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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Diaper Bag Dilemma

Being a first-time mom, I was going through many, many changes in my life. One of them was preparing and using a diaper bag. This bag was a baby shower gift from one of my husband’s coworker. We were a bit surprised that she had given me such a practical gift. She was the type of person who believed in crystals and lighting candles to change the aura of a room. We thought she would have given our baby a reading of his past life!
This diaper bag was fairly large. It was equipped with four pouches in the front for bottles, a changing pad, and a plastic bag for “messy stuff". (If I didn't know what this particular bag was for, it was marked clearly with these exact words.) The color of the bag was navy blue with white dots. The straps could be adjusted to be a backpack or to be slung over one's shoulder.
I knew this present was an essential one. After my son was born, I began to realize that the contents of the bag were bordering on life-saving. With each outing, I kept adding to the stock pile. Eventually, it was always stocked with:
  • ·         12 diapers, though our outings never lasted more than three hours, one can never be too careful
  • ·         a change of baby clothes
  • ·         container of baby wipes
  • ·         wet cloth in a plastic container – – according to my mother-in-law, I would probably  run out of baby wipes at the most inopportune time
  • ·         receiving blanket
  • ·         bottles, extra plastic nipples and formula – – I used to scoop out the powdered formula for the exact amount for each bottle. However, I found this to be very tedious and started take the whole can
  • ·         baby rattle and baby toy – – according to  my husband, our son would only be fascinated for so long with only his hands and feet!

One of our outings was to the pediatrician’s office for my son's first check up. I was a bit anxious and nervous about this appointment. The only thing I had confidence in was this well packed diaper bag.
After signing in, I sat with my son in my arms and surveyed the waiting room. It was brightly lit, which started to bother my eyes. Before, bright lights were no big deal. However, I was now adjusting to less hours of sleep. I began to wonder if the nurses were playing cruel jokes on us sleep deprived parents by putting in the brightest florescent lights imaginable.
Through my tired eyes, I noticed the room was filled with other parents . They all wore the same overwhelmed look I was frequently sporting. Also, they had a staggering amount of baby paraphernalia: strollers, baby carriers and the ever present diaper bag.
These bags were different colors and shapes. However, they all looked like they were packed to maximum capacity, the zippers and claps were barely closing.
I happened to cast my glance to one mother taking things out of her diaper bag. I was making mental notes of the items: storybook, change of clothes for mommy, baby and diaper rash lotion, and first aid kits.
Oh no! I lamented to myself. I don’t have any of these items in my bag!  What if my son has a diaper rash, chapped skin, and a cut all at once? All that excitement would surely make him spit up all over me! Then I would be sitting in this doctor's office stinking and unable to soothe my baby with a story! What a terrible mother I am!!
My panicked scenario was interrupted by a woman who walked into the waiting room. She had her baby cradled in a baby carrying wrap. She did not have the worn-out expression as the rest of us had. Her baby carrying wrap match her outfit, for goodness sakes! What surprised me the most was she did not have a diaper bag. Rather, she carried in her hand one diaper.  One diaper!
I just stared at her in amazement. I began to wonder: did she know some special mathematical equation that calculated the exact time her baby would need changing? As the rest of us in the waiting room were preparing for disasters, she was confident that her baby only needed a diaper.  Maybe she holds the secret that all of us new parents need to know!
Then it occurred to me – – all parents are different. My comfort level (mental, not physical by any means!) was to carry a well equipped diaper bag. This woman didn’t feel the need to do that, and that’s her choice. I decided then and there not to be so critical of myself and stop comparing myself to others. She doesn't have a great secret – – she's probably winging it like the rest of us new parents!
Just then, I heard my son's name being called by the nurse. I held him with one arm and slung the massive diaper bag onto the other shoulder. Oh well--one advantage to carrying this heavy bag is I’ll constantly get exercise and weight training! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lessons from Teachers

