Friday, March 30, 2018

All Together Now

Another year has passed...

Have been fully immersed in the work of teaching and parenting

Daughter sitting on my lap as I type, asking me what she can do to stave off boredom.

Son (who is supposed to be asleep) barges into the room, climbs on my lap too.

Maybe I'll start writing this blog again.

Maybe I'll get caught up in the chaos of each day.

So much to think about, not as much to say (have learned to measure my words).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Comeback -- Maybe?

Nearly three years after my last post, I think I might be ready to start writing again.

But as with all things in parenting, I'm going to be cautious and not make a firm decision yet...

I am glad that some circumstances in my life have stayed constant, like still being a professional academic. I like experiencing small triumphs in the teaching-learning process (which I see as a win-win and usually a result of collaborative effort between me and the students involved). I still make plenty of mistakes and attempt to learn from them (especially not to make the same error twice).

I am also pleased that things are changing. Instead of one child to ponder, I have two. My older child is in the second year of kindergarten (Hong Kong kids start school at x<12 months, so by age four, already a veteran kindergartner). My younger child just turned 2. Both children are, as with most families, quite different. They also show me what an actual "two person world" (consisting of them, excluding parents) is like.

So if I have some free time after all a day's labor is done, expect to see more posts about how teaching and parenting intersect.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You never stop being a parent (or a teacher)

Now that I'm a mother (of a human -- I've been a veteran cat mother for eleven years now), I finally understand why people are so desperate to have a free moment away from their precious children. Like all many conventional narratives have shown, I enjoy spending ten hours away from my daughter each day doing work that is not related to my household. The only thing is that for all I can claim about loving my research more (a reality I cannot hide), I spend a good deal of those ten hours worrying about my other children, namely students.

I don't intend to be patronizing by calling 18+ year old students "children" but I just feel that despite the not-so-significant age gap (I would still qualify as an adolescent mother if I had given birth to them), they are my intellectual flesh and blood, and I worry about their well-being inside and out of the classroom, physically and socially. I don't expect them to be smart, per se, but enthusiastic, driven, and cognizant of why effort is so important to invest into a meaningful life.

I have written before about in loco parentis which is not legally mandated but a frame of mind that many educators possess, but it hit me harder this autumn because I will be moving to a new position in the spring. Although I am very excited about what lies ahead, I am nervous about "leaving behind" (I don't like to think of it that since I will remain in Hong Kong, just a hour away from my current institution by bus) students who I have taught but have yet to graduate. I am proud of those who have already left the university "nest" and are thriving in various fields, but their as-yet-studying peers tug at my heart. I hope that with enough strategic planning, I can continue being part of their lives even when I'm physically away from them. What will be harder than the tangible separation will be managing the inevitable pangs of regret that I can't see them through the last steps before they complete the final leg of a long journey towards adulthood.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

From Liquid to Solid

I won't give the illogical excuse that I didn't post anything in February because nothing happened. Like parents everywhere, my husband and I were overwhelmed by the plethora of changes that occur in the sixth month of life. We were pleasantly stunned by our daughter's ability to sit up and to begin crawling, and less thrilled but grateful nevertheless about all the hullabaloo culminating in the emergence of her first tooth.

But February was also a milestone for me in particular because I started to realize that "I am a new mother" excuse was starting to become less reasonable for the rapid declines in self-discipline and drive in the past few months. Although it is still difficult to coordinate all aspects of my life, even with lots of help and understanding, I no longer want to feel out of control -- not that, as people who know me well, I have ever enjoyed having less than full command of my actions and thoughts.

So my resolution for the spring and summer, especially as we get closer to my daughter's first birthday, is that I motivate myself to take hold of the liquid-like version of my life, and make it more solid. Just like introducing mashed fruits and oatmeal is helping my daughter transition out of her formula-based diet.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

All My Children

This post is not about the soap opera that I remember being on air when I was growing up (pre-college). I never watched the show, and with all due respect to its fans, I have no idea what it was about.

What I do mean by this phrase is that despite our best attempts to remain 100% professional in both emotion and action, professors can't help but thinking of students, undergraduates especially, as "kids." Our kids -- children -- that's right, we're in a perpetual state of loco parentis.

I felt the excitement and anxiety of reuniting with students this past week when I resumed teaching. I was not quite playing my A-game after a semester of working on research and getting used to parenting, but I managed. I saw a lot of former students who are taking my courses again, and met many new ones. I used to complain (in a caring way) that students demand your flesh and blood (not literally, of course, but with everything that they need...). I even thought that the very essence of me was getting stripped out by the stresses of teaching, advising, and administering all things pedagogical. I realize now, I wasn't wrong. Students are like children. We like and care about them. Their problems become ours. We hope that they will achieve bright futures and live happily ever after. We want them to do their best but are ready to help them whenever they make mistakes.

Last year, I just added a full-time, fresh from scratch child to a growing brood.

Thanks to my students for challenging and teaching me to be a better mother.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Semester's End

As everyone looks forward to the New Year, professors anticipate the beginning of a new administrative and teaching semester. In two weeks, I'll be re-entering the classroom after a sabbatical from giving courses. I'm looking forward to seeing students again, and trying out new pedagogical ideas (fingers crossed, as always). At the same time, I feel exhausted. I went through some proverbially life-changing experiences, and I spent a great deal of energy learning from my daughter. She has been like my personal Yoda, small, occasionally feisty, and cryptically communicative. As I type this entry, she is lying by my desk, figuring out her teether. Why is it cold? Why is it heart-shaped? Why is it not as tasty as the fist, or any combination of one to four fingers? She is flipping from her back to her belly at every given chance, howling and growling, and teaching me that time management as I knew it (work every possible minute, schedule sleeping and eating for whenever I got tired of working) is now infeasible. Very soon, I'll have to wake up early, teach all morning classes, do my research in the afternoon, and give her my full attention when I return home -- like many parents do. So it's been a productive semester of teaching and learning, as I can say with my cranky little tutor by my side.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Constant Growl

I haven't been posting in the past two months with the enthusiasm that I hoped to share about the challenges of continuing my academic career while working on the other end of the educational spectrum by mothering a newborn child.

Like many other mothers, three weeks after birth, the changes in my physiology shut down parts of my mental and emotional selves. I became a completely different person, and went through every day hoping that my treatments would be effective to restore my "natural self." Many of my carers asked what is normal, and as impaired as I was, I tried to figure out how to describe those characteristics and abilities that I take for granted. Going day by day, week by week, I felt that my intellect was breaking down and that if it fell apart, I could not longer do the work that I value, maintain my relationships with family, friends, and colleagues -- and literally lose everything (while knowing that the rest of the world would be moving along smoothly in my absence).

I am now trying to count the good days on a  bumpy road -- this faultless problem still irritates and frustrates me, and no amount of persuasion that it is "normal" to be "abnormal" has been convincing…

So I march, and my daughter, now learning to produce sounds, is cheering me on by growling...