Saturday, October 25, 2008

Single Parent

J is out of town for four days. Four days! I know that there are many women out there who are used to doing the single parent thing, but I'm not one of them. As much as I gripe about the division of labor around here, having him gone makes it much more difficult to get anything done.

For instance, this morning as I was attempting to make waffles, Miss M decided that she needed to be held right then (and when I wouldn't pick her up, she clung to my legs so tightly that I couldn't take a step). Because I didn't have anyone to hand her off to or to delegate the waffle making duties to, I actually burned a batch. This infuriated E who proceeded to cry and moan, "that's not how daddy makes them." A glorious start to the day! Miss M is still clingy and E is in full-out whine mode. How long, I wonder, until I am in full-out wine mode?

Friday, October 17, 2008

What have I done?

About two weeks ago, I was approached about directing a somewhat neglected, but potentially important interdisciplinary program. To be polite, I said I would consider it. I checked in with former program directors and current faculty to get a sense of the program's current state, but I decided it would be way too much work to get the program back on track. Rather than turn the deans down with a slacker's "it is too big a job, too hard," I decided to present them with conditions that would be impossible for them to meet, especially in the current economic climate. I asked for a larger director's stipend for myself along with a six hour course release in order to create and supervise an internship program, a 100 percent increase in the operating budget, and extra money for faculty stipends. Today I met with the deans involved and outlined my conditions. I expected them to say, "Thanks, but we don't have the resources." Instead, they became very excited about internship possibilities, community programming and other initiatives I mentioned.

Just call me madame director.

What have I done? Why couldn't I have channeled my inner Miss M and said, "No! I don't want to do it! No, No, No!"?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Biggest Worry

Last week, as all hell broke loose and the stock market imploded, I checked my retirement statement only to learn that a jar buried in my backyard would have been a slightly better place for the money I have invested in my retirement account for the past ten years. But that wasn't my biggest problem. Confirming that the muscle spasms, neck pain and headaches I have been experiencing since July are due to a ruptured disc and that the surgery I had to fix my first ruptured disc probably contributed to the latest problem? A cause for concern. Sure. But not my biggest problem. Learning that I was offered less than a male colleague in the sciences to direct our interdisciplinary environmental studies program? Not my biggest worry.

My biggest worry? Miss M.

Her week started well enough. On Monday, she flew out of my arms and into her teacher's arms with barely a "Bye, mommy." J picked up the girls after school because I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon to discuss my MRI results and options for my neck.* J basically handed M off to me in the driveway because he had to get E to soccer practice so we didn't have a chance to talk. I noticed that M was being a major crank, but I dismissed it thinking she was just upset that she was not joining her sister for soccer.

I had to stay home the next morning to wait for the cable guy. While waiting, I went through the pile of stuff J had left on the kitchen counter the evening before. The stack included M's daily report from school. Now, when I pick the girls up each day, I read the reports very closely because it helps me interpret their behaviors later in the day. I can only assume that J did not so much as glance at the sheets because when I called and read M's report over the phone, he responded, "Oh shit!"

The report stated that M "had several big tantrums today" with "lots of crying and refusing to stay on her mat" during nap time.

I emailed her teacher to find out if she was having a better day.

Her teacher replied, "So far, so good. Hopefully naptime will be better than yesterday. She actually was removed from the room twice! I'll keep you posted."

Twenty minutes later, I received a second email, "Oh dear, she is having a huge tantrum and refusing to get on her mat. We told her no paci if she isn't on her mat, and she isn't happy at all!!!!! Hopefully, she will give in. Wish us luck. "

And then, "M is still shrieking and having a fit. She is refusing to get on her mat and insists on crawling under the tables, etc.... We are desperate here because she is keeping both classes awake. Any suggestions? Can you come and speak to her? "

I was still waiting on the cable guy, but I threw on some shoes and rushed to campus. M was in the teachers' break room playing calmly when I arrived. "Hi Mommy!" she greeted me. We decided that it was best for me to take her home so she could get checked out by the pediatrician to rule out a physical origin for her behavior such as blocked ear tubes. Fortunately? her ears were fine, but we did receive a diagnosis: TWO.

I decided to observe** her class at naptime. She was wiggly, but one of the graduate students sat near her and she seemed close to sleep. I left to teach my 1:00 class relieved that she was behaving.

Between classes I emailed her teacher:

"I observed the beginning of naptime and was happy that M seemed to be settling down. I hope she'll continue to be good for you."

Two minutes later her teacher replied:

" I just returned to school from across campus, and was informed that M has been screaming since about 1:25. Carol, our nap worker, has had her outside because she refused to stay on her mat and wanted to run around the room. When I walked outside to see her when I returned @ 2:15, she broke into a big smile and thought that she was going to be with me. When I told her that she wasn't coming with me, she started crying again. I was told that she went down okay because Katherine stretched out next to her. Hmmmm....we are at a loss right now. I do know that I'm not going to allow her to get out of the room and be with me because that will be a treat for her (I don't mean to brag). Any ideas?"

As if.

I met the teacher a bit later. Basically, the only thing M could have done to be more disruptive would have been to fling poo.

J and I decided that we would BOTH observe naptime. I couldn't get there in time to see the beginning, but J was taking notes.

12:23 Entered room and washed hands.
12:25 On mat. Fidgeting.

This time M's teacher sat near her but didn't tell M to get back on the mat and didn't take her paci away for being off the mat. Instead, M played a game of chicken, keeping one part of her body in contact with the mat, but most of her body off the mat. She flopped around the mat, circumnavigating it twice. She did yoga poses with one foot or one hand on the mat. She twirled her teddy bear in the air above the mat. At one point, she stretched her legs and put them on the mat of another child. Then she put her feet on his head. The teacher stepped in at that point, moving M away from her sleeping classmate, but not saying anything. Finally, forty minutes into naptime, she drifted off, head and shoulders on the mat, torso and legs off the mat.

I observed naptime again. She went to sleep. On the mat. Phew!

I think maybe I have had a glimpse of the future here. Where E is eager to please (teachers at least), M is a bit more willful and defiant. In the future, when I get calls from the school, I will have to assume they are calling about M. It is probably M who I will worry about sneaking out, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, and experimenting with who knows what.

Of course, there is a bright side here. It has taken me almost 40 years to get to the point where I don't feel like I have to be the "good girl" or say yes to things I would prefer not do, or feel free to disagree with others. M seems to be well on her way.

*epidurals, massage and physical therapy for now
**this is a demonstration school so they have observation rooms with one-way glass