Monday, April 17, 2006

The Baby Whisperer

Sometimes, I think I spend more time apologizing for my blog breaks/blocks/fasts and blogging about blogging than I do blogging substantively. So, once and for all, sorry for this most recent blog block. I had some steam going from my commentary on that Prawfsblawg anonymous female academic blogging post, but spent it all. Last week the kids had their spring break. Which meant that they were home an awful lot more hours of the day. Which meant that I got a lot less reading done during the day, and had to read at night. Which meant that the blog was neglected as I attempted to Have It All and do the whole super nanny/super scholar/super exhausted insomniac trying to reform and establish new sleep patterns thing.

Parents and caretakers know intimately of the wonderful benefits preschool and kindergarten can bring to the lives of both the children and adults. Before the misery of junior high cliques and high school politics sets in, and before children can learn how to be truly cruel for the sake of their own amusement, there this wonderful socializing tool called pre-K and Kindergarten. I'm not saying it all goes downhill after that (it does), but these are truly wonderful years. Parker, a nephew I feared was mildly autistic when he was two years old (couldn't talk or communicate well, hit himself and others when frustrated) has within the last year gone from saying one or two words at a time to full sentences. He has even picked up "No, thank you." I try to teach the kids manners, but this kid was particularly hard to teach, owing to the whole hitting thing. I am one of those adults you see who looks stunned to hear that my child was very well-behaved and got along with everyone during pick up time at the preschool. I am one of those adults you hear muttering "why can't he be nice like that to his sister?" as I watch my child hand over a toy to another kid without hitting him. I am one of those adults who watches "The Dog Whisperer," despite having no dogs of my own, not just for the pure entertainment value of the show but also to adopt some of the methods to try to get my child to listen to me. I want to be the pack leader!

Don't call child services just yet, people. I'm not feeding him dog food or putting him in a kennel. I'm just saying I want to get Parker to stop hitting his big sister, my mother, and everyone else he doesn't fear (in other words, everyone except me, who does not coddle a kid who needs a time out in the Reflection Corner). I was once a professional day care worker, people. It's not like I duct tape babies to walls (honest to God, this happened in a local daycare) or otherwise abuse them. No, all I'm saying is that Cesar Milan's ideas about negative and positive energy are applicable to little humans too. Actually, Cesar, (who looks like the love child of Ricardo Montalban and Tatu from their tryst on Fantasy Island) says that he trains humans more than he trains dogs. It's all about the energy of the owner. I am trying to be a good caretaker by changing my energy so that Parker responds to me positively, yet sees me as the adult to listen to. I want to change from being frustrated, short, or otherwise not nice to being positive and loving, but assertive. Besides, I am adopting just one basic tactic: exercise from Cesar's mantra of "Exercise, Discipline, and then Affection." I tend to switch around the latter two in terms of importance.

I figure Parker has a lot of pent up energy being stuck in the house during our one or two months of rain a year. So every sunny day we get (and admittedly, that's almost every day) I take him and his sister outside for some real play time. The kids are a bit timid, and scared of everything, so I have been trying to teach them what little I know of nature (being an urbane suburbanite who watches The Science Channel, how much do I really know?). You know, like if you poke roly pollies with a stick they'll roll up into a ball. And that armadillos, something I've never seen before but saw on TV, do the same. So far, this is astounding news to a 3 and 4 year old. I'll have to kick it up a notch when they start becoming smarter. In fact, I worry that they will turn dumb when I leave in July for the LLM. Just kidding. But seriously, between feeding the kids three meals a day, bathing them, playing with them, having one hour of extra lessons from a preschool math/language activity book (hey, we're an Asian household), and trying to do the same for myself (it is important to bathe and eat), and there wasn't much time left over (not to mention energy) for anything else. I did have fun though. The kids being on spring break meant that I was able to go with the other set of 4 kids to a Bubble Show at the local Science Center. Then there was a birthday party for one of the eight kids. Ice cream was eaten. Laundry was done afterwards.

And almost as importantly, I chose my classes for next year's fall semester. Federal Courts, Courts and Social Policy, the requisite Independent Study with the TBD Faculty Advisor, and a workshop on researching and writing for this affiliate JD/PhD program that is open to LLMs. I honestly don't know how I'll adjust from a year of singing the ABCs to trying to go ABD, but it'll be done. I have this strangely sad luxury of not being completely obligated to put the kids first. They aren't my kids. And I'm sort of glad they're not--but when you spend a lot of time taking care of children, it's hard to feel like there's anything more important. So it's both exciting and extremely frightening to be focusing on myself and My Future.

I wonder if other young aspiring academics feel as I do. You know, abject terror and uncertainty. The few I know, personally (my own professors) or distantly (from the blogosphere) are at least ten years older than I am, married, with their own children, and well settled. I wonder if they remember the abject fear and terror that comes with that supposedly joyous period of one's raucous 20s. The not knowing where you'll be one year to the next. The not having anything in your life figured out--who you'll have as a life partner, whether you should start a serious relationship when you might be moving across the country for a clerkship or a new job. How you'll handle the "two bodies, two cities" problem if you meet and marry another academic. They have jobs and mortgages. I can approximate true adulthood when I take care of children--I am very good at it and I have 14 years of experience with it--but with the rest, who knows? I can change diapers, give baths, teach children how to read and add/subtract, give the dreaded "sex talk" to an awkward boy of 14, and discipline children without losing their affection--but I don't know anything else. I can read and write and do the school thing. It's the being on my own, without this whole extended tribe thing I'm used to that I need to learn. I need to know where I'll be living and what I'll be doing for more than one year at a time. I know how to be a mother, or at least what to do with a baby/child/pre-teen/teenager--but I need to figure out whether I want to even begin to search for the guy who will help make me one. Couple that with my father's intense xenophobia towards anyone who is not Vietnamese and the paucity of Vietnamese men in law school (dude, do they take the LSAT?) and that's a whole 'nother headache that I'd rather not think about. I can do the school thing for now. I can play at motherhood for now. But the big questions will have to be left for later.

And to all my blogospheric friends and mentors over 30 with the whole career/mortgage/spouse/kids thing worked out, who wish to comfort me and assuage my fears by saying that this is the best time of my life, I ask you, honestly: if you could, would you go back and do it all over again? Would you want to be me and decide not to buy real furniture just in case you don't get accepted to the JSD program and have to figure out something else to do and try to avoid moving back home again?

There is very little in my life I can control right now. Which is why I'm concentrating on the little things, and not the big questions. I can choose my classes. I can decide that it would be a good idea to apply to clerkships next fall just in case the JSD thing doesn't pan out. I can pack, 4 months ahead of moving. I can watch The Dog Whisperer and try to coax a 3 year old to stop hitting and get over his fear of toilets.

I can get over the blog block that has been plaguing me last week and finally write something.