Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

Steady State

1 February 2011

Dear J-

When I’m starting off on the bike and it’s cold outside — cold being a relative terms for San Diego — I have to layer up into my usual two shirts and a jacket and even then stepping into the outdoors is unpleasant. As I get farther down the road I’ve reached a kind of equilibrium with the surroundings and I don’t notice the cold until I start heading down the hill, which not only has the speed effect but adds the cold air trapped in the valley too. On the climb back out, though, I quickly warm up past all thoughts of cold and that’s when the sweating and frantic layer stripping begins.

Sometimes life is like that. You have your routine, and you know what to expect but still the depth of it is going to surprise you. I am generally in charge of figgy Mondays after I get back, as theVet is usually either too worn out or too fed up after a whole day with the two of them (just you wait, I think, until Calcifer becomes mobile, that’s when things started getting interesting with figgy).. I understand this and expect it but am constantly surprised where my patience rubs thin even when I know what I should be expecting. Remember, you choose your reaction, it’s not someone else making you mad/sad/tired.

Silently or aloud I’ll start counting to five. She knows what five means and usually it’s enough to break her of whatever’s caught her attentin at the moment or whatever’s she’s decided to do (lately it has included licking inanimate objects and biting animate ones). Sanity is knowing how you want to react and then reacting differently anyway. So control that impulse, it’s not that bad — whatever that particular that has been lately — and remind yourself of the age and the stage. Stay predictable and discipline makes sense. Setting uncertain boundaries encourages exploration of those borders, after all.

Mike

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Row Boat

7 October 2010

Dear J-

Patience and discipline are both like stopping a knife with your heart: it may not feel like the right thing to do, it’s not instinctual, and it’s going to hurt. Stick to a budget, for instance, whether calories or expenditures, and you’ll go hungry a lot, eyeing candy and consumer goods that are tempting but just out of reach based on what you did in the last month or two. I’ve been trying to refrain from both lately, as even with the bike rides that are becoming increasingly strenuous the later I get up, this gut and the pile of clutter continues to grow.

It works for other parts of your life — as they say, everything in moderation, right? Hence the self-imposed decibel diet. As figgy would put it, “No yelling today, okay? Just STAY HAPPY.” I’ve been watching my temper lately and I hope it’s making a difference. She gets frustrated as easily as I did when I was three, everything must be just so and so help you if you put things awry or askew. She has just as much control-freak tendencies as I do, difference being that at thirty-five, I supposedly have the ability to exert control, which brings us back to discipline and indulgence.

We make all kinds of bargains with ourselves mentally: oh, you know, I’ll get that done in a little bit. Once I finish this game. Once I have a little snack. Once I once upon a time. We sell our own indulgences and never realize that things are slipping; I’ve gotten through the homework assigned in class — 437 of 440 problems, if I count right — with a combination of late nights (this brought on by making the bargain of “once I get some uninterrupted time, whether it be getting figgy in bed or in front of the TV) and ignoring work around the house (room clean-up is proceeding at a glacial pace). Discipline needs priority as a guiding star, I suppose, but I’ve done more than I thought possible in a shorter time frame.

Mike

Day 14: Disciplined Adults

8 April 2010

Dear J-

I am starting to have deep (grave) doubts about what others might see in me that I’m here in training; technical ability, yes, but I’m not convinced that the art of people handling is an art that I’ll master soon enough. Yet even if I crawl back into a corner somewhere and become a technical hermit, I’ll be changed knowing the challenges out there that I can’t run away from. Today we continued the MARC training, which veered off into arbitration of grievances and the various levels of discipline.

At oine point they started discussing site expectations for unprotected (sick) time, which are stricter than I thought: sixteen hours per quarter, sixty-four in a year. In fact, I couldn’t even think about the hypothetical exercise at that point, as I was too worried about my own attendance (the doctor I’m working with has a strange predilection to see me seemingly every month) to consider the ever-escalating and stronger language ranging from written reprimands to termination scripts for a chronically absent (and unrepentant) employee.

The added responsibilities of a supervisor are sobering — not just having to take care of the supervised, but also having to take those slings and arrows of anger directed at the nearest target. I hearken back to a lesson from last week: the fear of public speaking is not so much based on the fear of failure, as I’ve always been told — it’s about the fear that people won’t like us. We are — that is, I am — like a junkie when it comes right down to it, waiting for that fix of approval; I need to understand my needs in order to overcome that.

