Friday, March 08, 2019

The gear-shifting problem -- we have different faces in different places but it's not always easy to transition

In yesterday's post, I lamented that my babysitting obligations are preventing me from getting any real work done.

I call it the 'gear-shifting' problem.

Long Suffering Spouse has experienced it: She teaches kids from preschool to 8th grade, albeit with varying frequency. She sees the middle schoolers three days a week, but she only sees the kids in Pre-K through 3 once a week and then only one trimester a year. Anyway, she has noticed that, after a grueling battle -- er, class -- with noisy, disobedient, disrespectful (i.e., normal) 8th graders, she finds it difficult to transition to a class of kindergartners. They file in, cute and ready to learn, only moments after the sullen 8th graders have trudged out, and my wife sometimes greets the little ones with fangs bared and raised hackles and, on those occasions, scares them half to death.

It takes a moment or two to calm down and reach the right 'pitch' with which to address a class of eager 6-year olds.

And teachers also have to shift gears when dealing with grown-ups, whether each other, as colleagues, or with (*gulp*) parents.

I think some of them can't do it at all -- which may explain some of the difficulties Olaf and Younger Daughter are having with Granddaughter No. 1's kindergarten teacher.

But I digress.

For me, the transitions are even more abrupt. Dealing with obnoxious opposing counsel, with clients who can never seem to find their checkbooks, or with court personnel who have no discretion and no imagination (and couldn't use either if they had), gets my fangs bared, hackles raised, and stomach churning. It's hard to calm down, some days, to try and think which, after all, is what I'm pretty much supposed to do for a living. Hard to 'gear down' to the point where I can dispassionately analyze facts and read and interpret and apply case law and then formulate and coherently express opinions. And that's when Lexis is working, as it wasn't, for me anyway, for a couple of weeks recently. And every time the phone rings, that little bubble of concentration bursts, and must be reformed.

That's the range -- and the challenge -- for lawyers generally.

But I have to field calls on potty training. Or babysitting requests. Or just, well, I'm driving from one appointment to the next and I like talking to someone instead of listening to the radio.

Yesterday, Older Daughter called to ask if I could babysit next Wednesday afternoon. Younger Daughter had previously requisitioned me for Tuesday morning. Then she called me yesterday to ask me to pick up Granddaughter No. 1 from kindergarten because her younger two had not cooperated on naptime and were, according to her text "WRECKS." (I had to walk to my wife's school to pick up the family van; she drove yesterday, you may have noticed.)

How can I say no to any of these requests? Why would I want to? And, yet, I somehow have to get work done.

But, with the grandkids, far from being angry or even analytical, I want to be happy and playful and downright silly and make as many googly eyes or silly voices or fake pratfalls as may be necessary. Who wouldn't?

But I've gotten less done than ever this year so far, less still now that I'm home full-time. And I have an appellate brief due later this month that I haven't really begun. And my stomach is really churning this morning, and my chest hurts, too.

I need a better clutch.

(For you young people out there, once upon a time, we had to push the clutch pedal in the car in order to shift gears. I won't explain every reference for you; some things you should look up on your own -- but, now and then, I'll give you a break. As opposed to a brake. As in I think I've downshifted enough that I can hit the brakes on this morning blogging exercise and get some work done... as long as the phone doesn't ring.)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article. I'm experiencing many of these issues as well..

Anonymous said...

Outstanding story there. What happened after? Take care!