Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back to School

A little fall foliage

My classes started up again this week so I am feeling a bit academic and ready to sharpen pencils and cover books and whatnot. I have cut back on how much I’m teaching this spring, mostly because of having the house on the market. I couldn’t quite figure out to have a babysitter at home with Grace and be able to show the house, and now I’ll have more energy and time to keep the house in tiptop shape. The teaching I am doing should be fun: labs for an earth science and astronomy course. Don’t tell my students, but I really know nothing about geology; hopefully my ignorance there will be eclipsed by knowing enough astronomy. (Ha ha-- “eclipsed!”) Cutting back on teaching meant me saying goodbye to one of the two universities where I was teaching, which was a tiny bit bittersweet. That university was really small and the physics department was really friendly in a sort of bumbling, tweedy way. The university where I am still teaching is a bit bigger and seems more polished in how things are run. The students are quite different as well; one university tends to have students who are all subculture-y and pierced, wearing band T-shirts, with majors like philosophy and music, while the other one is apt to have students who are preppy and have majors that will get them specific jobs.

Returning to campus always makes me realize that I am getting OLD. Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say I am no longer truly young, as my 30th birthday approaches later this year. When I was first starting teaching up here in New Haven, I thought I would have to be really careful about being super professional and formal to combat being close in age to the students. I need not have worried. It turns out that college students these days are wee tiny infants. They are all these fresh-faced unformed babies and I definitely feel the decade or more that separates me from them. Do you realize that this year’s freshmen were born in 1989?

The day before I started back to teaching, Grace had a world-class tantrum. Most of Grace’s flip-outs these days are what I am calling “autonomy tantrums” where she gets frustrated because she can’t manage something she wants to do, or I won’t let her do something she wants to do. I can’t even clearly remember what set her off on Sunday but it snowballed into quite a maelstrom of misery and emotion. Our normal methods of attempting distraction or giving her some space to calm down on her own weren’t really working, so after almost half an hour Rob ended up holding her in our darkened basement until she finally got herself together. It is really great to see her becoming so independent and self-reliant but there are certainly some growing pains along the way. We’re trying to give her as many opportunities to do things herself as possible; I find myself thinking several times a day, “Can I let Grace do this herself? Is it worth a confrontation for me to do it?” I think it’s healthy for me to think this way, because I tend to enjoy being in control and doing things MY WAY and I know I could steamroll right over her in a condemning way. Sometimes, of course, we can’t accommodate her. Today, right as we were getting ready to leave the house, Grace decided she did not want to wear a diaper. This is a problem because she does not, you know, use the toilet. We had a knock-down-drag-out wrestling match getting her into the diaper, into her coat and hat, out the door, and into her car seat, where much wailing ensued. Sometimes it’s tough being the mommy...

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