# Foam on water

Fairy tales are wonderful when introducing young minds to the great world of books. The stories are usually illustrated and short enough to capture attention that might fluctuate quite widely for 5-7 year olds. The narrative often includes following a hero or a heroine on a quest or some sort of adventure. And there are sometimes small lessons to be learnt. We all know Aesop’s fables – for instance about the tortoise and the hare – and that it doesn’t help to have good abilities as long as you are lazy and scorn others for not being as good.

But the more common ones are the modern fairy tales that we feed our kids with nowadays, or rather our kids are being fed with by the film industries. Those fairy tales are adapted, more often abducted from classical ones, or invented by Disney and the likes. But do those spur a deeper and more realistic kind of insight? Yes – there are morals. And fights between good and bad. But they most often end on a high note – no matter what the struggles have been in the meantime.

Human life does not always end on a high note. Life entails lots of challenges, disappointments, grief and broken dreams. What seeds of expectations are we planting in the heads of children through what they read or maybe more often watch? That good always conquer evil and that the prince and princess always gets each-other and of course live happily ever after… And since we tend to treat the kids as princes and princesses they will most surely think (at least for a while) that someone will come with their white horse and bring them to the castle as soon as they are adults.

The other day I picked up up a really old fairy tale book to read for the 5 year old and his cousin, also 5. I found the story about the little mermaid appropriate since we are going to Copenhagen next week to have a look at the famous mermaid sculpture. The story is beautiful. It tells about how the youngest daughter of the sea-king longs to be allowed to visit the world of people, to see how they live, the lights of the big city and the snow on the mountains. She falls in love with the prince. She makes a huge sacrifice in order to get close to the prince on land – she trades away her voice.

The five year olds made big eyes – and the story continued. I started realising that unlike in the movie this old original edition was not ending so well – at least for the heroine. In short – the little mermaid turns into foam on water since the prince marries another girl. A princess!

Havfrue

The kids took it well. I am not sure it would have been that easy if they were watching this version on TV. Even if not ending up as foam on water is very realistic it still conveys a message – not everything ends well in the world. Counting on getting the prince (a dumb one in this case) can create difficulties: diverting the ambitions that should have been directed towards more attainable objectives. Dreams are good to have. Being on another planet is not so good.

This is not to say that everyone should dig up all the original (and gory) versions of the favourite stories. But from time to time it may be an idea to introduce something more mind-bending and unexpected. My kids love the Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde or the giant turnip by Tolstoi, not to mention Peter and the Wolf and the Little Prince. This I found is the best way to introduce children not only to books but also to literature. And make sure you put your best storytelling voice to it, because it can beat every movie out there.

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#this is forty

Sometimes, more often than before, I have the feeling there’s more in life than this. This, as in what I have right now. There is of course a strong correlation between these type of thoughts and my age. Which by the way is forty (+2).The older I get the more I feel I have still many things to accomplish. Or, that I have to move on. Or rather move out. Out of my comfort zone that is.

And here I am paralysed by the thought to not become the creative person I’d like to be. I could be. And it scares the shit out of me that I have become my worst enemy. Hindering myself, getting in my way. I don’t know where to start, and am too impatient to elaborate my ideas. According to an article I read recently, this should be the perfect time to begin.

Some people might be tempted to label this a mid-life crisis. This is not the case: Honestly, it is not. It is about the urge to live a full life. To be able to squeeze the lemon until last drop of juice – even until there is not any more zest – so that you know for sure that you used all the chances (= juice drops) you were given well. And that you looked for – and found some of the even more hidden opportunities that lie under rocks.

So while trying to figure out what to do to add to the fulfillment of one’s life project frustration builds up. Energy that should have been spent on being innovative rather goes into managing the state of mind, along with the rest of everyday activities. And once frustration gets a hold, it is sometimes like an avalanche attack and a whole arsenal of things in life feels not-up to par. Then it is time to put both feet on the ground. Get some perspective – maybe by first zooming out and ask where are you in this big-big world? In this scheme called life.

