There have been many requests for family-related articles, so here you go. It’s been a while since the last one.
Since there has been a lot of baby news in my immediate circle (and a little bit outside of it too), I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the ups and downs of family life. Above all, in my opinion, how the birth of four children in a row affects to your scheme of things. What do I think being a father is like? Maybe you’ll even get some tips or peer support…
On the other hand, this article can also serve as a good contraceptive for couples who are just planning to have a child. If you belong to the older arrival batch, I can imagine that some things here bring back memories. For mothers, it works as provocative at times, but I hope for a healthy discussion in good spirit. If you don’t have children or don’t want them, you will find two sides in the text – good and maybe also bad. This is written a bit ”tongue in cheek” so don’t take it too seriously 🙂 It also contains a lot of swear words, which I think – contrary to my native language teacher’s opinion – are a good tool in this kind of context.
I will first outline the birth of children from one to four, and then a couple of core points about a few parenting ”challenges” in general. When I started writing the article this morning, I realized very quickly how broad the subject is, and thus I couldn’t really summarize everything sensibly. The output of the morning’s brainstorming is here, though. So please bear with me.
Child number 1. – Lovely, but boring.
When that first is about to born, it’s an exciting time. At least until that child is actually born.
I vividly remember the long labor process that preceded the birth of our first child. I’m not going to tell you about what fathers usually tell – how it’s horrible to watch wife having severe pains and how I wanted to take my share of pains away from her. Because I think it’s pretty clear – If a three-and-a-half-kilo piece of meat is torn from the lower end to into the daylight, it sure as hell hurts. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Least for that mother.
I had always been told about how a huge rush of emotions takes over the body and mind when you hold your own child in your arms for the first time. After more than twenty hours in the hospital and a painful birthing process, that moment was literally at hand. My firstborn in my arms. I was ready for the huge rollercoaster of emotions that was coming. Tears running down my cheeks, hair waving (which was still around then) with the help of a air conditioner and a choir of angels singing hallelujah.
However, it didn’t happen. Not even the tears. It was a nice feeling, of course, but nothing life-changing. In my case, attachment to child has never been born in the blink of an eye when I had a newborn in my arms. It is a longer process that takes time. This must be a slightly more emotional moment for the mother, e.g. for hormonal reasons?
So, a word of comfort for you new father – if you don’t feel massive emotions at the moment of the birth of your first child, it doesn’t make you an emotionless bad dad. This rollercoaster of big emotions with choirs of angels is certainly true for many, but not for everyone. I love my children to the moon and back and feel that I am a good father, even though I wasn’t getting all emotional at the hospital. It was more like having crossed a partial finish line – after a long journey, we are at an intermediate stage, knowing that the real ordeal will soon begin in the next longer stage, which is called the baby year.
The first child changes life quite radically, and thus getting used to it is quite intense at the beginning. No matter how you prepare for it, the fact that life starts to spin on the child’s terms comes as a bit of a surprise. You can no longer do anything spontaneously – you have to think of the child first and plan everything ahead. If this is not done and old goings-on continue, a very unfavorable starting point will be created for the child him-/herself. Perhaps the single most earth-shattering thing about the first one, however, is sleep. Before, good amount of sleep was taken for granted. Not anymore with a new-born, so be prepared for the fact that your free time will decrease significantly and your good night’s sleep will decrease even more.
From a father’s point of view, baby time is actually pretty damn boring too. I’m sure many super-dads out there will give a different opinion on this, but I personally see that a child who eats, screams, sleeps and shits, is in no way an entity that particularly stimulates the senses of pleasure. Of course, that child is incredibly loved and wanted and that’s it in all its beauty. But it’s damn boring when you think about it. The interaction remains very small and I personally feel that the actual father-child relationship starts to form when the child is a little older.
Child number 2. – A surprising twist
When the first kid begins to sleep well and be easier in every way (from the parents’ point of view), it’s time to forget the past and it’s time to be masochistic again. That was the case with us, but I would argue that we are not in the minority at this point. When the firstborn is two years old, that golden nugget of parents gets a sibling. In our case, another son.
At the time, I thought that the next one would come a bit like ”on the side”, but the truth was something else. The good night’s sleep, which had already become familiar again, turned into hellish vigils and now that there were two of them, the nights were often twice as bad. One always woke up the other.
It wasn’t enough to get one child dressed up for the yard, but you had to try to put dress for two at the same time. How did it happen so easily from their mother and my fuses burned in seconds. I learned with the second child that if the baby year was fucked up with the first one, you could multiply it at least one and a half times with the second one. You couldn’t give all the attention to that one child anymore, because now there was an older brother next to him who screams for attention red-headed for himself as well.
