Category Archives: parenting

Circle time progress

I like taking A- to music classes and circle times. I learn more songs and A- gets to see other kids in a semi-structured environment. A- usually clings to me, preferring to quietly watch instead of joining in. She’s not keen on tickling games. She tends to get anxious when the teacher or family support worker uses puppets. In last year’s music class, there were maybe a couple of sessions when she felt confident enough to walk and jump on her own, but that was after months of being carried, and she still often chose to be carried after that.
At home, though, she loves arranging chairs, singing songs, and exploring instruments. I think it’s totally worth it and that she gets a lot out of it, even if it’s not obvious in class.
Besides, I can relate to wanting to hang back and observe. That’s what W- and I tend to do.
I think things might be starting to change, though. A few months ago, she used to cry and ask to leave the drop-in centre as soon as we got there. Now she can usually play there until it closes. Last month, she started talking about the family support workers while we were at home, referring to them by name. During circle time this week, she didn’t sit on my lap, but on a stool that she brought over. I liked watching how intently she watched the family support worker and how she tried to quickly imitate the gestures, and I saw her mouth a few of the words too. She hid under the scarf or waved the scarf around as prompted. She flapped her part of the parachute up and down. She smiled great big smiles; she seemed happy that she was able to follow along.
At music class, she got interested in helping put away things when I suggested that we play the excavator game. She liked holding the jingle bell sticks and the scarf (maybe because they triggered the “Mine!” instinct in her?). Once they were in her hands, she imitated the teacher and the other kids. She also returned them to the teacher. It helps to hold something or do something with her hands, I think.
It probably helps a lot that A- likes the family support workers now. The family support workers serve snacks, answer my questions, and offer her things to play with. I’ve started bringing extra food to the drop-in centre to enable even more positive social interactions, too, and I think A- likes helping share yummy food with other people. She knows the music teacher’s name, but she doesn’t have as varied positive interactions with her.
I’m looking forward to seeing how she’ll respond to music time and circle time next week. Maybe she’ll stay close, and maybe she’ll venture out a little more. While it might seem faster to push her into independence by not picking her up as much, I like watching her gradually feel comfortable enough to participate. I like how sometimes all she needs is a quick reconnection and then she’s off to explore. I like how she clearly feels secure enough in music class to listen and learn, and how much she remembers, and how she enjoys singing. She’ll have enough opportunities to practise independence without being pushed into it. She’s driven to grow.
I’ve signed up for music classes until April, except for July and August. We’ll go to drop-in centres whenever we can, too. We’re both slowly getting the hang of things, and it’s wonderful.
In the meantime, I’ll focus on picking up songs that I can sing to her throughout the day. We’ll practice imitation one-on-one. We’ll bring in babysitters so that she can have lots of positive interactions with people who are not me while staying in a familiar environment. We’re experimenting with going at her pace as much as possible while giving her plenty of opportunities to stretch and grow. She’s wonderful, and I have full confidence that she’ll get the hang of this.

Thinking about more reflection and sharing

Okay. I’ve gotten basic recording sorted out, I think. I can capture quick notes, photos, and videos to document our lives and serve as placeholders for further reflection. I can organize them into rough categories. Babysitting gives me enough brainspace for both consulting and self-improvement. My sleep is still a bit messy, but that’s probably at least half because of me. I’m confident about spending time with A- and helping her learn stuff. Time to think of the next steps.

I think there are three big areas for me:

  • planning and experimenting with potential improvements: needs attention, creativity, and implementation time
  • sharing tweaks and things I’ve figured out: good for backing up and for conversation
  • making sense of facts, asking questions, synthesizing, reflecting

Our continuous improvement capabilities are okay, although of course there’s room to grow. Physical stuff (reorganization, trying stuff, decluttering) can happen throughout the day. Reading fits in late at night or in snippets throughout the day, although I’m still skimming for things to think about instead of being able to take notes or think about things in depth. Coding tiny little tools fits in late at night or during babysitting sessions – not big projects yet, but shell scripts and short Emacs Lisp functions are quite doable.

