Today begins a regular weekly series that — on account of my endless well of creativity — I’m calling “Meet a Dad.”
It’s a pretty simple idea: Profile a dad and let him share his fatherly wisdom with us. Some of these dads will be well-known in certain circles; others will be largely unknown outside of their immediate circles. Doesn’t matter, because I think just about every father has as much (or more) to share than I do.
So “Meet a Dad” gives other dads a voice, and I like that. First up is my friend Kristian Mattila. He’s Canadian, by way of Finland. He puts very intimidating profile photos on his Facebook page. But he’s not really that scary, as you’ll discover.
Tell us who you are and what you do…
I’m Kristian, roughly 35-year old Finnish immigrant to Canada and a dad of two. I do arts and writing, both online and off-line. I have a proper job too, which has something to do with IT, social issues and statistics. I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
What can you tell us about your family?
My house is populated by an 8-year old daughter, a 5-year old son, a wife, and a boxer puppy. We live in a tolerably functional yellow house in a small city in the Canadian prairies. The wife stays at home with the kidlets, and I drive to work every morning in an old, rusty truck that alone is responsible for 13% of the climate change.
What is one thing you do that qualifies you for being an above-average dad?
Statistically speaking, I’m pretty sure that I’m able to spend more time with my kids than 50% of other fathers. I used to have a job that required travel and being away from home about a week every month, so I hovered towards a better career that’s pretty standard 8:00 to 16:45, and no more than a week of travel in a year. When the traffic is bad and the traffic light gods unfavourable, my commute can take up to 6 minutes. From the moment I come home until kids bedtime it’s family time with very few exceptions.
What is one thing you do that results in eye rolls and/or exasperation from your kids?
Overall, our kids have fairly low levels of eyerollage. There are some non-negotiable, dad-is-not-available-he’s-glued-to-the-TV times around international hockey tournaments, football (or “soccer”) world cup, Formula One races and CFL games when Saskatchewan is playing. Probably because they’re more of an exception than the rule, they’re not always well-taken by the offspring. Or the wife.
What is the most challenging aspect of fatherhood for you?
I don’t really find the everyday aspects of fatherhood all that challenging. It’s something that comes to me naturally, much like manufacturing the kids in the first place did. What’s challenging is to be surprised every day that the kids are growing up, and bit by bit you need to let go more and more. Trusting them in the care of someone outside the immediate family was pretty hard. With growing up comes more independence and more worry for the parents. Before the kids came into the picture, I thought I was immune to stress.
What is your absolute favorite thing to do with your kids?
My dad was a mortician, and he balanced the grimness of daily life by painting with oils and building scale models. We spent a fair amount of time painting, drawing or building tanks and planes together, and he shared his tips, techniques and ideas. These times were the best memories of my childhood, and I wanted to do the same with my own kids.
Ever since the first few days of their lives, the kids have seen me do arts, and ever since they figured out how to grab a crayon and draw on wallpaper, art has been the number one thing that we do together. Not necessarily on the wallpaper, though. Drawing, sculpting, painting, building scale models, origami — the variation keeps things forever interesting. It’s never structured in any way, and I teach by example, giving hints and tips, while encouraging experimenting and thinking outside the box. Think of Bob Ross minus the afro. Over the years, this has become slightly more a thing for me and my daughter, as she shows more interest in art and, like me, has the patience of a five-ton boulder. My son takes after his mommy, and tends to get distracted by shiny things fairly quickly.
What’s the best advice you ever received about fatherhood?
I used to work with a lady who had expertise in early-childhood education, and we had many discussions about parenthood. She used to smack me with a proverbial 300-pound mallet that had “be consistent” engraved on it. Kids are complex creatures, but they rely more heavily on consistency than grown-ups do. A dad with a hint of predictability is not dull. He represents safety in the world that’s pretty chaotic through child’s eyes.
If another father asked you for one piece of advice about being a dad, what would you tell him?
Show active interest in what your kids are doing, saying and being interested in. Your kids most likely do that to you, and it’ll go a long way in building a (largely) trouble-free dad experience. It’s supposedly an obvious thing, but it’s pretty damn easy to get carried away by things and stuff of modern life, and neglect your kids even when you don’t think you are. Set up a recurring calendar note of it in your phone or computer, appearing every 8 days. Write it on the gas cap of your lawnmower. Hire a Norwegian immigrant to barge into your office at random intervals, dressed up as B.A. Baracus from A-Team, and sing it to you in the tune of “The Four Horsemen” by Metallica. Chances are that often you do need the reminder.
Please indicate any blog or social media links if readers would like to connect with you online.
I can be reached via means of Electronic Mail from the address kristian at treemouse dot com.
Thanks, Kristian. Look for a new “Meet a Dad” every Friday.