Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Where is the bin?

For the first time today I overheard a conversation about Zoe's language. Or should I say mix of languages. We were about to board and Zoe went up to the boarding desk herself with her boarding pass and passport (England is outside Schengen) while I packed up our things. I then asked her if she wanted to have the last sip from her juice box and she walked back to me to grab it. "No, we need to throw it in the bin", she said in her adorable british/scottish accent (even though most of our conversation had been in Danish). I looked around but there was no trash can in the waiting area, so we walked up to the boarding desk that was manned by two women. "Mor, ask if they have a bin, if they can put it in the bin", Zoe said now again in clear English. I asked, but in English, because well, that was apparently the language of the moment. The woman bent down towards Zoe and offered in Swedish to take the empty juice box. Zoe gave it to her and happily followed me out to the air bridge. Before the sliding doors closed behind us, I heard the two women talk: "They were Danish", one said puzzled (note that they had just seen our passports), "But that was so cute, *the bin*", the other said, imitating Zoe's accent. "I wonder why she spoke English", the first one said referring back to Zoe.

I wonder sometimes too, she mixes it a lot, but Zoe has become more conscious about her many languages: Later on the plane she said "Zoe speak danish with Mor" (in danish), and when I asked what language she wanted her story in, she thought about it for a while and answered "Dansk". And unfortunately she often says "Zoe not understand Swedish" with a sad expression. She will be attending 100% Swedish daycare in July for 4 weeks so that will very likely change. We will see.

Walk of shame

The walk of shame when you are in your thirties is walking through your local neighborhood, past the daycare, using your child's stroller to move the last boxes and suitcases from the family home to your own little 400 square feet apartment. Divorce is never pretty. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Those boring old hotels

Back when Zoe still thought minibars were exciting
When I was putting Zoe to sleep we talked about how today had been ("Zoe thinking that it was a good day") and what activities are coming up next. I reminded her that this week she will go to an English nursery for two days while I work in Manchester and then we will take the train to visit one of our friends who used to live in Stockholm. One that Zoe likes very much and got excited talking about. "But first we have to stay in a hotel for three days", I said, thinking she would also be a bit excited about that. But no. "Oh, that's a long, long time", she said in a tone of dislike. I asked her if she didn't like hotels and she thought about it for a bit. "Hotels boring", she then said and there I had it: My 3 year old has stayed so many times in hotels that she now thinks it is uneventful. She knows the little wrapped soaps. She knows there is never Pocoyo on TV in hotels. She has fallen down the hotel beds more than what's good for her (why are they always so bloody high?). Even the minibar has lost its glory. But our friend's apartment, she mused about for a while. Did it have stairs or an elevator? Could she walk up the stairs while I took the elevator? Would there be a balcony like we have? I didn't know but we will soon find out.

This is our next trip coming up. Due to practicalities such as my teaching obligations at the moment and timing of planes, it was impossible for me to drop Zoe off in Copenhagen for this three day trip to Manchester. Instead I managed to get a nursery to take her for two days, a private babysitter for the evening of the dinner and I got her plane ticket on my miles. All in all it will cost me around 200 dollars for the babysitting, which is much cheaper than any other option I could think of, and we get to make a trip out of it. Too bad Zoe thinks hotels are so boring, I'll try my best to spice it up a bit next time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I'm very happy with "what I do for work" in a broad sense; I generally get to set a research agenda myself, define my own interests in both research and teaching, and work extremely flexible hours (although I agree to a certain extent with my former US professor colleague who says "we are so lucky, we get to schedule our 80 hours* of work per week, whenever we want!"). What I'm less happy about is my work place. Most of the time my day (or week) is saved by a few amazingly nice and reasonable people, as well as my next door neighbor who is always available for discussing the less reasonable people in our department. But other days my inbox overflows with toxic and uncooperative replies to simple requests. Today was one of those.

