Monday, January 09, 2006

Parenting Classes in Finland

Why did we choose to spend Christmas in Finland?

It is so cold even the horses are nippy

And look what happened to poor Santa!

Principally because my good friend Jukka, his wife Titta and his 3 lovely children live in Rovaniemi. Where is Rovaniemi? Take a look here

We managed to learn such a great deal about children and parenting from them. Jukka is basically paid to do his PHD in the university of Lapland and Titta works as a midwife, so both of them juggle busy careers and taking care of their family of Elian (5 yrs) Emil (3 yrs) and Ada (15 months).

At the same time, we hung out together with Titta's cousin (Mari) and her husband (also lawyers!) who are currently raising their little daughter - Vivi. They adopted this heartbreakingly lovely child from an orphanage in China and explained to us some of the difficulties and joys involved in having an adopted child.

Some important lessons we have taken away from Finland:

1) Children are a lot tougher than you think
I love the Finnish way of putting babies to sleep. You wrap up your kid and leave them OUTSIDE in the pram. No kidding when it is minus 10 degrees! You stop doing it only when it gets really too cold (like minus 20) but apparently they learn to like cold air after a while. Sometimes they cry but then they quickly go back to sleep - you don't hear them outside (the doors are thick).

My friends love their children deeply, but refuse to spoil them and I am deeply impressed by this.

This is Elian and Emil getting dressed to go out

This is the suit that Ada sleeps in outside

2) You need time as a couple
We spent a great deal of time with the kids and the family but some times (like that fateful roll in the snow after the sauna) we dropped them off at Mari's house and spent time with our friends just as adults. It allowed them to do the things they used to do as a couple (i.e. go out with friends).

I think your friendships are just as important after having children, so you must make the time to maintain those ties. An absolutely crucial friendship is the bond between husband and wife, so you can get an overnight babysitter as soon as your child stops breastfeeding exclusively, and go spend time with your spouse. How else do you think they got their other kiddies?

3) Children must do sports
In Finland, all children above 3 years old can ski. It is like they are born with skis on their feet. And Emil (who is 3) zooms down the slope on his little sledge much faster than I could ever dream of moving without a car! They are healthy and they hardly complain when they fall or are cold or subject to all the travails of childhood. What my friends do is that they asses each injury or the severity of the discomfort (without letting the child know) and if it is not serious, do NOT react. If you kid sees you appearing to take it very lightly, they will take the cue and realise that there is nothing to make a fuss about and get on with the infinitely more important activity of having fun.

Here are all the kids playing just outside the house. Ada is in the sledge and Vivi is walking around in her own little pink suit.

I will post separately about having an adopted baby girl from China because there are some subtleties which deserves special mention, but the above 3 observations from Finland applied equally to all children regardless of their derivation.


Michael Low said...

Wow...sounds like you guys are well on your way to being great parents. I'm always impressed when people act on realising how much they don't know. A gem of wisdom that one of my old bosses started me off in practice with- "When you begin to realise how much you don't know, that's when you are ready to become a really good lawyer", and I think it applies across the board to all experiences in life.

rhys said...

Looking at those little bundles trudging around in the snow just makes you wanna have your own. But pictures are soundless. heh!

S* said...

Well Rhys - that's what Thick Doors are for when you leave your kid outside to sleep!

mini said...

Darn I can't believe their idea of cold is -20 ... degrees or farenheit? LOL :D

S* said...

wah lau - the rest of the world is metric already, except those damn yanks ;)