Healthy – check. Married – check. Kids –check. Job – check. Roof-over-your-head – check. Ebola, Syria, poverty, water shortage and hurricanes – none of those threats are in your vicinity or imminent for you. So why the hell are you frustrated? Why am I frustrated? Cause I know I could do better. I could do more. Or simply, because I have everything else. Because I take things for granted. Because I have the luxury to think. Something that some several billion in this world don’t have. So, I’m spoiled.

And this is where I take a more close-up look at my everyday-life – the 5-year old stroking my hair and asking if I’m are alright, telling me “I love you mum”. I think of the really nice wine I enjoyed drinking last night, and the metro leaving on time. And here I take a deep breath. One that lets me get rid of stress and anxiety (and frustrations). One that lets me acknowledge the luck I have not to leave in fear, to be free, educated and and not to hunger. I take a deep breath and thank the universe for that.

After that deep breath it’s good to become creative at least in the kitchen. This adds to the psychological feeling of equilibrium.

bolle og vin

There is a recipe for Skillingsboller (‘Schilling’ Buns ) a typical Norwegian treat. Bake these buns. While waiting for the dough to grow you get some time to calm down in a slow way. A glass of red wine adds to that. After the buns are done – share them with someone you care for.

And it is only after getting into some sort of balance again you can start pondering again about how to extend your life project.

#Crime and Punishment

A few weeks ago I went to prison. It was only for a few hours as part of an excursion at work. It was interesting and a bit mind-blowing. Seeing with my own eyes the everyday life of convicts. Not feeling free to do everything on our mind is one thing – being locked up physically and deprived of our freedom is quite another. For some people prison becomes everyday life following a path of criminal activities – and for those who get caught and face imprisonment there is plenty of time to think about the concept of freedom.

Punishment is one of the pillars of our societies – if you do something wrong you have to pay for it. Both to scare other people off doing the same thing and to remedy the deed done. The importance of realising what you have done and the impact it has made for others is normally made clear when we are very young. Mum, dad or some other grown-up will (hopefully) promptly ‘arrest’ any child hitting another child. Maybe the child will be asked to go to her room to think about it. Or at least say she is sorry and not do it again. An important goal as a parent is to make sure that our children will become law-abiding* citizens who will not get into trouble.

So what if your offspring got involved in something that would get him or her behind bars? What would be your prime concern? How would it affect your son or daughter? Would the shame be the biggest challenge to bear? Or the worry that life will never be the same? Imprisonment is hard for the prisoner but may be as challenging for their relatives, spouses, kids and parents. And the golden standard of normality stands clear – is it possible to move on, get back on track and take up a life to be proud of?

Halden fengselThe prison I spent some hours in is a state-of-the art prison in Norway. It is a modern facility with a range of available services like a visitors apartment, workshops to do different craftings, very nice library, kitchens to cook, a garden and much more. It is also invested a lot of money in art-work within the prison-walls,  for instance some street-art by the “Norwegian Banksy” – an artist who calls himself Dolk. The prison has been mentioned as the most humane prison in the world. Many would say that this is way too good for people who have done bad things – not worthy of someone who has taken someones life or hurt others badly. Well, if you are close to a victim or a victim yourself you might easily feel that it is right that a perpetrator should endure some hardship, and definitely not being pampered and offered numerous possibilities of personal development.  While fully supporting victims needs, it is important to look at the full picture – as we probably don’t support the idea of locking people up and throwing away keys, we are all much better off with convicts who are treated, trained and given therapies.

Surprisingly or not – a humane approach to punishment seems to work. The number of people committing new crime in Norway is lower than most other countries. The main goal of the system is to rehabilitate the criminal and make it easier to get back into society in terms of work, education and social life. Which is something you should be relieved to learn – both as a parent and a convict.

*= only valid for functional democracies

Source picture: f-b.no