Friday, September 24, 2010

semester start anxiety abated

Turns out my semester start anxiety was fueled not just by my separation anxiety, but by my fear of going back to my feminist porn manuscript which I had vowed to return to after Labor Day. Fortunately it wasn't dreadful and it only took me a good week to finish up revising it in order to submit to my editor, so now I'm back with Lilly all day. I was holding on to summer at the end there, but now I'm finding refuge in fall routines, knowing what's going to happen every morning (class at "school" Monday, take care of a friend's baby Tuesday, class at the library Wednesday, child swap for yoga Thursday, have Lilly at a friend's house Friday so I get some time to write on my sleep question book).

Lilly in the parking lot in front of "school"

The other thing I was dreading, except returning to the above said manuscript, was Lilly (and I, as it turns out), taking a class at "school;" otherwise known as the Early Childhood Family Education Program (ECFE) offered by the public schools in town. From this post, you may remember me being critical about this program and so wonder why I chose to enroll us in it. Well, firstly I wanted to find out for myself how good or bad it could be. Secondly, a lot of my friends with their kids are in this class, though these very friends are among my sources for my skepticism towards this program. I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity of spending more time with my friends, and Lilly with her friends, playing and learning. I knew this class would include separation time, which I know it's time for (though I'm not liking it). Seeing we constitute about half of the class, my friends and I thought we might have a chance at changing the format a bit and, finally, they all thought I'd be a good candidate to step up and speak out, if that were to be needed.

This was the part I was not happy about. I mean, who likes conflict anyways. But I know I would do it, it's just the kind of person I am. And I was just anxious I'd make more of a scene than need be.

It's not been easy. The teachers are overly sweet and teacherly, to kids and moms, and the token dad. So from being greeted and instructed on how to fill out the name tag, it's been a patience trial for me. The space for the kids is great though with lots of stations for them to explore different activities in. From 8:30 till 9 they roam and play freely. Then it's circle time where we sing, the teacher leads some sort of activity and then reads a book for them. At 9:15 the kids line up to wash their hands and the moms and dad are instructed to leave the class room for our (!) class while the children have a snack and then their play of choice before we return for a final goodbye song.

It's "our" (!!!) class that gets me the most. It's listed on the day's schedule as our "discussion time," but oh no, they insist on letting it be known to us that this is our class time because now it's time to ensure we're parenting the right way. Our "teacher" is a grandma who's so nervous she can barely listen, asking didactic questions like, what kind of parenting style do we not approve of, or superficial questions like, did anyone have a particularly memorable moment of parenting this summer.

Ahh. First day I looked around and saw my best friend just about bursting in her seat. Second time I threw out something challenging to talk about. Like separating from our children, which we're all dealing with as we speak, and many of us--I know at least my friends and I--struggling with. It caused a heated discussion about letting children cry-it-out or not, and I was thanked by my friends after class (during our debrief bitching at the local coffee shop) for bringing this topic up. So I guess this "class" can turn out for the better, but it's going to take work, and that's just not as uplifting to me as when you don't have to fight for a good discussion of sharing challenges and strategies in a safe forum of fellow commiseration and peer boosting.

Monday, September 6, 2010

semester start anxiety

There's anticipation and anxiety in the air as we're plunging into another academic semester tomorrow. My best friend's son is starting Kindergarten, my ex's daughter will be a first year student in college, and my toddling Lilly will be introduced to "separation time" in the ECFE class (Early Childhood Family Education offered by the public schools in town) that she'll be in this fall.

To be honest, I'm dreading it all. But I think it'll be good for us all. Perhaps primarily for me.

"Nationwide, campuses are helping this generation of highly connected families manage the transition by teaching the adults how to let their children go," reported the Start Tribune yesterday on its front page.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised to find myself this attached. I grew up in a country that values independence, in children as well as adults. At eighteen years old, I finished high school, and, as most of my friends, enrolled in university (in Oslo, Norway), left my parents' home (which was in a small city outside of Oslo), and got an apartment of my own. We were legal, could vote, get a driver's license, and buy alcohol in the liquor store. Most of us were done with binge drinking by the end of middle school and considered ourselves quite adult and sophisticated.

When I taught as a college professor here in the US, I was taken aback by how connected students were to their parents. The frequent phone calls I'd overhear between students and their parents while walking across campus from class to class. How much (and how fondly) they'd refer to their parents and conversations with them.

I maintained my high expectations from my American students while I met them halfway, providing more guidance and hand-holding than I really thought necessary. But I did it, and I grew quite close to many of my students. I did not, however, ever get over my exasperation with American students' seemingly uncut umbilical cords.

So why am I so anxious now, what with my Lilly growing up and taking off? I think a lot of it is personal. I grew up in a home that did not feel so safe, and I dreaded first day of school. Alas, it turned out that learning became my sanctuary (though not necessarily school per se: a tiny little girl with glasses, who soon became the class nerd, well, you can see how I became an easy object of teasing and harassment). Yet I liked school. And so when my husband at one point suggested home schooling, even before Lilly was born, I balked. But then the other day, I was the one who threw it out there.

But, ok, so if I take a pause and reflect here now: our Lilly has a completely different foundation from me. We're providing her with a much more nurturing, safe home basis from which she's gleefully adventuring off. She's very confident in herself around others. She loves to learn and she loves people. I think she will love school, and for healthier reasons than mine. She'll be fine. Right???
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