I had some anxiety about volunteering at the asylum seekers’ drop in centre (held at a shul (synagogue)) today, including anxiety dreams last night.  It went OK in the end, I think.  As with last time, I helped set out donations of second-hand clothes that guests (which is how we refer to the asylum seekers) can take and then helped look after the children’s play area.  The children were more of a handful than last time, partly because I was the only adult looking after them the whole time (a couple of adults came and went and a girl of about ten who was volunteering with her mother also helped; she was pretty mature for her age and was a good helper), partly because they had probably been indoors all weekend because of the weather and really needed to go outside to burn off some energy, but that’s not really possible in the shul hall where it takes place.  They weren’t badly behaved, just a bit boisterous, but as the afternoon went on it grew harder and harder to keep them in the corner of the hall where they were supposed to be playing and to stop them running round the whole hall and disrupting the conversations their parents were having with volunteer lawyers and medics.  At least the experience seems to be helping me to overcome the anxieties I have about being able to look after children without doing anything catastrophically wrong.  I am probably an over-cautious ‘parent,’ as I realised I was saying, “Careful” more than anything else.  That came partly from being conflict-averse and wanting to stop the children doing certain not-good things without actually saying “No” and telling them off, but it was partly from nervousness about what sort of activities were suitable for them; not having had much experience with children, I was really feeling my way through this as the afternoon went on.  I do feel that there should be clearer guidelines about what the adults looking after the children should be doing.  I had particular problems when they needed to go to the toilet, as I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be alone with them at any point (a sad, but necessary reflection of the times we live in).

My rabbi mentor thinks that I should not be thinking about doing a PhD right now.  I know I probably rely too much on what other people say, but he is the wisest person I know and I always take his advice very seriously.  On the other hand, I have been thinking a lot about PhDs and about antisemitism.  It is a topic that excites me, if not exactly in a good way.  I do tend to have ideas that excite me and then get dropped as Real Life gets in the way or my interest just fizzles out or switches to something else.  It can be hard to tell what will stick long enough to get acted upon.

I currently would like to work on the following projects (given unlimited time, energy and resources):

  1. finishing my book on stylistic change in Doctor Who (second draft nearly finished);
  2. writing children’s stories based on the religious tales of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov;
  3. writing a book on Doctor Who comics;
  4. doing something to engage with and understand the topic of antisemitism, preferably something that can have a useful or practical outcome in terms of either helping Jews understand where antisemitism comes from and not internalise negative messages from it or to proactively challenge antisemitism in the wider world.

I would like to be working on any one of these and, in theory at least, the first three could eventually pay for themselves – in theory!  The reality is that they would probably only pay for themselves partially if at all.  Only the fourth option is one that could be funded in advance by some kind of research grant.  At the moment, the first option is the only one I’m actively working on and it’s probably better not to be working on too many things at once, especially as I realise that these four projects pull me in three or four very different directions (Doctor Who fandom; the frum (religious) Jewish community; academia and the general Jewish community).

A lot of people write on Hevria about the dangers of being a frustrated creative.  I thought I was a frustrated creative, but now I realise I’m a frustrated academic.  I want to analyse and understand existing things and explain them to others rather than create things for others to enjoy directly (it’s worth noting that I see my proposed children’s stories as effectively functioning as child-friendly commentaries to Rebbe Nachman’s stories as much as being original creations of my own).  As for what I analyse and understand, in many ways that’s less important than analysing something.  It could be Doctor Who or Judaism or antisemitism (or myself, on this blog).  But I think I need to be writing something serious and analytical and to feel that what I think matters to someone.

I have a couple of books to read here about antisemitism and am about to buy some more, so maybe that will help firm up my thoughts on the matter.

Well, my parents are off to sunny, er, Liverpool tomorrow for most  of the week, so I’ll have the whole house to myself for the first time in a long time, given that I’ve been living in a converted garage for the last two years.  It’s tempting to say that I’ll do something fun and/or productive, but based on past experience, I’ll probably be depressed and lonely and procrastinate, spending all my energy on necessary chores like cooking and shopping and not on useful things like job applications or working on my Doctor Who book.

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3 thoughts on “In Loco Parentis

  1. I can understand your stress looking after the children. I used to be a nanny in London and a childcare worker here. It’s very stressful!
    In childcare, the rules are that always at least 2 carers to be present at all times, for the very reason you’re worried about.. so might be worth suggesting it to the organisers.
    As a nanny tho, obviously you’re usually alone with the kids.
    But trying to keep them in the corner of an open hall?!! Must be like trying to herd cats!

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  2. the rules are that always at least 2 carers to be present at all times

    That’s what I thought. I think someone is going to have to think through some protocols for how to manage toilet trips. I’ll have to suggest something before next time.

    But trying to keep them in the corner of an open hall?!! Must be like trying to herd cats!

    Yes, it was a bit! They were pretty good for the first hour or so, probably because they were interested in the toys that were put out for them, but once they got bored with them it was quite difficult to keep them where they were supposed to be. Plus there was one child, probably about eighteen months old, who was desperate to go pretty much anywhere he wasn’t supposed to go!

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