Sunday, September 13, 2009

The First Six Weeks

Ah, the first six weeks. The time when things generally shake down; when we watch how the community begins to take shape; when we see how people adjust to an entirely new environment; when we see how and when residents adjust to their roommates, the new dynamics surrounding them, and set and establish an entirely new pattern of life, dealing with the new opportunities, choices, and schedules set before them.

Many of my friends in higher ed know exactly what I’m talking about. Funny that I’m actually referring to my transition into a full-time stay at home dad and parenthood in general and not dealing with residence life. For once. I mean – who knew that years and years of working with high school and college students would have given me a somewhat decent foundation for how and what to expect of myself with this moderately mega-huge life change?

It’s not that every answer to all the issues – internal and external – that I’ve been working through can be found in the pages of the sage wisdom of student development theory books. I’m not advocating that the next edition of Education and Identity needs to be authored by Chickering, Reisser, and Seuss, or that we need to start assigning negative numbers to Perry’s stages of development so that people can build up to a Level One (somewhere, out there in Internetland, at least three student affairs nerds just chuckled…). I just find it nothing shy of somewhat – well, funny that a decade ago when I started grad school, I never would have or could have envisioned that those days spent sitting in Drs. Dunn, Grandpre and Wilson’s classes would have prepped me for being a daddy. Or, at the very least, given me a nice parallel to watch unfold.

Life is amazingly cyclical. It’s almost as if God knows what He’s doing, and actually has a plan for my life. That one moment leads to the next, even if I don’t see the connection at first. Like how old friends reconnect after years of silence, only to find they have more in common now that they did when younger.

The Divine is kinda kooky like that.

Anyway, since we student affairs geeks like to talk (…endlessly, at times…) about the importance of the first six weeks of college, here are just a few insights that I have gained from the first six weeks at Malakai University:

CARTILAGE IS OVERRATED: One day, I hope to regain the feeling in my shoulders and lower back, or at least feel something other than pains that make me wonder if my birth certificate is off by a century, ‘cause DANG if I don’t feel like I’ve got a walker coming to me in my near future. Although this bundle of awesomeness is still less than 20 pounds, carting his majesty around (and rocking him, and cuddling him) has done some amazingly painful things to my body.

THERE ARE NO BUSINESS CARDS THAT FIT THIS: I have jokingly said to some friends that when I’m asked what I do for a living, I’m going to start saying that I work from home, running an Internet sales company that specializes in selling yarn. Why? Because the real answer of “I quit my job and am now a stay at home dad” gets some of the most AMAZING reactions from people. Really. When asked, if instead of answering the question I pulled a live trout out of my pants it might seem less shocking. I wish that I could just say this reaction is just a cultural thing here living in Miami, but God knows that if I tried to pull this while living in the South…with me not having a job, being a stay at home dad, and doing everything I can to eat organic and/or soy products, and advocating shopping at local businesses rather than chains…I might be considered by some people to only be one VW Van and pair of hi-top shoes away from starting a commune or a cult.

WHAT’S A “WEEKEND?” I never really stopped to realize that I was leaving a job that required extensive after-hours and weekend work for a job that requires complete after-hours and weekend work. Every time that Ashley has said “I am so glad that today is Friday,” I’ve had to stop and remember that days have names.

DAYTIME TV DOES NOT DESERVE ITS OWN EMMY AWARD PROGRAM SYSTEM: Really. The overall mental health and cognitive growth of the nation would be better served by showing nothing but test patterns on television daily beginning at 7:30 am, save for public television networks that show educational programs, until 3:00 pm. Then they can all start to show cartoons. Netflix has been my saving grace for those times when it’s raining too hard to take Kai out on a stroll.

“SNACK FOODS” SHOULD BE CALLED “SNEAK FOODS:” People are constantly amazed at the volume of coffee I ingest on a daily basis. The reason for this is threefold: (1) I am one of those weirdos who actually LIKE the taste of a good cup of coffee, (2) it’s a very social drink, and it’s easy to ask someone to join you in having a drink to talk about life, and (3) it beats the crap out of eating mountains of Kit-Kats, chips, jelly beans (my personal Kryptonite), or other easy-to-chow-down-on-and-eat-way-more-than-you-realize-you’ve-eaten-until-the-freaking-bag-is-empty snacks. America is not obese because we’re lazy; we’re obese partially because our taste buds have developed the attention span of a Tsetse fly.

When asked about my job if I like it, I actually can say with no reservation that 90% of the time, I love it. It’s that ten percent that I have to struggle with. It’s difficult not having an outlet (call it what you will, work can be a form of escapism) every day that gives my mind something to focus on. It’s hard to not be able to hold a conversation that involves a lot of smiles, clapping, and discussions centering around primary colors and shapes. It’s frustrating at times that some days, at best all I can steal away is 20-30 minutes for myself (which explains the sparse updates).

But with all due respect to Melanie, Raymond, Ann, Jen, Brit, Keener, Fletch and John – Kai is, by far, the best boss I’ve ever had. The benefits package is beyond belief.



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