Child number 3. – A financial investment
When the third child arrives in the house, congratulatory messages are no longer in abundance. Everyone’s already get used to that the ”taps are being open”. Referring to the previous, at this point we already belong to the minority. Families with three kids already make it onto many peoples’ ”thats odd”-lists.
A third child makes a big dent in the wallet, usually due to the fact that the old Toyota can no longer handle three children. No, even though we went to a children’s store with the Finnish mentality and said: ”Put such seats that they fit in the back seat – even if it costs a million”. It’s cheaper than buying a new car anyways right? Well, there were no such stools on the market. For fucks sake. Man has been on a rocket to the moon, but the back seat of a Toyota Corolla can’t fit three child seats in the width direction. My fucking god… Well, we went and bought a bigger car.
With a third child, everyday life goes a little easier, in my opinion, than with only two children. The shock has already been so great with the second one that nothing surprises me with the third one.
Child number 4. – Hatebreeder
When the fourth is born, it will no longer come as a surprise to anyone and the only congratulations will come from the closest relatives and in the form of comments on the Facebook update ”Oh you sweet you ❤”. On the other side of the keyboards, they’re wondering which religious community the parents actually belong to or whether that was their sixth or seventh child…
I didn’t think the fourth child would change anything because the cars have already been changed, vigils are new normal and the basic supplies and clothes have been acquired thanks to the siblings. The best part is that the children mostly play well with each other.
Unless the previous three are boys and the fourth is a girl.
I have often heard that girls are stubborn. I thought it was total bullshit until I met our Elsa. It has so much cuteness, loveliness, girlishness and a hellish amount of angst and snarkyness in the same package. Although the latter traits are extremely frustrating from the parents’ point of view, they are also absolutely good qualities on the hard path of life.
If bickering between three kids caused you a headache only from time to time, the fourth child is a turning point in that regard as well. The older siblings are constantly in trouble and the youngest, a girl by God’s grace, pours water into the mill by mumbling and teasing the older siblings constantly. Sometimes the situation gets so bad that the atmosphere is like the end scene of the movie Braveheart, where Mel Gibson shouts ”Freedom” just before being a head shorter. At the same moment, their mom is like Marlon Brando from The Godfather and I’m like Forrest Gump. It often feels like we have six children in the house at these moments.
Four under ten-year-olds’ know how to be mentally heavy, but yes, they can also be quite nice as a counterweight. My wife and I have been wondering how children raised in the same way can be so different from each other. Well, that’s a good thing and I’m happy that each of them has a character.
Now, let’s quickly go through a couple of facts that come to mind about fatherhood and parenting in general.
Be prepared for annoying words and concepts
This mostly only applies to fathers, because annoying words and concepts are mainly invented by women. I don’t want to write much about this because of the unpleasantness of the subject, but I feel it is my duty that you know to be prepared. This is also a bit hard to translate in english but I’ll do my best.
There are many annoying things in the world, but the so-called baby slang, mainly cultivated by mothers, is among the most annoying. You see it a lot in the comments of forums and social media. Facebook is the cradle of these slang words and I believe that is where they are injected without noticing into the vocabulary of all unsuspecting mothers. There is really a huge cavalcade of words, but things that quickly come to mind are, for example, ”heartbbutts”, ”fivers””, ”daddyman”, ”contries” and various ”Febs2011” groups (where this slang spreads like wildfire). By the way, did you know what it means that ”We summed in January”? Argh..
Am I the only one who wants to jump on the colic swing and scream like a newborn when hearing these? I just wish everyone would call things by their real names.
This was something that puzzled me for a long time, but I have finally come to a conclusion. In the time before children, I was pretty sure that there are four different seasons in a year – Summer, autumn, winter and spring. However, I have come to the conclusion that there are actually more of them. In reality, what biological researchers have not understood, there are actually eight seasons : Summer, midseason, autumn, midseason, winter, midseason, spring and mid-fucking-season. I noticed this at some point in my journey through the winding paths of fatherhood.
My wife, whose obligatory hobby is children’s clothes (I don’t get involved in kids clothing for a reason but more of that later), often talks about these mystical seasons in her side sentences: ”Elsa doesn’t have a midseason overalls for next fall, and Eino doesn’t have midseason gloves for spring. Fortunately, we still got many pairs of midseason trousers from Facebook’s flea market”. So our children have midseason overalls, midseason jackets, midseason hats, midseason gloves, midseason pants and a fucking midseason shorts. It doesn’t matter what season it is, kids always lack some god damn midseason clothing that needs to be acquired. Hell I say. It really feels like there is only one season in a year. Yes – endless fucking midseason!
