Once in awhile when I launch into a story about my 2-year-old daughter, somebody, usually a person over the age of 25 years that has yet to procreate, begins to tell me about their childhood. And I immediately glaze over and lose interest. Why is that? I think it is because the 25-year-old person was a baby when Dallas was a hot show, most people had rotary phones, and cable TV was a luxury. So, they are neither cute nor babies anymore, and thus not interesting to me - Mr. My Daughter Was Up AT 5:30 AM This Morning.
And the thing is that, in America, having babies isn't really a thing 25-year-olds do. In fact, it's not often a thing 35-year-olds do. It's more for the 35-menopausal age group. Babies are viewed as lifestyle accesories, not as biological results. Americans really think that they can choose when and how to have a baby, like "when they're ready." I've got news for you - you'll never be ready. Child is father of the man.
Of these Americans, some, like me, did not plan on having one yet became accustomed to the result. Others put it off for so long that their eggs are crusty and difficult to penetrate by even the most ambitious, viral sperm. They then get fertility treatments and have triplets. So either way, you never know what life has in store for you!
In reality, babies are not a 'lifestyle choice.' I know there are things like condoms and birth control pills and the rhythm method and abortion, but individuals must actively work at and often fail in their efforts NOT to have children. Children, it seems, just want to be born.
I have to say that becoming a father was a bit of an easier process in Europe. I recall walking down Stroget in Copenhagen in 2001 and seeing groups of young mothers parking their babies outside of cafes in August to have a drink with some friends and then roll their way home. Or seeing babies tucked into "Baby Bjorn" carrying pouches in Finland. It seemed like children were just treated as a normal thing like - "Oh, look, I had sex and a baby came out. Better give it a name and feed it something."
It looked like something that wasn't scary, but that could be done.
When we found out about the impending birth of our child I was a little worried about telling my colleagues. I think I didn't tell them until my wife was eight months pregnant. Part of me was worried about any complications, but the other part of me was the socially conscious American who just "wasn't ready" to announce to a room full of Estonians that his family tree would grow another branch in just nine months.
Or did they even care? Pssh. Who knows with these Estonians. They all look like they are engrossed in a game of poker. When I finally did tell them, I think they were disappointed I didn't tell them sooner. But I had my own issues to face.
Seeing other Estonian dads my age really helped me get used to the idea of being a dad. Sometimes you need a little demonstration. And sure, Estonians get divorced a lot and drink alot and all that stuff most people do - but I have yet to witness a major family breakdown - broken dishes, flying fists, angry words - on an Estonian street.
And then there is the word for 'Dad' - Isa or Issi. I liked this word when I was going through the fatherhood acclimation role. 'Dad' to me sounded like Dennis the Menace's father. I wasn't sure I was ready to become an authoritative 'Dad' who knew best, but I thought I could manage being an 'Issi.' In fact, I am not sure I have much to teach even now. What will I tell my child about the Presidency of George W. Bush, for example? If somebody asked me about it, I think I could manage a sort of sombre dance of shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes. And I am just now starting to understand the intricacies of the stock market. And I am somebody's Dad? Yep. And I am an Issi too. But 'Dad' sounds like I know something. And 'issi' just sounds like I am a big clown.
Anyway, if you are feeling 'ready' to have an Estonian baby, here are some of my favorite names that I will unfortunately never be able to give a child with a straight face.
*NOTE: THIS SECTION HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT MY THOUGHTS ON THE NAME TEET*
For boys, Teet - which is cool in both Estonian and English. In Estonia "Teet teeb teed" literally means - "Teet is making tea." In English, the name "Teet" reminds one of the thing on the cow you squeeze until the milk comes out. Valvo, not the car, is also a favorite, and Silver (like the color). In fact, you could name your son, Silver Valvo, if you like sturdy Swedish cars
For girls, you can't go wrong with Õie, which offers three vowels in a row, Sibülla (the Estonian word for onion is 'sibul'), and my personal favorite, Asse. You can imagine how Americans would pronounce that one.