Professional Skipper – April 98 issue            back to articles menu

"Sugar and spice, and all things nice"
At 3.40am on Wednesday 1st April, 5lb 11oz of squalling infant arrived in this world minus any prejudices, skills, biases, clothes, land claims, soap-boxes, protest agendas, inhibitions or unrealistic expectations, and proceeded to turn what passed for order into complete chaos. A look at the mental processes we all go through during times of change.

I’ve been searching around for the operation manual that should have come with our new Daughter,  or perhaps the CD-ROM Tutorial or On-line Help but alas, the manufacturer didn’t include it with the packaging. Neither can I find the remote to lower the volume or enact the ‘sleep’ function. A description of this new entity might be best summed up as a noise at one end and a complete lack of social responsibility at the other, and it continues to amaze me that bodily emissions of waste in solid, liquid and gaseous form are not only permitted but actively encouraged – dare I say even ‘cooed’ over if that is not too loose an expression - yet were this to occur in public and be perpetrated by an adult, there would be an entirely different response from bystanders.

In spite of there be being no manual or peripheral equipment, we have two operators in training – one full-time and one part-time. Part of the ‘person description’ for operators appears to include being able to go without any appreciable sleep for long periods of time, and make evaluative decisions with little and conflicting information. I have watched with some clinical interest the reactions of my two canine companions of some 8 years standing who have more or less ruled their environment for that same length of time, being required now to come to terms with an interloper, a usurper to the throne. The female appears quite resigned (she’s had pups) and is given to long, suffering sighs and does a vanishing act when the noise starts, yet at the same time sticks her head in the bassinet occasionally just to check that all is well. The male on the other hand has become almost aggressively protective and shows visual and audible signs of distress when the squalling starts, to the extent of growling at all and sundry with the exception of the full-time operator known colloquially as ‘mother’, and under protest accepts my presence albeit with a peculiar glint in his eye. If these were two of the Dachshund variety or perhaps the gentle Labrador, it might be less stressful, but as it is, I am for my sins ‘shared caretaker’ of two fully-grown Dobermans.  One approaches the disciplinary function therefore with a degree of circumspection. If you can imagine playing tennis with a live grenade in which the pin is somewhat loose in its fitting you’ll have a rough idea…

You may be thinking “well, we’re happy for you Steve (possibly with an element of mischievous satisfaction), but why subject us to all this?”

One of the most disruptive elements in our lives – and the root cause of many ‘stressors’ – is Change, and our ability or inability to manage it. We are creatures of habit, and the large majority of us would prefer for Change to come along in bite-size lumps. In our Change Management workshops, we use the four-phase change model Denial, Resistance, Exploration and Commitment, and I find myself in the none-too-comfortable position of evaluating my current mental state against that model. As for the Denial phase, this new arrival was ordered (and manufacturing started) some nine months ago, and the production process carefully monitored (indeed, somewhat hard to ignore) during that time, so it can be said that the impending arrival was eagerly awaited rather than denied. Perhaps the Denial part could be applied to my thoughts that with careful planning life might go on pretty much as normal. I have since found it impossible to use a keyboard with one hand while at the same time jiggling one’s knee up and down or swaying side to side, and it’s just as well I have an oversize desk in order that the car-seat can fit between the phone and the printer. Resistance? No point. Nature appears to have ensured that – by keying the anxiety sensors in the adult brain to the exact vocal frequency of the noise this entity makes - it is impossible to focus on a spreadsheet or document while the noise continues and I am forced to cede operational control over to the supplier of natural nutrient (whom I affectionately refer to as ‘Tanker’), something that I am biologically unable to imitate or gain competency over. Exploration – now, this is where I think I’m possibly at. A time of wondering how life will be in the new situation, of questioning, of research into sleep deprivation, of experimentation and mistakes, and of rediscovering techniques and skills I thought I had forgotten. The Commitment phase had sort of already begun some time ago, and will continue long into the future, and I guess this shows me that while research may have identified a four-phase mental process, it is not necessarily an ordered or structured process. At time of writing we are experimenting with Job Enrichment, where I am in training to prepare and administer synthetic nutrient (‘Formula’ to use the technical jargon), making up for my lack of natural ability in order that I might be able to share the refuelling process on the night shift. I am told that my occasional lapses of concentration – particularly where I fall asleep mid-sentence – will pass. I am also assured that my temporary dysfunction in terms of a newly acquired tendency to emit a vocabulary of gutteral noises and babbling verbiage, often a mixture of half-remembered nursery rhymes and 60’s chart-busters, will also pass.  I hope they are right.

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2001 All rights reserved by the author.                                                                                                                       back to articles menu