kicked out of a school history class because they slept, but they develop at least a rough idea of our past, and at some point they ask if we can go to the States because they want to see the Statue of Liberty. They fell in love on vacation in France and were suddenly glad that I calmed them to the music of ZAZ on long car rides, which the new flame now adores too.
I want them to go through life boldly, their hearts in the right place and with enthusiasm for the possibilities that life offers them. I hope that later I can advise you simply to dare to go abroad. And I can promise to visit it every holiday if homesickness gets worse. I can inspire them to learn a foreign language or even dare to solve a math puzzle. Try different sports and sometimes throw plans overboard.
I would like to speak better French, read more fact books and actually cook through a cookbook. Having said that, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out much or been wasting time in my own life. I just love the mind game of what would still matter if I filled an hour a day differently.
By the way, the idea of improving my life leaves my husband pretty cold. When I approach the subject with lists and accuracy, he finds such pre-planning and resolutions disgusting. Cook a new recipe from a cookbook every day – how will this recipe work in terms of time? He is a passionate person, experimenting with new recipes when he has the time, desire and inspiration.
At the last shutdown we were off on the adventure and wanted to travel the world for two weeks instead of going on vacation. Every day we buy or bring a dish from another country, turn on the right music or watch a walk in the city on YouTube on our big TV.
We’ve been to Japan, France, Switzerland, Thailand and Italy. That was great. But then we ran out of breath. We both noted that new things are stressful, you can’t always improve and provide new input. You also need the quiet phases in which you grow and absorb the new so that it becomes a part of who you are.
My child, what I want to say to you: I will accompany you, to the football fields, to learn vocabulary and to your first (as well as second and third) love, if possible. I will try to put you on the right path to a fulfilling life, and advise and nudge you when you lack motivation and desire (because parents should), but I will not torment you with self-improvement checklists. I can’t wait to hear you speak French for the first time. Maybe then I will learn again. Only ten minutes a day.