Many times when people talk about the teachers they have encountered in their schools, usually the lessons have been of the traditional sort.  A teacher has done or said something inspiring that has changed their lives for the better.  Actually, I have had a teacher show a negative trait that was a positive life lesson to me.  She was my seventh grade teacher.  She was a very large woman—she had to make her own clothes to fit her.  Not only was her physique large, but also her personality.  She was a very aggressive and no-nonsense woman.    “You can’t get away with anything in Miss C class!”  was the comment we heard from previous teachers and older students.  When she hosted detention, she made a sign to put on the clock that read: “Time passes—will you?”
            Being in her class, she made it very clear that she was the boss.  Now, most of the time, she was a knowledgeable and good authority on many subjects.  However, there was one time she was wrong.
            At the time I was in school, there was a man by the name of James Watt and he was Secretary of Energy, of all things.  Miss C insisted on calling him James Watts.  When a test rolled around, she had a question asking, “Who is President Carter’s Secretary of Energy?”  I knew his name was Watt and that is what I wrote.  However,  she marked it wrong.  Now, I wasn’t the only one who wrote his correct name--I found out that more than half the class did the same thing.  I was pretty indignant and I decided to confront her with the truth.  My friend had an article from the newspaper to prove our point. 
Armed with the article, we both went to see Miss C during our lunch hour.  We presented our case, thinking she would be won over by our resourcefulness.  However, we were not suspecting that she would take offense to our “uprising.”  She looked down her nose at the article, huffed under her breath and instructed us to go through everyone’s test and re-grade them.  She then left to go to lunch; she certainly wasn’t going to miss her break, like we were!
As we sat with the pile of tests in front of us, another of our teachers came in.  He noticed that it was unusual for students to be sitting in a classroom during lunchtime.  I remember distinctly him coming in, since I had a schoolgirl crush on him--hey, he was a dead ringer for Nicholas Cage!  Anyway, he asked Miss C what we were doing here.  Her answer was they’re doing an extra credit project, not correcting papers that resulted in her mistake.  That is how we spent our lunch hour, marking everyone’s paper with a check mark and a re-grade of three more percentage points. 
My friend and I were discouraged—here we only wanted to show her that the truth was she had made a mistake and we were only trying to correct it, nothing personal against her teaching methods.  However, that was her reaction and from then on, we interpreted that it was not acceptable to question anything she taught. 
            Looking back, I feel that this message was a shame—even if that’s not what she meant, that’s how it was interpreted.  At that time, I believed in everything that was taught, not because of a teacher’s intelligence, but because it was easier on myself. 
Now, flash forward to high school.  I was in 9th grade Algebra class and had just got back a test.  I had noticed that one question was marked wrong, but the answer was actually correct.  I double-checked my work and sure enough, the teacher had made a mistake.  Oh, boy, here we go again!  I thought to myself.  Do I chance it again and show the teacher her mistake or just keep quiet?  The extra points would change my grade, so I decided to speak with my teacher after class. 
When the bell rang and the class filed out, I went up to the teacher, Mrs. D, at her podium with Algebra book in hand.  Taking a deep breath, I proceeded to gently explain that my answer was correct, but marked wrong.  To my surprise, she looked at the question, looked at the book and with a smile, said simply, “Sorry, my mistake.  You’re right.”  She took her red pen, and changed my grade.  She went so far to announce at the next class if anyone had had their paper mis-graded to see her after class for the correction.  I was stunned.  Here was a teacher who was confronted with her mistake and didn’t take it as an affront to her teaching. 
My attitude changed then.  I decided it was okay to speak with my teachers if a mistake was made and not be brow-beaten over one teacher’s reaction.  My seventh grade teacher’s technique was too domineering. I learned from her that in her class, us students were only there to dutifully absorb information, not to question or share or to be a part of the learning experience.  She wanted respect, but what she got was a fearful and hostile resignation to her authority. 
However, my 9th grade teacher, Mrs. D, showed to her students she was human and humans make mistakes.  She taught me if someone points out a mistake I’ve made, I should owe up to a mistake, correct it and acknowledge that they are right.  I feel that the latter lesson has helped me immensely in my day to day living.