If there is one thing I'm allergic to it's people insinuating that I don't do my job properly or that I am not a good teacher. I have pretty amazing teaching reviews throughout my 12 years of teaching experience, and I do a pretty good job as a researcher and colleague. I might not win the nobel price any time soon or get the University's teacher of the year award but I'm above average, particularly at the university I'm at right now. And why do I even need to point this out? Because I have a colleague who is making it his quest to belittle me and counteract the work I do with advising and teaching students. Without going into details, this is the guy who wrote to me, when I ran the seminars that were supposed to be question and answer sessions, more like extra lectures going through the material again, that "I made the other teachers look bad and I could not run them this way". All I knew was that the students didn't understand all of the material solely from the lectures and that I was happy to go over it again. The communication soured even more through the semester and I was happy not to collaborate on any teaching again with this guy until now. Today, however, I was told that the final bachelor thesis I had advised could not be accepted for final review because it was not using the standard template. In reality this would mean that the students could not proceed with related activities and basically would be delayed with their graduation until September. For missing out on a template. But this was not the main issue to me (because there is no way in hell I would let anyone do that to my students), the issue was the structure of the communication: from me asking a favor, telling him that I knew I hadn't followed the procedure to a T, but also giving a reason why, to him sending several emails explaining again exactly where I had gone wrong, copying in directions from the internal website(which I am obviously intimately familiar with), to claiming that I had failed numerous times to receive get-go from reviewers (here professors are not allowed to advise bachelor theses without reviewing) because I had not used the useless web-system for this. All in all his aim was clearly to point out clerical errors that would reflect badly on me and prevent the students from graduating any time soon.

At this point I had it. I turned him in to the director of studies for harassment and said I am not willing to continue working with this guy. Getting accused for not doing a proper job when I know I do my best is detrimental to overall work ability and mental health. Nobody has ever made me feel inadequate in my job like this, and this guy certainly should not have the right to do so. I might have overreacted but this ticked me off like nothing before.

*This is probably an exaggeration of numbers but I am quoting him verbatim

Monday, May 20, 2013

Zoe cannot sleep

Last Friday I had a migraine and lost 3 hours that I needed to grade exams. Sunday I therefore got a babysitter to come over and play with Zoe in the morning, but when the afternoon approached and she still hadn't taken a nap, I decided that we could both take one together. What is better than napping with your baby? Except we slept until 5 pm. After dinner and bath, I started putting Zoe to bed, a full hour later than usual, 8:30 pm. I rubbed her hair, I sang two good night songs and I finally just sat there staring at a little girl, staring back at me. "Zoe cannot sleep" she said. Very honestly. Okay, I said, let's go into mommy's room and see if you can sleep on the sofa. "Zoe cannot sleep", she said after an hour and now I was getting slightly desperate. I had two more hours of work to do before I could go to sleep myself. And I preferred if those two hours would fall before midnight rather than after. At 10pm I gave up. "Zoe can sit here while I work". I then went to the kitchen counter where I worked on my computer for a bit. I heard Zoe muzzling around and saw her push her high chair over to me. "Zoe sit here with mommy, while mommy works" she said and crawled up on the chair. She sat there, ate a rice cracker, waiting patiently until I was done working at 11pm and then she went to sleep in my bed. She probably couldn't have slept one minute before that. No naps for us on the weekends anymore.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cry no more

On Sunday we celebrated Zoe's third birthday. The day started with me and her taking the plane back to Stockholm from Copenhagen where she had spent a couple of days while I finished the conference in Paris. Zoe was her usual good self flying, asking the security woman for a pat down (actually asking me to ask her) and playing with the big doll in the lounge's play room. On take-off she put her head on my lap and fell asleep, sleeping through me having a cup of coffee and our landing between the now greener pastures north of Stockholm. At the train station at home a friend came to pick us up and help us over to her dad where he had prepared her birthday party. Zoe's best friend Ella was there and a couple of other friends of ours. There were balloons and many presents, among them a bike, one of those without pedals that you push forward. She was ecstatic about it as well as the Brio train and the plastic cash register. We had cup cakes with candles and sang happy birthday and everything was nice and good.

Now, I'm not going to pretend it is easy having split up from ones' life-partner, especially when there are children involved. Zoe's dad and I still find it difficult to be together, to find the balance between amicability and distance. I am not sure we have similar views on that, I miss the friendship, but he needs distance. Yet, in situations like this, of course Zoe comes first and it is clear that she loves each minute of having us both in the same room. In fact I have realized through experience and through talking to her, that she likes and needs a longer overlaps
when we hand her over: she cries much less after having spent half an hour with both of us, than if one of us just drops her off. That said, she still cries each and every time I leave. That being daycare or at her daddy's. It was therefore a big surprise to me that when the party came to an end and when I had to leave, she said "Bye bye mom" and continued playing with her new train. I was almost saddened. At least I was struck by the ease of which new toys and her dad playing with her could make up for me leaving for the first time.

I walked from there with a bitter-sweet feeling. My little girl is three years old and getting bigger and stronger every day. If it was the toys or a playing daddy, or even my three hours there, I don't know, but it was good for all of us to not have the tears. Yet my heart was heavy because this is the beginning of the process of her independence from me. An independence that is both good and hard for both of us. But an inevitable process nevertheless.