I’d like to get better at circling back and posting source code and experiment notes. Maybe I’ll start by including just a paragraph or two describing key motivation and intended result, then jump straight into the code or description. I’m not sure if it will help anyone else, but who knows? Besides, it’s good to have stuff like that in my own archive.

It seems like such a splurge to use babysitting time for thinking, drawing, and writing. I don’t know if I can write a post worth $120+ to myself or other people, and besides, I want to write more personally relevant things before I get back into sketchnoting books or putting together, say, Emacs guides. But if I think of the babysitting as primarily paying for A- to practise independence and social interaction with someone one-on-one, I do some consulting every week, and I make an effort to pick up one or two new activity ideas each time we have someone over, I can think of the discretionary time as a bonus instead of trying to optimize my use of that time.

Let me think about sense-making. I’ve been focusing on just capturing what was going on because it was hard to think more deeply. I’m a little less preoccupied now, so I have some brainspace for thinking. Some questions to ponder:

  • What is A- interested in learning? What does she think? Why does she do what she does? How can I grow so that I can support her even more effectively?
  • What else can I experiment with? How can I reduce waste or costs (including intangibles), and how can I increase benefits?
  • How can I make learning visible for both A- and me?
  • What do I want from all of this? How do I want this to shape me?

Writing this on a bench in the park, arms around a sleeping A-, I’m somewhat challenged by the small window I’m writing in (there’s room for a couple of paragraphs and that’s it), the inability to refer to other things side by side, and the possibility of interruption. But maybe I can think and write in medium-sized chunks: a little bigger than the quick notes I’ve been taking, but small enough that I don’t need an outline or the ability to easily rearrange my text. I can write more stream-of-consciousness stuff instead of worrying about editing. I can give myself permission to cover ground relatedly instead of worrying whether I’d written about something before, or if I’d just dreamed it.

Let’s warm up those thinking muscles. :)

Babysitting update: pretend play

Yesterday’s babysitting experiment was another success, making three for three. A- was looking forward to the babysitter’s visit and even postponed some of her morning play ideas. As soon as the babysitter walked in, A- switched to wanting to play with her instead of me. They built with Duplo, painted on paper, cut with scissors, and played with tape. Then they headed to the backyard to make sandcastles. They came back in for snacks, then played pretend. The babysitter guided A- through role-playing restaurant interactions, which she took to with much enthusiasm. Then A- wanted to go to the playground with both of us, so I wrapped up my consulting (2.2 hours, yay!) and headed out with them. While the babysitter pushed A- on the swing and helped her navigate the other parts of the playground, I worked on improving my phone workflows for tracking and drawing.

Having an agency babysitter come over one afternoon a week seems to be working out very well for both of us. A- likes the change in company and the one-on-one attention. I like overhearing how they’re playing so that I can pick up ideas. For example, it was great to see how quickly A- picked up a new scenario when the babysitter guided her, and how the babysitter nudged her to exchange roles in their pretend play.

I wonder what I can do to level up. I could send them my weekly review when I book so that the sitter can easily see what A- is interested in. I can make grab-and-go bags for going to the playground or other places. I can add a few dress-up items and props to enhance pretend play, and I can add paper and pens to support pre-literacy. I can line up questions to ask during downtime. Hmmm…

Babysitting experiment #2: the baker

Babysitting experiment #2 was also a success. A- had her heart set on making carrot muffins today. She was peeling carrots when Stephanie (the babysitter) arrived. Stephanie had professionally trained as a baker, so she was a perfect fit for A-‘s interest. As I worked in the other room, I heard them talking about how the oil and the sugar lighten in colour with mixing, and why we grease the muffin tins. A- remembered so many steps in the process, even checking the muffins with a toothpick. Stephanie complimented A- on being a good baker. A- said, “No, I’m a cook,” which amused us.

They enjoyed the freshly baked muffins for snack, and I set out some berries and cheese too. A- asked, “Would Stephanie like so much snacks?” After snack, A- played in the play area with Stephanie. Then they went to the backyard for some digging and ball-throwing.

