I felt like now would be a good time to note for anybody who is still hanging around at my blog that I’m just under halfway done my schooling – three-sevenths, to be precise. My experience has been . . . well, mixed. I love the subject matter; learning about children is inspiring and fun, even if there are aspects of lecture-based schooling that necessarily suck the joy out of any subject. There are a few things that frustrate me about attending a small private college, and perhaps about my school in particular. For instance, the classroom where we do most of our learning is not optimally designed – it’s kind of a church-basement-like setup – and the acoustics make background conversations very distracting. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the lecture, which is a problem, but even during times when we’re supposed to be talking, it also gets to a point where I feel stressed and overwhelmed by the noise level. The school has repurposed an old home as a learning environment, so there’s not much that can be done about it until and unless they decide to renovate or move. In the meantime, though, I can get really stressed out by all the noise and bustle.
It’s a bit upsetting that the school will pay lip service to the importance of self-care while keeping us all so ridiculously busy we can’t actually spend any time on anything other than school most days. My house is a mess and there’s nothing I can do about it because I’m barely able to keep my head above water at school. I’ve been walking around with my jacket open since Christmas because the buttons broke off and I haven’t had time to replace them. Eating well and exercising? Yeah, right. Eating a proper dinner makes more dishes than if I make one of those just-add-water package deals – and eating nachos and salsa for dinner makes even fewer! (Seriously. Just one tiny bowl for salsa, people. It’s the perfect meal.) And exercising? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
The good news is that I’m gradually adapting strategies to deal with some of the stress and overbooking I’m experiencing. This is super-necessary and kind of new for me, because I was only just starting to deal with my depression and anxiety issues when I was last in school, and I’ve been through a heck of a lot since then. I’m also finding myself not young anymore: my body reacts more severely to lack of sleep, bad nutrition, dehydration, and all the rest. I’m trying to prioritize activities that I find relaxing: planning activities that I find restful, reading before bed, drinking tea. Things I’d like to get better at prioritizing:
- Maintaining an organized environment. It’s a lot of work to fight against clutter, butt the clutter in the house can make me so stressed and anxious.
- Cooking with vegetables, and other ingredients that don’t come in powder form.
- Squeezing in the occasional bit of physical activity, even if it’s just a few stretches or a bit of extra walking.
I’m also trying to spend at least some of my time paying attention to ideas and issues that don’t have anything to do with children, lest I find myself becoming a really boring dinner companion. (“What do you think about how the controversy is playing out in Sochi?” “Umm, today Johnny painted a potato!”) It’s hard balancing my author/blogger self against my ECE self; it becomes a bit easier when I make a point of taking interest in other subjects, and ultimately makes me a better writer and a better ECE. Here are a few of the issues I’ve been most interested in lately:
- Size-based discrimination, fat activism, and Health At Any Size
- Relatedly, the media’s role in perpetuating body size/shape bias
- The situation of Canada’s aboriginal cultures
- Transphobia and trans rights
- The phenomenon of rape culture as part of a woman-abuse continuum
- Pseudoscience (especially as pertains to midwifery and antivax)
- Spiritual abuse in fundamentalist religion
But because my studies take up so much of my time and mental energy, I might as well mention a couple of things that are child-related that have been capturing my attention lately:
- Gender stereotyping and the pink-toy phenomenon
- The insights of Reggio Emilia schooling
- Mindfulness as a tool for working with children
The number one thing I’ve learned from my studies that I did not expect? There’s no one right way to care for a child. Beyond some pretty obvious no-nos – the Golden Rule is a good basis for a surprisingly broad range of parenting choices – many of the things that I’ve worried about in the past aren’t going to make a major difference. Breast versus bottle? Cry it out? TV before two? Different people will have different priorities, and (outside of really extreme situations) there’s probably not a single correct approach that yields the best possible child. I still have opinions on these situations – I would absolutely refuse to let my baby cry it out, I’ll breastfeed if I can but not stress myself out if I can’t manage, and I plan to really downplay television as much as I can – but that doesn’t mean people who don’t make those choices are wrong or bad or screwing up their children in some permanent way. Good news, that.