Tag Archives: psychology

An Empty Nest

By Claude Tate

Life is full of milestones. And for parents, the most important milestones are those that involve our children. A friend of ours recently sent us a video that brought back memories of one of those parental milestones for my wife and me. Our son had graduated from high school and gone off to college. After graduation he moved to a nearby town and found a job. Yet, it never felt like he had left home. His room was still there, we saw him often, and when he had a problem, we were close enough to help. But then he announced both he and his girlfriend were quitting their jobs and moving to Nashville, TN. He had visited Nashville a few years before with a friend, but neither of them knew anyone there or had any job prospects. They had found a house to rent, but that was it. He had sensed the same thing that we had. He was not really “living” at home, but had not left home either. He needed to truly be on his own. Even if he wanted to, in Nashville he would not be able to call on me to solve his every problem. My wife and I were worried, but we told ourselves we must trust his judgment. So we and his girlfriend’s parents helped them move. After helping them move in, we ate lunch at a nearby restaurant and said our good-byes. It was then that it hit my wife and me.  A major chapter in our lives was closing.  Our son was leaving home. We were happy for him as his excitement was obvious, but we were also sad to see him go. We had prepared him for this moment all his life. He was ready. But we had not prepared ourselves.

If you’ve never had a child leave home, you may see something entirely different in the video clip I’ve included in this post. And even if you had, you may still see something different. But my wife and I loved it and I hope you will at least find it enjoyable.

Robins: 4 Eggs, 4 Weeks from Fred Margulies on Vimeo.

Postscript. Things were not easy at first, but he eventually found a job and his girlfriend found part-time work. After several months in Nashville, they moved to Murfreesboro where his girlfriend went to graduate school. He continued to work in Nashville for a short period, then found a job with Middle Tennessee State.  The Nashville area really is a great place for young people and they loved it.  But my wife and I continued to remind my son that Asheville rhymed with Nashville and was a pretty cool place too. They were married, she finished school, and the “Tennessee Tates” (their name for themselves at the time) moved back to NC. They settled first in Asheville and now live in Hendersonville. Much like the little robins in the video, our son and his wife proved they were ready to fly. And also much like the mother and father robins, it took a little time for us to fully accept that we had done our job and our nest was empty.

Alarm Clocks Really Bite

By Marc Williams

I despise alarm clocks.

Dr. Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream expert, suggests that an alarm clock is a distributor of self-inflicted agony, and I couldn’t agree more. He refers to our reliance on alarm clocks as “tail-biting,” a reference to Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book.

[Sleep Book is] a story about a character in a bedtime story. It’s about one of Dr. Seuss’s enigmatic little creatures, the Chippendale Mupp, who is featured in his classic “Sleep Book.” The Mupp is a sharp-toothed furry fellow with an impossibly long tail. As a part of his bedtime routine, this weird little beast bites down hard on the end of its own tail.

2011-08-11-Screenshot20110811at11.48.06AM.pngSeuss informs us that:

His tail is so long, he won’t feel any pain, ‘Til the nip makes the trip and gets up to his brain. In exactly eight hours, The Chippendale Mupp Will, at last, feel the bite and yell, “Ouch!” and wake up.What a revealing parable about the alarm clock as a self-inflicted pain in the rear!

Naiman suggests that sleep is undervalued. On one hand, many of us simply don’t get enough sleep. After all, the alarm clock is designed to interrupt our slumber–if our sleep patterns could end naturally we’d have no need for alarms. However, most of us either stay up too late, wake up too early, or both, so we punish ourselves every morning with an alarm. Naiman also points out that our lamps, phones, clocks, and other items we keep at our bedside “tether us to the waking world,” a phenomenon he calls “getting down on the wrong side of the bed.”

I imagine this is something that many teachers and students deal with, especially BLS students who are simultaneously juggling school, a career, and a family. For us zombies who keep very late hours, Naiman’s first recommendation is obvious: an earlier bedtime. However, simply getting an extra hour or two of sleep isn’t the only way to combat tail-biting:

[Practice] a mindful approach to sleep. When you slip into bed, focus on the treasure of tonight’s sleep, not tomorrow’s waking. Instead of thinking about what you will do in the morning, surrender to the mystery of the present night, enjoying your swim in the sea of sleep with its wondrous dream fish. Instead of awakening in the morning to an alarming “ouch!” — practice coming to gently and gradually, intentionally carrying the serenity of sleep and the enchantment of dreams with you into your new waking day.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

It’s Complicated

By Marc Williams

One side effect of the pervasiveness of technology on school age kids, as many have observed, is that young people consume technology at a surprisingly high rate.  Young people spend countless hours on cell phones–usually texting–as well as online, or in front of a television or video game.  Parents, schools, and advocacy groups have done much to curb tech usage among kids and teens, hoping to reduce teen alienation, “popcorn brain,” and other ill effects associated with constant internet and wireless gadget access.

Similarly, the Boston Health Commission recently sponsored a workshop for teens centered on a very particular socio-technological issue:  online breakups.

Late last month, 200 teenagers from Boston-area schools gathered to discuss the minutia of Facebook breakup etiquette. Should you delete pictures of your ex after splitting up? Is it O.K. to unfriend your last girlfriend if you can’t stop looking at her profile? And is it ever ethically defensible to change your relationship status to single without first notifying the person whose heart you’re crushing?

To be clear, we’re not talking about online dating services like Match.com or eHarmony.  These are teenagers who know each other and see each other at school every day.  When teens in a relationship decide the relationship should end, many of them go to Facebook and change their relationship status from “In a relationship” to “Single” or perhaps “It’s complicated.”  While changing the relationship status in and of itself may not seem unusual to social media users, the phenomena may seem a bit unsettling if the pair haven’t actually talked about their relationship ending.  Some teens are using their Facebook relationship status as a virtual breakup tool, avoiding the difficult “breakup discussion” altogether.  The Boston Health Commission’s workshop sought to bring awareness to the issue and provide some practical tools for handling breakups.

[Organizers] encouraged the crowd to eschew parting ways over text message or Facebook, the most common teen breakup methods. (A bisexual 15-year-old confessed in a morning session that she learned that her girlfriend of two years had dumped her only when she changed her relationship status to single.) Attendees were advised — with mixed results — to bravely confront the awkwardness of face-to-face breakups. When the facilitator in a session titled “Breakups 101” suggested that teenagers meet with “and come to an agreement or mutual understanding” with a soon-to-be ex, a skeptical 19-year-old nearly leapt out of her chair in protest. “So, you’re telling me that you’re crying at night, you’re not sleeping, you’re eating all this food to make you feel better, and you’re supposed to just come to an agreement?”

I’ve found that for many students, online interaction emboldens them.  In some cases, this is a good thing.  However, many students are able to type surprisingly insensitive things–both toward me and their classmates–that I doubt they would say in a face-to-face interaction.  This trend among young people concerns me as someone who teaches online courses. Do tomorrow’s (or even today’s) online students really know how to interact with their teachers or classmates?  Likewise, I wonder if I’m at risk of forgetting how to interact with them.

I provide my home phone number to my online students but very few ever actually call me at home.  While some may think it rude to call an instructor at home, I wonder how many students are simply avoiding a difficult conversation.  If students have concerns about their grade, for example, will they actually pick up the phone to talk to me about it?  Or will they simply write something nasty about me in a course evaluation, avoiding the potential unpleasantness of live interaction?  And I certainly must consider if I use technology to hide from unpleasantness as well.