Solid Washing and Kissing

Dad and M

“There were a lot of us, and we all soon became grave and tidy youngsters, because [she] had a most solid character and used to wash us more often than she kissed us.” – The Exploits of Moominpappa, p. 9

This was a wake-up call to me tonight as we read this book to the boys before bed. In this case “she” was the director of the orphanage where Moominpappa grew up and she was of noble character. But – as you can see from the quote – the fruit of her parenting was grave and tidy children who didn’t know they were loved.

I thought about our family, and how we want to help the kids develop solid character. What this means is that a lot of times I’m correcting, disciplining, and lecturing – and not in a nice way. Imagine all of these being said constantly, with zero sense of humor or tenderness:

– “I love you, but you’re being a jerk to your brother right now.”
– “See how we don’t believe what you’re saying right now? It’s because you so often tell us lies and now we can’t trust you” (not said in a nice way)
– “Get down right now! You’re going to fall and die.”
– “Hey, if your friends say hi to you, you have to respond. It’s not good to be so passive. They’re going to think you don’t like them. And then they won’t like you and won’t want to play with you.”

I drone on and on WAY more than I kiss and show affection. And sometimes you see that the kids are tidy and obedient, but grave and sullen.

When I read this passage from the book I felt convicted – I don’t want my kids to grow up tidy yet grave. I want them to grow up knowing how much their mom and dad love them. Washing and correction are of course part of this love and very important for kids – and like I said, we do plenty of that already – but I suppose it’s not necessarily “solid” and edifying washing if my kids don’t feel loved when I’m correcting them. Do they get enough kisses and affection as well? Or do they feel like I’m just constantly telling them what to do?

In this stressful season of having young kids, often I can be so stern and serious – kind of like Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. I realized tonight I don’t want our house to be a place where it’s hard to be a kid. The ideal is to build a home where the kids can enjoy life with us and be corrected in the larger context of love and deep affection, and then grow up and build their own homes of joy, love, and wonder with their kids. I thought of some things I could say or do to help this along:

– Say, “I’m so proud of you for how you handled this situation” more often
– Get off my computer when they’re done with quiet time and spend the time before dinner reading to them or playing games
– Take my time when putting them to bed instead of rushing through their bedtime story and giving them a hurried kiss before I go and enjoy my freedom
– Say “yes” when they ask, “Mommy, can you play with me?”
– And finally, commit to listening and engaging with them when they’re trying to tell a story. Usually I’m busy cooking or working on the computer when they want to talk, and I get bored easily by their stories or think they’re not that important. But Nate keeps telling me, “If you don’t listen to them now, they’re not going to want to talk to you when they’re older. Because to them everything that they’re telling you is important.” So wise. And I’m grateful for the lesson I learned today.

By the way, if you’re looking for a good read-aloud series to read to the kids, we highly recommend Tove Jansson’s Moominland series. Our boys love all the stories about these funny Moomintrolls. The first one is Comet in Moominland and it goes from there. This is the one we were reading tonight:

The Exploits of Moominpappa (Moomintroll)

(photo from

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  • Great thoughts. I think of this topic fairly often and I often think about my relationship with my dad. My dad’s a engineer of Finnish descent…and that’s probably about all that you need to know about the amount of outward affection that showed to his kids when we were growing up. I don’t remember a lot of hugs or a lot of “I love yous” from dad when I was young (he’s more intentional about it now), but at the same time, I just knew that he did deeply love his children.

    I think at times we get too worried about what our outward signs are conveying to our kids, rather than acknowledging that they know much more about what’s in our hearts than we give them credit for. I guess I am saying that this might be one of those things that we don’t need to worry about so much… or, maybe we have to worry about it a whole lot if we dread the idea that our kids have a pretty good inclination of what’s actually in our hearts.

    • TheSweetRoad

      Hey Ken, I really appreciate you writing so much. You’re right – we probably don’t need to focus too much on outwardly showing our kids that we love them b/c they’ll be able to tell anyway. In that sense maybe it’s that some personalities will naturally show more affection anyway, and it’s OK if we don’t fall into that camp. However, my problem is exactly what you described in your last sentence – a lot of times my heart toward the kids isn’t great. Either I expect them to be perfect and get annoyed with them when they’re not, or I want to do other stuff than parenting and I get annoyed at their interrupting me (and then I’m correcting them in a not-nice manner for that…) BTW thanks for sharing about your dad. Have you heard the joke that you can tell that a Swede is an introvert if he looks at his shoes while he’s talking, and he’s an extrovert if he’s looking at your shoes while he’s talking? :)

      • “a lot of times my heart toward the kids isn’t great. ” Your struggle with this issue betrays your words on this. The worst thing you can do as a parent is to be apathetic. You care deeply about your kids and struggle with these issues. That shows where you heart is.

        We can all be better parents. I suppose I take (too much) solace in the idea that I just need to not be a parent that inflicts deep emotional scars upon my children. If I can just do that and give them a reasonably happy childhood, odds are they’ll turn out fine. Just don’t screw up too badly. That’s my parental mantra.

  • I’M PRINTING THIS OFF FAITH! It totally spoke in clear loud decibels to me. Right now, I pretty much spend nearly every waking minute with Alicia and it can be draining sometimes, ok, a LOT of the times, but it is SO worth it to watch my communication and cuddle her up 100% more than I do currently.

    • TheSweetRoad

      I totally hear you Becca! It’s so hard to *enjoy* our kids when we’re so busy parenting! Plus you guys just moved, that’s got to add some stress to all of you. We can keep each other accountable to cuddling more :)

  • Maria

    I remember reading ” Mumindalen” when I was a kid…It is very famous in the scandinavian countries..Love it!

    • TheSweetRoad

      Yes, Maria, nice! Nate is finally getting back to his Swedish roots and reading Swedish-Finnish authors now :). Have you been able to find them here? They’re on but in English (and maybe Spanish).