In one of the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, Moomin and Little Dragon, Moomin has found and brought home a baby, fire-breathing dragon which he is hiding in a jar in his bedroom. He wants to keep the dragon a secret until he can show it to his best friend Snufkin. When he is leaving Moominhouse to go find Snufkin, Moominmamma is cleaning and as he heads out, he asks her to make sure that no one goes into his room when he is gone.
Now, pause and consider your options if you are Moominmamma.
a) Say “Of course” and keep doing your laundry?
b) Say “Why? What are you hiding?” and eradicate the trust you have worked so hard to build?
c) Say “Of course” and the moment Moomin leaves enter his room and look for whatever it is he doesn’t want you to see, completely annihilating the chance for trust down the road?
Moominmamma calmly opts for option A. Clearly, Moominmamma is who I want to be, now and as that future parent, as my little Moomin grows bigger and more independent.
As a mother, it is hard to exaggerate the impact our time here in Finland is having on how I think about how I parent. As a mom in general, I would classify myself as an efficient worrywart: I am always multi-tasking trying to get chores finished, child dressed, breakfast cleaned, shopping lists made while simultaneously seeing the most irrational danger in virtually every situation. While I know most of my fears are unfounded, and I know I do not want to race through life at a frantic pace, and I know that I do not want to send the message to my Moomin that he is incapable of independence, I nonetheless have yet to discover the switch in my brain that would turn down the volume on the worry track. In short, I do not want to proceed through parenting as a fearful, helicopter mom who is always in a hurry. Moominmamma would never proceed in such a way.
During our two-year-old Moomin’s first week of school here, the teachers told us we had to get him skis so he could learn to ski. We got him the skis and he figured it out. He went ice skating. He said it was really slippery and he fell down a lot and cried. But he also said he kept getting back up. He walked to the city library holding the hands of another tot. He said it was far and he was tired. He learned to put on his snowsuit, boots, hat and gloves. Getting dressed by himself is a source of pride. He eats everything they put in front of him at school. He will try any food, even the spicy stuff, especially the fishy stuff. As the only two-year-old at school he runs with the bigger kids. Sometimes he sits and watches them. Sometimes he eats some dirt. But he is safe and he is practicing self-reliance and he knows how to take his time. Moominmamma would be proud, saying “How nice to be on your own for a bit and do what you like,” as she does in Moominland Midwinter.
I am resisting the urge to worry about everything. I am stopping myself from putting on his snowsuit if he is taking too long (and yes, we sometimes miss the bus). I marvel when he falls (and he falls hard) about how he just stands up and brushes himself off and doesn’t cry. I let him climb up the ladder in the kitchen and pour the cereal and, sometimes, the milk (yes, it spills). I bought him a pair of scissors, Fiskars (made by a Finnish metal company that dates back to 1649, they are sharp, well-made and just a wee bit smaller than an adult’s), laid down some ground rules and gave him time to practice (he cut his fleece pants once and a nicked a finger once… you learn quickly when your fingers are at stake). I watch him decide to go down the hill in the forest on his butt because he thinks it is too steep but he wants to do it on his own. I let him even though he gets covered in mud. Moominmamma would smile.
Moominmamma is calm, fosters individual thinking and independence, has a strong sense of justice, and always seems to have yummy food in her trusty handbag. Naturally, I want to raise a loving, open-minded, understanding, independent, sensible kid who solves problems and doesn’t instantaneously give up when things get a little bit difficult. Emulating Moominmamma helps and I will strive to maintain the mindset when our journey ends next month. My little Moomin needs me to.
Moominmamma laughed a little. Then she said thoughtfully: “Do you know, all the time we’ve been living here like this, I’ve had the feeling that we’re on an expedition somewhere. Everything is so different all the time, as if it were Sunday every day. I’m beginning to wonder it’s a good feeling after all.”
The others waited for her to go on.
“Of course we can’t always be on an expedition. It has to come to an end sometime. I’m terribly afraid that it will suddenly feel like Monday again and then I shan’t be able to feel that any of this has been real…” She was silent and looked at Moominpappa a little hesitantly.
“But of course it’s real,” said Moominpappa amazed. “And it’s fine to feel that it’s always Sunday. It’s just that feeling that we had lost.”
–from Moominpappa at Sea