BY BERT STEPHANI
A little over a year ago I was face down on the canvas after receiving some big punches. I got up just before the referee could count to ten and left the ring with my head held high. Still swaying on my feet but upright I made some big decisions, left the highway and chose some less traveled backroads instead. I didn’t know where my path would lead me, but I did promise myself that I would take my family on a holiday abroad after the dust had settled.
And here I am, one year later, in a small cabin in the mountains in the South of France, surrounded by trees, fallow deer and my family. To upload this story I have to hike a mile through the forest and drive a couple more on treacherous mountain roads to get to the village café to get a slow internet connection with my café-au-lait. We’re down to the last days of our vacation but the kids, Griet and I have enjoyed so many amazing moments so far.
I spend a lot of quality time with my family but rarely do I get to observe my kids as closely as now. Not obscured by the many layers of clothing the Belgian climate usually requires, it’s striking how my children’s bodies are evolving just like their personalities.
Noa, the youngest is opening up like a delicate flower. She’s always been sensitive and still is but as her body grows, so does her confidence, her humour and her intelligence. Her sensitivity has become an asset to feel what the people she loves need: a kiss, a funny line, a dance or a hug. She always has the right cure before one even knows he needs it.
Maya’s lines are turning into curves never to be straightened again. She’s not always sure what to do with her femininity but embraces it without fear. Like every father, I’m not sure if I like this fearless femininity and at the same time I have no defence against the charm that comes with it. I’m losing a carefree child but I’m getting a wonderful young lady instead.
Kobe’s body is that of a young athlete. The lean muscles are the result of his determination, hard work and his quest to find his limits. Our stubborn souls inevitably clashed a couple of times in the past year. But deep down we always know that our mutual trust and respect will always persevere. We have forged a new balance between the two of us, a balance between two men.
The small roads we’ve travelled in the last twelve months have been bumpy, even barely passable at times. But they were taking us in the right direction and we can look ahead to a lot more adventures. I accept that from now on, my kids will sometimes choose a path that may be different from mine. But I know there will be always crossroads where we will all meet and choose to travel down the same road for a while.