I was so busy finishing my summer projects (which dragged beyond summer) that I never did a back to school update, but there have been lots of changes for our family, so I wanted to check in with a comprehensive post.
Willa's Transition to the Toddler Room
The biggest change has been Willa's transition to the toddler room, which happened 3.5 weeks ago. I found it tough to say goodbye to her infant room teachers because she had been with them for a full year. At the same time, I knew our girl was ready for the toddler room. She walked in like she owned the place on her trial visits, and there is so much extra space for her to roam (which is important now that she's not just a walker but a runner). That said, the toddler room is pure chaos compared to the infant room (as one beloved teacher/friend described lunchtime in there as a "barbarian feast" and made Brendan and I laugh so hard). In the infant room, there were only 8 babies, and in the toddler room, there are 12 toddlers. The first weeks were rough: we had to sign two incident reports about Willa biting, and I literally felt like crying (she had never bitten either of us, so it really surprised me). Then last week, Willa was bitten twice (apparently, extremely common at this age), and this week, I saw another toddler throw a toy at her head. I went from feeling like "why is my kid being violent?" to realizing that what the teachers were telling me was true: all toddlers are violent! With no way to communicate, they often resort to aggression. Now, I'm way more relaxed. Just a few weeks in, and I feel like a veteran toddler mom.
What else is life with a toddler like? I'd describe it as "crazy, cuddly, chaos." Willa is so fun at this age! She's interactive, knows the meaning of more words than she can say, loves singing and dancing with us, and has strong opinions about what she wants (namely more Cherrios and to play outside). She is so funny too! One day, she put one of my shoes on over hers (a Toms) and ran around the house laughing. Her favorite toy is my purse (she loves emptying it out). She CAN say mama, dada, more, agua (water), yum, uh-oh, ba (ball), this, and that, but she really prefers signing or just responding to our questions by showing us (for instance, she'll touch her head and toes when we ask her where they are). I keep hoping we'll see a language explosion soon. We are speaking and reading to her constantly, but I know she'll get there in her own time.
Tantrums are not uncommon, but she usually gets over them quickly, and she can be very cuddly when it's on her own terms, so I remind myself to soak up every bit of the sweetness. Yesterday, she picked me a flower (from our flowerbed), and I captured her giving it to me. The expression on her face was priceless, and I felt my heart explode with love (and then also had to protect the flowerbed from further adorable gestures).
I don't have a photo to accompany this one, so enjoy this picture of me in my work clothes with my kid! It may strike some as odd that I don't consider the jump from assistant to associate professor to be as big of a change as Willa's move from infant to toddler room, but as anyone in academia will tell you, it's because title changes are, well, just that: title changes. Everything about my job and pay stays the same (though our institution is great about giving us yearly raises to compensate for cost of living increases, which we greatly appreciate). Anyway, after eight years of full time teaching (and three years teaching part time as a graduate student), I've now earned my associate professor stripes. So woo to the hoo!
Associate Professor, Also
Brendan has been an Associate Professor since last year, but in 2015, he became a department chair. After four years in that role, he had a major epiphany: trading teaching a class to take on administrative responsibilities wasn't making him happier. He missed the time spent in the classroom and would rather be with his students than in afternoon meetings. Many in academia may not be aware that title jumps often don't involve raises but instead involve an "exchange" (one less class, but you take on more responsibilities). After some soul searching, Brendan decided to give up the chair role and go back to more time in the classroom. So far, the trade off has led to greater job satisfaction, and I wanted to include this update because I love that Brendan was able to identify what his true passions are and pursue more of what makes him happiest. I think so often in life, we take a step because we feel like we "should" without considering if it's what we really want or what will make us happiest. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I'd encourage you to be inspired by Brendan and "follow your heart."
The three of us hope for a tremendous 2019-20 school year. It's hard to believe we'll be a family of four halfway through this academic year. Safe to say, our lives are all about to change forever. We can't wait to learn and grow with our students and with our kids. Years into this career path, I constantly think of how grateful I am that I picked it. August has always meant "back to school" for me (fun fact: I went from high school to college, college to graduate school, and graduate school to teaching with no interruptions, so I've literally never not had a "back to school,") and I sincerely hope I get to do that until I retire.
Wishing you and yours a fantastic school year, and keep the pictures of first days coming on social media because I LOVE them!