Friday, 27 July 2012

Fatherhood the Old Fashioned Finnish Way

The following story is something a friend of mine posted on her facebook. I thought it so exaggeratedly true that I had to share it with you my friends. This story is very representative of the stereotypical way of bringing up your children the Finnish way i.e. via the school of hard knocks. This story was a reply to a post on the page of an American who has a Finnish girlfriend and lives in Finland. The link to this post and reply is here.

Well, my father was very old school finn. He teatched me to swim by throwing me from the pier to the lake. When I was able to scramble back to the shore he was very happy and said: See, you can swim and the water is nothing to be affraid.
He teached our dog to avoid the sauna by sticking its nose in to the red hot stove. Dog never came in to the sauna no matter what after that.
He showed to me and my brother how to make slingshots, throw a knife and axe, make ice balls instead of just snow ones during the winter to gain advantage over our enemies during the snow wars.
He teached me to drive my bicycle by putting me on it and pushing me down the hill. We did it so many times that I finally stayed up because the falls hurt too much.
He gave me my first knife when I was five. When I was ten, I had already nine scars in my left hand. I also learned to make fires in the woods, rain or snow. I also learned how to put fire in to the fireplace.
When I once loaded too many logs in to fire place, he let them fall out and told me to watch what kind of damage those burning blocks did to our summerhouse floor so I would learn when the fire escapes and turns in to a house fire. The I had to put it out.
When I was affraid the dark, he took me to his car, drove me about six kilometers away from our summer house and told me to get out. - You know where you are, he said. - It is six kilometers by the road and only two trough the woods. See you at the breakfast.
I was seven years old but I was proud when I was at the breakfast table before anybody else woke up. When my father woke up and saw me, he was very proud of me. - Fill the buckets at the sauna with water, all of them, he said.
When my older brother got caught first time for drinking at the age of eleven, my father threw him around couple times and then opened his own Kossu and took a sip, and offered one for my brother too. After that we did not discuss about alcohol again.
We had a tradition in my family that when ever my father was drunk, we had to wrestle with him and for real too. I remember when I was able to dislocate his spine disk and he dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes for the first time, he was proud of me. After that I was no longer a kid.
He has funny sayings. " A man eats everything he orders", " Never trust the russians" and " Swedes are sissies" and the old classic: "Never loose a fight for a guy smaller than you". Also" It is not a shame to loose a fight if you can hurt the other guy". He also quoted his favorite writer Väinö Linna often. He favorite was "Koskela from Finland, eats iron and shits chain."
When he was diagnosed of cancer he warned everybody: I don't want to hear any fucking thing about Jesus. He eventually won the fight with the cancer.
Once, when we were coming from our summerplace, we drove from there to Helsinki in just two and a half hours. Speed meter never went below hundred and twenty and topped at one ninety. When I got jitters because we were going sideways in curves with tyres screaming, he smiled and said: "You feel that? Nice when you are in control, isn't it?".
His uncle who was at the Tali-Ihantal in 1944 once decided to talk to me about the war. All he said was this: " You know the battle of Tali-Ihantala? That was no fun".

There are some similarities in this story to those of my husband's upbringing such as using knives as children. My husband received a commando knife at the age of ten, as a Christmas present no less, and was allowed to play with it in the forest with his friends. There, they carved pieces of wood and chopped things while playing in a forest with deep, defense moats dug out during the winter war with Russia. Moats so deep any small child who fell into it would surely break a few bones. But their parents weren't worried they just told them how to be careful and let them go. This is something very foreign to me, and my husband and I have discussed how difficult it will be to mesh my overprotective Trini/Anglo parenting style with his Finnish laisez faire/school-of-hard-knocks style. We'll see how it turns out in twenty years time.