Yuen: How a Minnesota TikTok dad discovered our humorous bones via delivery order
Of course he’s a middle kid.
TJ Therrien’s creative nonsense stars in his TikTok videos, in which the Blaine dad shows how children react to everyday situations based on the order in which they were born. He’s built up a whole set of birth order theory truths: the oldest is responsible, the middle loves the audience, and the youngest has outsmarted us all (and makes us give in in fear).
Therrien’s goofy take on sibling dynamics has given us chuckles even in the depths of the pandemic. More than 850,000 people follow him on TikTok and he has attracted over 324,000 on Instagram.
He is also the Creative Director at Eagle Brook Church in Centerville, where he leads a team of video producers and graphic designers. And you might see Therrien at the Minnesota Twins games, fucking lazy balls and tossing them to the happy kids in the seats.
The 37-year-old told me that he actually has four children aged 9, 7, 5, and 2. Therrien says the first three are stereotypical – he and his wife Melissa are still figuring out their little one’s personality. We also talked about Therrien’s beliefs and why he doesn’t bother too much with pandemic-related content.
Here is an edited snippet of our conversation:
I find your attitudes reducing, accurate, and hilarious. Why does the birth order appeal to so many people?
Well, I didn’t know it would resonate with so many people. I just started throwing videos and watching my kids and their funny personalities. I thought back to my childhood and stories I heard from my parents. My parents are both firstborn. As teenagers, her parents were very strict. When their youngest siblings were teenagers, my grandparents let go completely. My father asked my grandpa, “What’s the matter with this?” And my grandpa said, “To be honest, we just don’t care anymore. We’re tired.”
How was your childhood?
I was actually born and raised in Blaine. I was very interested in athletics and my father worked for Old Dutch Foods all my life. It was a kind of worker job. They worked really hard to pave the way for us kids and give us the opportunity to get into sports and activities.
In retrospect, as a middle child, there is one thing I really appreciate: You let me be me. You endured my antics and maybe it paid off in some ways.
A friend sent me one story say the most stressful number of children for parents is three. Do you agree?
In my opinion, no matter what, you are at your maximum capacity. I think of parents with only children – they are busy because they know that. And then when you have a second child, you’re stretched. Your maximum capacity has grown, and you didn’t know it was possible. Then there is a third or fourth, and of course that leads to stress.
But I say the following: In our experience, the transition from two children to three children was the most difficult. The jump from third to fourth was not easy, but it was also no more difficult than the previous one. I think we let go of some rules and relaxed our parenting style a bit as a survival mechanism.
Your view of the family bike tour made me laugh so much that I cried. You walk down your suburban block to the tune of “Gangsta’s Paradise”, pushing a stroller and carrying your kids’ bikes that they obviously threw away. This is one of the most mundane moments we’ve all had as parents, but you found a way to make it funny.
I want to bring out these fun little things. When our kids ask about a bike ride, I know for a fact that after five minutes I’ll be wearing their bike, but then I’ll probably make a video about it.
But that’s something I wouldn’t even have thought of writing in a gratitude journal.
I think the reality has sunk in for us that we’re pretty sure we are done having children. We are in a phase of life in which we try to soak in as much as possible. And of course we are sometimes stressed and impatient because our house is loud and crazy and there are arguments. But it comes down to realizing that these little moments are the moments that we will miss one day, so let’s try to be as present as possible.
Do you think your videos were helpful during this isolation period from COVID-19?
That’s when it started. It was a creative outlet for me during the pandemic, and maybe months of incarceration with my family in my house brought the personalities to life. I noticed that it immediately resonated with the parents. A really cool example is a mom who lives in the Caribbean and extends her hand. We don’t look alike and live very different lives. She had three sons and told me how much she appreciated my videos, how relatable they were, and how she felt her family was a little more normal than she thought.
I think when people see my videos they stop by me and see their own families. This is special.
It is clear that you care about your beliefs. How did it help you weather the pandemic?
It helped me to spend this time – hopefully the short term – with a bigger picture. I would even say it helped me see this time from an eternal perspective and it brought out the things that are really important in life. I worked through problems faster and got less involved in the little things because I believe in what’s to come.
One of your videos was about masking, but most of them appear to be COVID free. It seems like there could be comedy gold in these weird times. Why didn’t you do more of this?
There are a couple of values I have with my videos. One of them is that they are completely family friendly. # 2, I avoid anything that divides people. So yeah, I haven’t touched COVID often because people are passionate and have great feelings. I don’t want to stir up the split. I want to focus on things that bind us together … which is the birth order for me.