In August, Oliver and I both started school—again. I returned to get my master's in animation and new media from North Carolina State University's College of Design; Oliver headed to day care. The timing wasn't right for his first attempt more than a year ago. He was only three months old when Stacy and I initially tried, and we soon knew he wasn't ready. That's a primary reason I quit my architecture job. If he needed to stay home, I did, too.
Back at school, the first few weeks were tough for us both. I hadn't been in class since 2003, so I was fumbling around for discipline in my new discipline. Some of the media and assignments were unmapped territory for me. And after being at home for so long, I wasn't accustomed to putting myself—much less Oliver—together so early. Sure, I'd been waking up around sunrise anyway, but we'd rarely been leaving the house before noon. My sleep patterns had finally approached normal following his infancy, but school changed that once again. Early mornings for class meant late nights for assignments. And my daily babbling with a 1-year-old was suddenly replaced by intellectual discourse with adults.
Oliver required a few adjustments, too. At home, his nap and food schedules have never been very regimented. But at school, Oliver needed to refrain from napping and was expected to sit down at a table with the other kids to eat lunch at a specific time. "What? A lunch schedule? Who runs this place?" I imagined him saying. Oliver was also hanging out with toddlers each morning, not just his 30-year-old father. I'm sure it was nice to be with those who spoke his language.
We've both learned a lot in our first semester back in school, not only there but at home as well. We've been able to form a new relationship: During days without school, his naps have been condensed into one long (almost) regularly scheduled siesta. During his naps, I'm no longer idle; they've become my time to focus on specific projects. The shape of my cooperative relationship with Stacy continues to evolve, too. I drop him off some days, and Stacy picks him up—other days, it's vice versa.
Oliver and I both attended school part-time this semester, only trekking to class a few days each week. This minor schedule adjustment was necessary at the start, but we'll ramp up our commitments soon. As this first shared semester comes to a close, I realize that I am no longer only the teacher but once again a student. Oliver now has other teachers, as do I. He's already started teaching me what he learned each day. I listen; he talks. It reminds me of when Rodney Dangerfield and his son sat side by side in that economics class in Back to School. Both father and son are learning different things by having a similar, simultaneous experience. I'm just not embarrassing Oliver by disagreeing with teachers on theories of corporate America—not yet, anyway.