Monday, August 29, 2011

Age - More than just a number

We hear about discrimination all the time -racial discrimination, gender discrimination, age discrimination - and often times, the discrimination is wrong. But are there ever times when it is right? Possibly.

Kelsey Caetano-Anolles is 17-years-old and recently earned an undergraduate degree in psychology for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. She wants to be a clinical psychologist and applied to the doctoral program at UIUC. She was shocked and upset when she was denied admission to the program - in spite of her academic record. When she sought to find out why she was denied admission, she was upset to learn that her age was a factor. She has started a petition "calling for more legal protection to make sure young people aren't denied schooling or opportunities because of their age."

I believe discrimination is wrong. But as a clinical psychologist who is still young enough to recall graduate school and my early days of training, I honestly have to say, I don't think that UIUC's call was wrong. There are a lot of factors that are weighed in selecting individuals for graduate program in clinical psychology, because during the process of getting that degree, the individual will be put in a position of seeing and treating real life persons. A clinical psychology degree is not an academic degree, and being a good clinical psychologist is not about simply reading books and making good grades.

I was 21 when I entered graduate school, and to tell the truth, at that point, I would have been pissed off if I had been told my age was a factor in my being rejected from graduate school. I graduated with honors from a well-known university in three years - I had completed a year-long individual research project, I had volunteered on a crisis line, clearly, I was ready, right? In retrospect, I probably should have been denied admission to graduate school as a 21-year-old, because while I had the book smarts, I simply didn't have the life experience and maturity for the degree program I had chosen. I was still doing a lot of growing up, even if I wasn't admitting it to myself at the time. And I ended up having to do that maturation while I was in the program, which caused quite a bit of difficulty for me on my clinical rotations. It would have been incredibly upsetting for me, but I probably needed to take a year or two to get out into the world - out of school - and experience adult life.

So Ms. Caetano-Anoulles - no, I do not know you, and, yes, I understand you are upset. But sitting here, knowing now what I know about the differences between the academic undergraduate degree and the clinical graduate degree of psychology, knowing what I know about the needs of clients/patients, knowing what I know about how life experiences are important for the development of a clinical psychologist, I have to say it: UIUC made the right choice. You more than likely are not ready for enrolling in a clinical psychology doctoral program. Go out - experience life, experience the world as an adult. Understand the what life is like outside of school. Develop that aspect of your being - it's just as important to becoming a good clinical psychologist as making good grades in school.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To the Back of the Class

So, there is this radio commercial that irks me every time it comes on. It starts with the sound of a band playing the last notes of some processional music, cuts to a microphone giving feedback, and a principal-type voice/announcer announcing the year-end class awards for what one assumes is a high school. Then, every single academic award is won by one individual. The commercial is for the Goddard School, and it annoys the ever-living crap out of me on many levels.

First, I hate that it suggests that all a child needs to succeed in school is placement in a pricey environment (and yes, it's pricey - full disclosure - my older son went there for several months as a baby). Every child has their own unique way of learning, and no one school (or daycare center) can meet every child's needs.

Second, I hate the fact the commercial suggests the main measure of a child (or parents) is how many awards they win. Towards the end of the commercial, the announcer says, "Mr. and Mrs. Conner, you must be so proud." And that gives away, for me at least, what one of the messages of the commercial is: If you spend gobs of money on a pricey school, you will have a child you can showcase like a trophy and you can be proud of them. Yes, I get that is was just a commercial trying to sell a daycare center and it was all made up, but in that fictional world, shouldn't the other parents also have been proud? Shouldn't the parents of Tommy, who struggled and compensated for dyslexia, also be proud of their son, even if he didn't win any awards?

Third, I hate this type of commercial and the marketing that preys on the insecurities of parents everywhere. "If I want to give my child an edge, I have to spend the money on a pricey preschool instead of opting for one that is more in my price range." Or "I'm a bad parent if I don't stimulate my kids every second of the day and always nurture their learning potential." Kids thrive in a variety of environments, but most will eventually fall apart if they are in a hothouse. I hate this commercial for the same reason I hate products like "Baby Einstein" - they stoke parental insecurities and suggest that parents need to push their kids along rather than meet them where they are. The name of the brand alone - Baby Einstein - suggests that if you want your kid to be smart, you NEED to get them this product! (But might I remind you, the real baby Einstein, yeah, Albert Einstein - he didn't watch seizure-inducing videos while growing up. So there.)

And lastly, fourth, I hate that this commercial is so stupid. I mean, it implies that a Goddard education will create children who succeed brilliantly. So, then, why is this one girl getting all of the awards? Weren't there any other kids in her Goddard class? Didn't any of them make to adolescence? Or did she and her overachieving insecure parents pick them off, one by one, so she could hoard all the awards?

Makes you wonder what they might be teaching...

Monday, August 1, 2011

And now, for more navelgazing

I have been going through a funk for the last week or so. Call it a mini early-mid-life crisis. Call it "my baby is now 2-years-old." Call it "I'm feeling my age just a bit." Call it what you will, but I have spent the time analyzing, re-analyzing, and overanalyzing the choices I have made since I turned 18. Let me tell you, analyzing the minutia of 15 years is exhausting! But, as I have come to the end of this process, I've realized that both luck and logic combined to make a pretty darn good path, on the whole, there's nothing much I would change. I have also realized, however, all the things I miss. The biggest thing I have found that I miss is the newness of life and exploration of the great big world - the sheer exhilaration of figuring out who you are and where you fit in the world. That's something that you don't really experience when you are 33, have been married for 12 years with two kids, and are well-settled in your job. It's funny, because I remember at the ages of 18 and 19, wishing that I knew where my life was going and wishing to be settled. Sure, I enjoyed myself at that age, but I was so driven and focused on my goals - finishing my undergrad, finishing my doctorate, getting licensed, having children - that at times, I lost sight of the moment and got lost in the future.