It should be mentioned that the prefixes for driving and shopping are also separate from the mideason clothing. Oh yes. Shopping shoes, driving gloves and a driving jacket can also often be found in the wardrobe of a family with children. This is an endless quagmire and I don’t want to sink into it any further. You get the point though.
This may sound strange, but for you father-to-be, please be prepared for the midseason. It is a fucking long one. As a sidenote, another long-lasting season is the so-called dry season, which may often belong to the baby year. No need to talk about that, you’ll know when it comes.
When my wife is not at home and I try to find the right clothes for the children, it causes a huge series of emotional reactions in me. Let’s take the example of dressing the children outside to play in autumn weather.
The first reaction in the series is the remark: ”Fuck it, it’s midseason again”. Two of the children are so small that they don’t know anything about anything, while the two older swears they know what to wear and are already looking for their own from the hallway… Well, I follow and try to look at the matching pants and jacket for the little ones. When there are four pairs of gloves, there are a hell of a lot of them and they are all the same color and the same size. ”Fuck it,” I’m thinking when the elder asks where his midseason pants are. Just recently he swore he knew. He was already wearing them in the morning. I’ll check and see. Well, they obviously can’t be found. Fuck it. In the meantime, the next oldest has put the oldest brothers’ midseason pants, the little sister’s gloves and his own jacket and claims that the jacket is not his. I have no fucking idea whose it is because everyone’s clothes have the eldest son’s name on them. They are heirlooms afterall. One says that this is my driving jacket and it must not be used in the yard, and the other says that this midseason overalls must only be worn in the kindergarden. Oh my fucking god. Do I really have to?
Usually at this point I send a message to my wife at work asking where is this and that what belongs to whom, until I notice that my wifey has already approached with a textmessage to tell me that the eldest’s midseason pants are drying in the bathroom and the others’ clothes are in their own piles in the hallway. Well, for fucks they are no more. This is the moment when I count to ten and put whatever I can find on the children and put them out into the yard. Then in the evening, I listen to accusations from my wife about what went wrong and compliments about how I still haven’t learned to put on the same clothes that they wear every time they go out to the yard during this midterm…
The lesson of the story is that others make mountains out of molehills. For some reason, kids’ clothing have always been the size of a mountain for me. Certainly, with a different approach to that, the matter could become easier. I have not yet found such a mindset. Maybe with meditation, a new window will open in my life.
P.S. when dressing a little baby, those clothes are so damn small that it feels like trying to fit an 8mm nut to a 10mm bolt. It’s not an easy thing for a mere mortal to do.
Sometimes it amuses me a little when I hear from parents of one or two children how difficult everyday life can be. I easily think: ”Oh my, I whis you’d knew”. However, the thing is that the burden of everyday life is just as heavy as you make it for yourself. I myself sometimes get depressed too much, but then again I remember to be grateful for everything that the big family has brought to me. I also understand that everyday life with one child can be just as mentally taxing as with several children. Of course, you think about things in a different way now that kids are running from behind every tree.
Family life is a disaster from time to time. However, there is absolutely no need to complain about it. It is worth thinking about the bigger picture in difficult moments. Each new child brings new challenges, and the challenges change as the children grow older. In difficult times, the trust and teamwork between parents rises to an unimaginable value, and in my opinion, it is one of the most important pillars for running a functioning family life. Father or mother is not always smiling, but in such cases it is good to give the other a moment to calm down and provide backup. Both ways. At that point, Marlon Brando turns into herself again.
Parenthood brings a lot of worries and sorrows, but no sorrow can overcome the fact that your own family is the best in the world. Children can be really difficult a lot of the time, but that is just part of it all: growing up, parenting, family and everything that is built inside your walls. And the masterpiece that you and your family create cannot be replicated by anyone. It is your creation and better than any other.
I still want to remind you that the writing was done ”with the tongue in cheek”, but there is a truth between the lines. You, as a smart reader, will surely understand what I mean. Life is wonderful when you really become aware of it.
Oh, how I would love to write more and in more detail about this topic. Even though a lot was written for one Sunday morning, this is only scratching the surface. As a parent, if you have a question to ask about the challenges of fatherhood, your own opinion about something you would like peer support for, or an everyday insight, I will be happy to answer them in the form of a separate article. If you disagree with any of the above or think that based on this article it would be better for me not having children at all, tell me that too. 🙂
Happy mideason for everyone. Take care of each other!