Mike

Calibrated Eye

29 December 2009

Dear J-

Tonight has been fairly calm on the figgy front; she is a clever girl, after all, and knowing that getting out of bed brings on the closing of the door (here we are employing the Ferber method; it turns out the ways that work best for us are those that are ruthless and abrupt), which is just about the worst thing imaginable makes for a relatively easy night. Meanwhile you feel like the worst parents in the world as you hold the door fast against a crying screaming demon begging you to open the door, just open the door okay?

I suppose that if you break it down what we’re really doing could be construed as teaching her that we can be strict too; though you are being mean (MEAN!) in comparison, the relationship can’t just be friends quite yet — we’re still as parent-child even if she keeps pushing the boundaries of that particular definition. It’s easy to push too far into one extreme or the other; it’s finding the balance that’s the tricky part, that and getting her to understand we do these things not for the sake of being mean, for everyone’s sake.

It’s funny to think that she’s already earned a role in this family, one that involves being cute and amusing, but also stretching those limits. We’ll decide whether to reset those boundaries, depending on where we are; sooner or later we’ll end up eating dinners together and staying up late nights, but for now I’m glad that we’re back to where we were two weeks ago: a couple of hours at night to relearn being a pair after tag-teaming on care every other waking moment. There’s a conflict between needing time for yourself and feeling guilty for doing so; perhaps it’s inevitable if you can’t afford to put your life on hold, but that may be the very root of the issue. Why should spending time with children be perceived as not doing what you want? We always need to recalibrate our expectations.

Mike

Amok Time

26 December 2009

Dear J-

Someone out there must know the best way to put an unsleepy toddler to bed; in retrospect it used to be so easy: a little rocking, a little singing and she’d go down easy and stay down for the night. Now we’re stuck with trying to trade off turns pushing her back into the room and it’s putting us all out of sorts; figgy doesn’t want anyone but mom to put her down, mom thinks I’m shirking every time I go in and she has to rescue me, and I resent having to explain myself, whether though demonstration (see what screams erupt when I try to start singing? I don’t believe that it’s just my poor sense of pitch, by the way) or words. Our evenings this week have evaporated into a morass of stress and anger; advice falls on deaf ears or unwilling minds.

It’s funny how the one smallest thing can cause such a huge disruption in our lives, and it’s testament to how delicately balanced our usual routines and schedules are: only so much time to be counted for any one activity, and losing one spills into the next. The sleep deprivation of a newborn you understand; this new world is a scary place after nine months in a warm cave, and there’s all kinds of weird things out there, from your own limbs to the first sharp pangs of hunger that you’ve ever experienced. We’ve got things we got to do, of course, but there’s no reason that we can’t spend as much time as we need to with our kids — isn’t that the point, aren’t those the implicit choices we’ve already made?

We do our best to wear her out during the day and in fact it feels like we could all use a good long nap around the same time, all three of us, most weekends. Extending our bedtime past hers isn’t much of a realistic option any more, and a good number of us (okay, all of us) have to be up early and rested enough to not litter our whole day with mistakes. The longer it goes on the longer it seems like nothing will ever change, and the wilder our accusations get — sleep deprivation affects the higher reasoning first, and it would be a mistake to take the barbs traded seriously. Though words hurt, though memories are long it’s sometimes a blessing to let go before letting seeds of anger take root.

Mike

Poor Technique

22 December 2009

Dear J-

We continue to fight the battles of the ideal versus reality; though everything we do has the noblest of intentions (let’s let figgy nap for a couple of hours in the middle of the day, say) it has all kinds of unintended consequences when you’re stuck with a sleepy yet not sleepy enough kid at the same time that you’re already dragging and ready for some shuteye yourself. This whole week has been an exercise in the last running bounds towards actually closing out the year on (with any luck) a high note; I hesitate to keep pointing at work, but work has been life, and that’s no life for anyone.

There’s a couple of emails that I keep meaning to reply to at work; one of them is from a friend who asked how things were going; it’s the sort of thing that would take all of thirty seconds to reply to — and should have, by now — but I keep turning different replies over in my head, instead of just sticking with one answer that makes sense. The other one is not precisely an offer but let’s say an opportunity in another division. I think I can say without a notable sense of arrogance (aside from the movie playing in my head, starring Mike, written by Mike, directed by … you get the picture) that I have risen to the challenge of this outage, that there’s nothing left to demonstrate for this particular job.

