Torstai 20.9.2018
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Blog: Paternity pack

in English 7.7.2016 13:00 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
We celebrate Fathers’ Day in November. Flags are flying, and sleepy fathers wake to congratulations with a new razor, a detective novel, or some other present.
The upcoming Fathers’ Day will be my sixth. My family does not have a long tradition of paternity. I am actually a second-generation father. My grandfather died when my father was a toddler. Such early memories are not a very solid foundation for paternity. We both have had to look for models and ideals of paternity outside the family.

An acquaintance once said that Laestadian parents are young and foolish when they bring up their two oldest children – and retired seniors when they take care of their youngest children. I belong to the latter group. Men of my father’s generation are not known for their outstanding cooking skills. My love of store-bought liver casserole probably dates back to the days when it was my father’s turn to cook dinner.

Paternity is a long-term development project. Moreover, the paternity of a professional educationalist is constantly under a microscope. With a school authority lecturing to his audience about the inability of modern parents to bring up their children, I assume my most determined teacher expression and nod my head appreciatively. At the same time I find myself wondering why on earth I gave in to our oldest child’s insistence to wear rubber boots to day care – despite the sunny weather and my wife’s utter embarrassment.

As a father I receive outspoken feedback almost daily. When expecting our first child, we knew it would be a boy. It was slightly upsetting to know I would have to start in my new role as the father of a little boy. I have no idea about car models, I have never had a water pistol or any other toy gun, and my toy box contained no mutant ninja turtles. But the four-year-old is forbearing:
– Daddy, I sure know a lot more about these cars than you do!

The two-year-old points at all WV beetles through the bus window and repeats a funny word that we ultimately interpret as ’Bobcat’.
With an effort at gender equality, I gave them a doll to play with. After the first encounter the doll was left sitting on a stool with a look of disappointment in its glassy eyes. It is still sitting there today.

Paternity is challenging but also rewarding. There is solid trust both ways. When the shovel part of my older son’s plastic loading shovel broke, the boy assured his grandmother that daddy can surely fix it. When I approach the fence of the day care center, my son runs to meet me with open arms and a broad smile: You came!

It is slightly disconcerting to be a role model. The boys imitate my behavior and even my favorite phrases and sayings. It can be stressful to be always consistent and set limits. When my son throws a huge tantrum in the hardware store, I do my best to keep my voice gentle, but simultaneously check to make sure none of my students happen to be around. But there are also big rewards. I am bursting with pride when, in an overcrowded bus, I hear a clear child’s voice at the back of the bus singing: “I am Pippi Longstocking…”, which makes all people smile. My son!

And so my paternity project continues. The boys have already learnt something. Both like the yellow color and shortbread pastries with pink icing. And when I say the evening prayer with them at bedtime, they remind me: “Daddy, in Jesus’ name and blood!” A clean conscience is the best pillow to sleep on.

Arttu Hartikainen
Translation: S.-L. Leinonen

The blog post was published in Finnish in online Päivämies on 27 October 2014.

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