I managed to do a little over 2.5 hours of consulting. The rest of the time was mostly helping out, cleaning up, and getting a head start on chores. This let me use A-‘s nap time for reading (1 hour), so that probably counts too. Like before, A- fell asleep shortly after the babysitter left.

A- seems to like the novelty, and I think I’ll enjoy the diversity of skills and experiences people bring. I liked being around to translate A-‘s more obscure requests and overhear the things she wanted to know more about. At the same time, I was able to focus much better on code than I used to be able to do late at night. This could work out nicely.

One afternoon a week feels like the right balance for us at the moment. I was able to think a little about consulting in between sessions, but not let it take over my brain. We were able to do a few fun field trips together. I captured lots of little moments in my journal. I should probably think of kaizen projects that would take about one hour to do, and tee those up for next week. Hmm…

How do I want to grow as a parent?

I want to be able to relax and give A- space. I want to quiet my mind and just be, trusting that we’ll both get enough out of being there. I want to let her have small falls and frustrations while boosting her sense of safety and resilience.

I still want to take notes and think about stuff, though, so I’ll figure out that balance. Maybe I can get used to having a pen and paper in my back pocket, and I can figure out a workflow for those notes. Phone notes are easier to build on, though.

I want to get better at enhancing A-‘s delight: playing games with her, surprising her, using playfulness to defuse resistance. A little energy often prompts energy from her in a virtuous cycle.

I’m getting better at having more energy, and we’re slowly collecting ideas that generally work with her. I’m peeling off self-consciousness and dialing down distractions. I think we can get the hang of this.

I want to eventually be more social. We’ll all benefit from that, especially A-.

I can probably trust that A- will turn out all right. What do I want to get out of this?

  • Equanimity practice: knowing that I can deal with the ups, downs, and surprises
  • Secret stores of delight: little memories that I can use to strengthen my empathy and appreciation not only for A-, but also other people
  • Playfulness and flexibility
  • Notes, observational skills, knowledge
  • Processes and workarounds to help me make the most of fragmented thoughts

Beginning to trust myself as a parent

I remember worrying about not offering the same level of stimulation that a high-quality daycare might be able to do, with their structured schedules, their activity centres, their specialist lessons in French or yoga or music.

I’m beginning to trust ourselves more now. As I observe A-, I realize that she spends most of her time trying new things, not just things that she can comfortably do. I like how following along with her interests still gives me plenty of opportunity to expand on them. I sometimes pique her interest by playing with something new. I like that too.

I may not push as much as someone well-experienced in managing the zone of proximal development might, but she’ll learn all that she needs to learn and more. No rush. I still like reading textbooks and research papers, though. They’re great for picking up ideas.

I’m a little less worried now about missing important things. I can keep an eye on developmental checklists and talk to the facilitators at the EarlyON Child and Family Centres. The pediatrician also reviews the developmental checklist with me. Plenty of safety nets.

I’m quiet by nature, not as vivacious as the best of the caregivers and parents I sometimes overhear at the playground. Still, A- and I are well-suited for each other at the moment. She asks me questions, and I tell her about the world around us. Sometimes we make sandcastles (or sandcakes, her favourite right now). Sometimes we mock-wrestle. Sometimes we fall into a comfortable silence while she enjoys swinging high up to the sky.

I’m learning how to read the same book five times straight. I’m learning how to make up silly games and situations, like the time I pretended to brush almost everything in the bathroom instead of A-‘s teeth. I’m learning how to answer the same question in different ways. I’m learning how to take and organize notes on her progress. I’m learning to step back and marvel at this kid’s awesomeness even in the throes of strong emotions.

The next thing I’m working on learning is how to wait and observe, so that I can let A- take more initiative. I can trust that she knows how to ask for help or for the name of something. I can let her learn how to focus. I’m curious about things like The Adult Role in Child-led Play – How to Become a Learning Ally.

We’ll shift, naturally, as A- becomes more interested in other people and other opportunities to learn. I trust that I’ll shift along with her, doing experiments out of curiosity instead of being constrained by fear.

I can do this. It’s actually pretty fun. I think it’s worth the time and the deltas from Alternate Universe Sachas who took different paths. I wonder how it will play out.