We have too much as it is to be spending so much time on what’s quickly becoming the chore of putting her to bed. And yet there’s no small amount of guilt that what feels like the small amount of time we have with her waking hours is filled with such acrimony and recriminations: simple defiances become hour-long dramas. Perhaps it signals the start of a new phase in our lives as the days are no longer as neatly divided up into chunks: our time with her, our time with us, my time and your time; those artificial divisions become entangled and inseparable given enough churn and change. We shouldn’t enter this compact thinking that all we get in return is cuteness and delight but some days the balance tilts too far in one direction or another as techniques and bribes keep escalating beyond sustainability.

Mike

Pattern Problem

21 December 2009

Dear J-

People like to point out that there’s been an upswing in vampire television shows and movies now that we have a Democratic president: fear and fascination with some undead rapacious being, sucking the very life from their victims. On the other hand, the corresponding Republican monster is the zombie: unthinking and unblinking in its quest to eat your brains. I can’t imagine what would happen if the Libertarians took over — perhaps it would be some werewolf, a lone rogue.

I certainly feel like a zombie today; what with figgy trying to transition into a vampire (a two hour nap at daycare?) and the consequent lack of quality sleep at night we’re both dragging in ways I can’t remember since she was a newborn, outraged at being asleep for more than, say, an hour at a stretch. Trust me, it’s too easy to take sleep for granted; it was everything I could take to restrain myself from finding some dusty, forgotten corner of the warehouse and making a nest out of cardboard boxes and bubble wrap.

I suppose it doesn’t get much better, though; if she’s not sleeping it’s a sure sign that she’s sick, so that’s an extra worry to pile on top. And later, as she grows up and becomes more independent, there’s going to be a million other worries to go along with a closed door or late curfew. The truth is that I’m not getting any better at this — patience snaps shut more readily and we fail to keep moving forward as we vowed, holding instead in an odd stasis of urban legends and midwives’ tales revolving around the same tired problems and patterns.

Mike

Well Week

20 December 2009

Dear J-

We’re trying to whip the house into some semblance of order before we host Christmas this year — it’ll be the first big thing we do since figgy’s first birthday, and we have only acquired more stuff since then: the spare room is filled with boxes of clothes and presents awaiting wrapping, to say nothing of spare parts and half-begun projects. The one thing I do manage to do consistently is take pictures to document our world.

It’s funny how toddlers think: as we were cleaning up the house she kept trying to rearrange the boxes, piling them up away from where we were working; she wants to help but doesn’t quite know how. The further we get the more fascinating it is to watch her thought processes developing; as we read stories to her she calls out the pictures she recognizes.

The development of consequences continues: she clearly understands what happens as soon as we reach a count of ten. We escalated to leaving Sea World early today (okay, only slightly early — we were all running on borrowed gasoline this morning after she got up very early and kicked us all awake before falling into a stuporous slumber later. I think we’re on another downward swing into illness, which explains the crazy past few days. Order is restored; we have reasons again.

Mike

4 November 2009

Dear J-

Michael Jackson music is becoming available on the used market again; I remember reading tabloids (it’s all we had to read at the store — in decreasing order of believability:  Star, National Enquirer, and Weekly World News, which had an obsession with bat-human hybrids and Michelin-esque babies) trumpeting the wackiness that would lead him to buy the remains of Joseph Merrick and sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber.  I’m not claiming to be well-adjusted and mature by any means, but I always got a sense that he never quite outgrew the child star:  if you were insanely famous by the time you were five, but always working to keep that star rising, I’m pretty sure you’d never have a chance to grow far beyond.

The difference is how his fame sustained over years on end — unlike, say, child actors — which just postponed the inevitable, I suspect; I didn’t get Thriller, for instance, until last year, but my life has been richer for it.  Now I understand the accolades that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I’d only had Dangerous.  Talent brings fame; fame brings an entourage; he never had a chance without someone looking out for him.

I worry, sometimes, not that figgy will become inordinately famous or immensely talented, but that the discipline of little things doesn’t get imparted.  I have poor impulse control at times — funnel cake does not make a good mid-morning snack — and if she’s as perceptive as we suspect, she’s soaking up the examples we lead.  We already have to watch our language with the mimic in the house, and hauling the cats around is right out (having been given the little cat to bring inside once, she is now prone to grabbing them randomly inside the house); it only makes sense that her so-far favorite people should make sure she doesn’t miss a lesson.

Mike