- The semester started a few weeks ago. Tools of Modern Astronomy. It's all about the EM spectrum and what kind of light buckets we use to catch falling photons. I feel like it might be just over my head, but I shall persist. Will I pass? Yes. Will I get an HD? Probably not. That's okay. I'm a conceptual astronomer and my job will not depend on how well I can run a telescope.
- I finished the draft for "Currently Unsupervised". It took me two NaNoWriMos and a few weeks of "get'er dunne". Now drafting the outline for my Victorian Clockpunk Telescope novel. It is not a coincidence I'm taking Tools at the same time I'm drafting this novel.
- My Quarterly Newsletter goes out at the end of this week. If you aren't signed up to my newsletter, you won't get it. I tend to tell my newsletter stuff before I tell the rest of the world. And yes, I've got news in there.
Yesterday was WA Day, a public holiday, in Western Australia. All week it's the Royal Show (think 'State Fair', for you 'Mericans). Naturally, Their Ladyships and I went along. But my story is not about the Royal Show or WA Day.
Last week I went to the local grocery store to purchase tickets for the Royal Show. While I was there, I witnessed a young child throw a nuclear-level temper tantrum because they wanted ice cream. Mum was not going to buy them any. The kid screamed and stamped. Still, Mum said no, and proceeded to walk out the door in a controlled manner. Kid continued to scream and stamp, but followed after. This is because the kid, despite their complete meltdown, knew that Mum meant business and was not going to cave.
I respected her for having a plan and sticking to it. In my eyes, this is a good parenting skill.
At the Royal Show, as Their Ladyships and I were indulging in some expensive gelato, a pair of young parents came up with their young child in a pram (stroller). Like us, they'd bought a cup of expensive gelato to share. Young child got first bite because, as Dad explained, this was the first time she'd ever had chocolate ice cream. We had a pleasant conversation over introducing children to new foods, the benefit of teaching them to value high quality, etc.
Young child dropped something on the floor. Dad picked it up and dropped it into the umbrella they had hanging off the side of the pram. Upon closer observation, I noticed it was full of little bits and bobs. They had turned their umbrella into an improv bucket. "Oh, that is so cool!" I uttered.
"Yeah. We only just thought of it today. But I think we'll keep doing it."
They were really cool people and I'm so glad I encountered them. For many reasons, they became a bright point in my day. I respected them for their parenting skills because they were able to go with the flow, anticipate things, and were able to come up with creative solutions when the unanticipated came up.
Later on at the show we were at one of the kiddie displays. While there, an incident happened which lead to a young child having a nuclear-level temper tantrum. Unlike the mother in the grocery store, this mother did not have a single clue. Her coping technique was to try and placate and reason with the unreasonable child right there in the middle of the floor. The child was kicking and screaming. Also, this just happened to be the time a large trolley had rocked up with a delivery.
Unfortunately, the kid chose to have their temper tantrum right where the trolley needed to go. Due to crowding, the trolley could not back up, could not move. It blocked the entrance to the display, and nobody could get in or out. The kid in his screaming, struggling mess, came really close to hitting his head against the sharp edge of the trolley. The mother, so wrapped up in trying to placate her child, instead of taking control of the situation, became useless. She was not in control of a situation she should have been. She had no awareness of her surroundings, the trouble she was creating by not removing her child from the central area, the immediate danger he was in, and, despite the offered help from other parents, could not control her situation. Essentially, she was just as out of control as her kid.
People had to physically remove her and the child to a safe location, so that the trolley could be moved. She was incapable of doing this herself because she was not in control. At all. Eventually the father showed up. I could tell from the look in his eyes and the actions he took, that this was not the kid's first temper tantrum, nor the mother's first moment of "i can't parent".
When the mother first melted down, my first thought was sympathy. But as I watched her fail to get control over herself and complete strangers had to step in to deal with her situation, I confess my sympathy faded into annoyance. Surely this was not the first time her child has had a temper tantrum. Why did she not have a plan in place for dealing with such a situation? At least the father had a plan. My annoyance faded into pity. Parenting is hard for all of us. But it can be harder if one doesn't have a plan.
In the space of a week I observed two temper tantrums by young children. One mother earned my respect. The other did not. Yet I am grateful to both women, for they led me to a moment of personal enlightenment.
We will not be judged by how things are. Many things are not completely (or even remotely) in our control. We will be judged by how we deal with these things.
Having a plan is a good idea. Having enough objectivity when we don't have a plan to come up with a good enough solution, even if that solution is only to buy us more time to think of an even better one, is a good idea. Being in control of ourselves, even when others are not, is a good idea. Knowing when walking away is the best solution is a good idea.
I hope I have leveled up enough to apply these lessons when my moment comes.
Her Grace believes in regular self-reflection and personal improvement. She does not think she can progress otherwise.