Sunnuntai 22.9.2019
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Nähdessään spitaaliset miehet Jeesus sanoi heille: "Menkää näyttämään itsenne papeille." Mennessään he puhdistuivat. Luuk. 17:14

Blog: Dimensions of parenthood

in English 12.9.2019 06:13 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
Parenthood is a multidimensional task. My own experiences of parenthood have varied widely, depending on family size and my personal resources. You become a parent when you hear the first cry of your first baby and remain a parent until the end of your life.
My friend Eeva-Liisa Kantola described parenthood very well in a poem that I have often used to congratulate the parents of a new baby.
 
Life, you gave me this task,
and I dared not refuse.
His hair still wet,
his hand fumbling in the air.
My task to take this hand
and help him safely find his path.
He is greater than me,
this newborn.

The birth of a new baby has been a source of joy for the siblings. When I came home with our eighth baby, one of the older siblings said:

– The Heavenly Father saw that we are such a lovely family, and He wanted to give us one more lovely baby. 

The task of helping a baby find his or her path has included many things. I remember how wonderful it was to see my first baby learn to turn over and crawl. When that same baby learnt walk and run, I sometimes wished he could stand still for just a moment. The task of helping again took on new meanings when the child learnt to use a scooter and a bike. Each child is a unique personality and challenges the parents differently at different ages.

To survive as a (stay-at-home) parent, one must develop routines and relax the rules. I remember how upset I was about a spilled glass of milk as a young mother. Since that time many things have been spilled and broken, fixed and repaired, and so we have sailed from one day to the next.

Apart from the work done at home as a mother, cooperation with the school has been a big part of my life. I started by attending parent-teacher meetings, which provided a kind of rhythm to my fall-time evenings.

I almost felt I had gained a medal for my hard work when the school cook once said to me:
 
– I remember that you drink tea in the evening, not coffee.

I have one fun memory from the time when I had very many parent-teacher meetings to attend. I had already been to the school twice that week and went for a third time. One of the parents of my child’s classmates suggested that we should present ourselves and say whose parents we were. I could say my name, but I did not remember whose mother I was to be that particular evening.  
 
– Which of our kids are you teaching this year, I asked the teacher.

The familiar teacher understood my problem and gave me the name I needed.

Current parent-teacher communication is mostly done online. The Finnish online system is called Wilma. Through this system the custodians of minors follow their children’s school work and read the information posted by their teachers. At first I was averse to the Wilma system, because I felt it was inadequate compared the natural interaction I was used to.
 
Part of the good old parent-teacher cooperation disappeared into the bowels of Wilma, but the change was probably inevitable, as both schools and classes grew in size. I guess all teachers and parents are now best accessible online.

My own role as a parent of school children gradually diminished, and one morning I no longer had the Wilma icon on my phone screen. I had become a mother with no school-aged children.

God gave the fourth commandment, advising children to respect their father and mother. Could that commandment mean that, in ordinary everyday life, the parents are different from their children? The parents and children are not on opposite sides, but they have different tasks and duties. Parents need to be parents! I sometimes feel that what we call children’s rights tend to override the parents’ duties.

For instance, it would be good for the parents to discuss with their children the scale and importance of certain things and the grounds for decision-making. A five-year-old may to choose to wear a pink shirt for day care, but her parents must make sure she has a warm coat for the cold weather. We all make a number of more or less weighty choices daily. We can spare our resources for useful things if we need not argue about the same small details every day.

I feel that parenthood is a demanding, binding and time-consuming duty. Even lovely families require a lot of effort and responsible work for the well-being of the family members. Yet, I have not dared to refuse the duty that has always begun at the first cry of a new baby. I remember how, many years ago, in a flash of illumination, I realized that this life and this family are our mutual job. No-one is obliged to help us.

But it was good that we sometimes got voluntary help when our life was most hectic. I also knew my mother prayed for me and my family. When I told my mother there was a baby on the way, she said she would start praying for this new family member. That seemed to take part of the burden off my shoulders.  

Nowadays people often speak about mothers and fathers needing time for themselves. There are two sides to this issue. The demand for personal free time may derive from the selfish assumption that children should in no way limit their parents’ lives. People who feel like this may find a growing family and the consequent workload overwhelming.

On the other hand, however, the wish for personal time is a healthy sign of responsible parenthood. Such mothers and fathers realize that they can better manage their daily workload if they can take a break once in a while. I also think that it is a great gift to be able to feel personal freedom within the daily life of one’s family. 

Text: Liisa Huusko
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen

You will find the original Finnish blog post here.

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