And here I am, with those goals accomplished, looking back on the past and missing that wonderment and laughing at myself for being such a cliche. I guess, though, it's never too late to stop and smell the roses.


I promise to be back to my ornery self soon enough.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Quest Called Tribe

Sometimes, there are truths in your life that you don't acknowledge until they smack you straight in the fact. Or right in the gut. Today, I am acknowledging a painful truth that I have tried to ignore for the last few years: I don't have a tribe.

When I use the word "tribe," I don't mean one in the classic sense - I am ASIAN Indian, after all, not American Indian. What I mean is, I don't have a group of people with whom I truly and completely belong. Think the ladies on "Sex and the City" or the main characters on "Friends." I have good friends, true, but I don't have a real group of ladies (or men) that would surround me and support me in my hour of need. I recall having a tribe in the latter part of high school, during college, and even after I got married. It wasn't until our last move 3 years ago that I began to lack a tribe.

I can't really pinpoint why I haven't been able to find a tribe after this last move. I think a lot of it has to do with the phase of life I'm in, as much as the type of person I am. Previous tribes have coalesced around a commonality: in high school, it was being part of a club. In college, it was being an actor and, later, But one other commonality was being at the same stage in life. In high school, well, we were all teenagers trying to make it through to graduation and college. In college, we were all single kids trying to figure out the whole adulthood thing. After college, it was hanging out with a bunch of other newly marrieds. Since becoming a mom, however, while I have found it easy to make and find friends, I have found it hard to build a tribe - everyone just seems to be a different phases in their lives. Between balancing different kids and their personalities, husbands and their personalities, careers or homemaking, and sometimes such sheer location or distance, there just seem to be too many factors that seem to leave me the odd woman out. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for the good friends I have, but I still yearn to find a tribe that truly belong to.

And so, I continue my quest. Here's hoping the search for my new tribe doesn't turn out like the quest for the Holy Grail.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

About Modern Fairy Tales

Call me a curmudgeon. Call me a grinch. Call me a grouch. I really don't care, and I will be completely honest: I don't care one bit about Catherine Middleton's visit to the United States. There. I said it. Are you happy now? Maybe it says something about me, something about the kind of little girl I was or the adult that I am, but I don't care one bit about what Duchess Catherine is wearing, what city she is visiting, or who she is charming.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear it now: Oh, but she is such a great role model for little girls! It's a fairy tale come true!

Really? Really?

Neither Catherine Middleton, nor Prince William, nor really any of the royal family have actually done anything of real note. What has Catherine Middleton done, why is she famous? Oh, she married some guy who had the rare luck to be born to a guy whose distant ancestor somehow managed to become seated on the throne of England. Has this, oh, Prince Charming, done anything to earn the status or admiration that is lavished upon him? Are there any expectations that he (or she) will be able to significantly influence their country or their world? Nope, not really. Not a bad gig if you can get it, I suppose, but what exactly is there in this tale that would make Duchess Catherine a role model? Is there anything the slightest bit empowering about her tale of catching the heart of a man? I mean. on any given day, aren't thousands or millions of women in the world who manage to do that very same thing?

In my mind, there is little difference between gawking at the Royal family and watching "Jersey Shore." Both involve a group of people who have attained money, status, and fame for doing little else than converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. And maybe that is emblematic of what is wrong with society in general: rewarding people for what they have not and never will earn, while those who do the real work are left only with the scraps. And then they, in turn, continue to elevate those who have done nothing into positions of prestige.

Some fairy tale.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I did feel bad for poor old Rumplestiltskin. Dude should have gotten himself a lawyer and fought for workers rights...

Cleaning Out the Cobwebs...

It was a bad sign that I couldn't even remember the password for my blogspot account, but after several failed attempts, here I am, pulling out the proverbial broom to clean the cobwebs out of the corners and to start posting again. Bear with me while I get reacquainted with the blogger world...

In the year and a half (or so) since my last post, I've gotten some questions from people wondering why I wasn't posting anymore. Had I all of a sudden achieved serenity and there was nothing more for me to rage against the world about? Um, not so much. Honestly, it just came down to having two active children and a full-time job, with few, if any periods of time during which I could post a coherent thought.

Anyway, the children have gotten a little older and I have a little bit more time on my hands, so I promise to get back to posting a little more regularly.

Please pardon the dust.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do as I say...

I blogged before about sexting. It's unfortunately something that continues to happen and it's very sad when you hear about teens doing it since it has the potential to have so many negative and long-ranging consequences. There have been several young teenage girls in my practice who have been involved in sexting. In general, the parents are horrified but the girls themselves, while embarrassed about being caught, don't understand what is so wrong. And to be honest, it's getting harder and harder to teach a kid why taking naked (or half-naked pics) of yourself and sending them out into the electronic world is a bad idea when people who are only a couple of years older than you can win prizes like a home theater system for doing the exact same thing.

And we wonder why our kids are becoming so messed up.

It makes me ill.