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.