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.

Experience report: getting a babysitter from an agency

I decided it was time to experiment with having a babysitter. A- has been getting more interested in other people and in practising independence from me. I wanted to give her opportunities to like more people and to have different kinds of fun. If babysitting could open up the possibility of doing some consulting during office hours, all the better.

One afternoon a week seemed like a good place to start. I like spending time with A- and school will start soon enough, so I wasn’t keen on putting her in daycare or getting a full-time nanny. One afternoon of 4 hours a week didn’t seem to be a good fit for any of the sitters I reached out to via personal referrals, so it was time to find my own.

I asked J-, since she’s got such great rapport with A-. We might explore that a little more once her schedule settles down. I also asked the neighbours, since their kids sometimes work as babysitters or mother’s helpers.

While those conversations are on the go, I wanted to experiment with babysitting without worrying about my interviewing skills. I decided to pay the premium for working with a babysitting agency that could take care of vetting and scheduling people. I contacted In a Pinch first, but they couldn’t issue receipts for the babysitting portion as well. I went with Nannies on Call instead. They sent me a bio of the sitter who accepted the booking. One day before our appointment, the sitter injured her foot, and the agency sent me the bio for a new sitter.

In the days leading up to our babysitting experiment, I prepared a quick guide, labeled all of A-‘s toy bins, and drew a 12-page book about babysitting. I borrowed “Penguin Misses Mom” from the library, and we read about Mrs. Duck the babysitter several times.

My expectations were low, since A- was often slow to warm up at drop-in centres and other activities. I figured we might spend an hour all playing together. Then I might gradually move to the background or the other room, and then I’d try working downstairs. I prepared for the possibility of letting A- cry for an hour or so. I figured it might be at least a month before we got the hang of it.

And then the babysitter came. We had a brief chat, and then we headed to the backyard. A- immediately started digging into the soil. She talked to the babysitter. She played with the babysitter. After about 15 minutes of feeling like a very happy third wheel, I excused myself. I got my work laptop, set myself up on the deck, and started being able to actually think about code. I could hear them laughing and talking at the end of the backyard. I didn’t even need to set a timer. It was brilliant.

They came over for snacks when A- got hungry. She was covered in dirt: success! The babysitter helped A- thoroughly wash her hands while I put together a snack plate. A- insisted on eating outside with the babysitter, so I got back to work. I was even able to have a super-helpful impromptu web conference with another developer, who gave me the scoop on the network infrastructure and plans for the upcoming project.

At some point, they wandered back into the house. I heard them play with the xylophone and the bells, and I heard A- ask for playdough, and I heard her play with paper, and I think they did stickers at some point too… A- went through so many of her favourite things. She used the potty twice. I was aware of them in the background (mostly because I’d occasionally get this urge to say “This is so awesome!” to myself), and I could still get stuff done.

All in all, I used 4 hours of childcare for:

  • 2.5 hours of consulting,
  • 0.5 hours of organizing my notes for babysitting interviews
  • 0.5 hours of helping with transitions
  • 0.5 hours of other stuff

and A- had 4 solid hours of fun with someone new.

I want to experiment a bit more. It might be good to try maybe two or three other providers from this agency so that I can get a sense of what’s different and what we prefer. I’m also going to try interviewing people, because that’s a useful life skill and it might result in a good arrangement for regular sitting.

Then, if things work out, I’d love to settle into a rhythm of using the time much like I did this afternoon: some consulting and continuous improvement for me, lots of outside time and interaction for A-. As we become more comfortable with babysitting, I might even venture out on errands like going downtown for a work laptop refresh. Coding and continuous improvement are more valuable to me than most errands are, though, so that’s probably how things will go.

I probably won’t always be this lucky, and that’s okay. At least we know what’s possible, and it’s awesome.

I liked how the sitter didn’t bat an eye when A- climbed into the garden box. Instead, she started piling soil up and she invited A- to help make a tall hill. I liked how the sitter talked a lot with A-, and A- clearly enjoyed talking with her too.

The sitter said that she liked our toy bin setup and the list I put together of the things A- could do with a little help (shortcuts to the zone of proximal development!). I wonder what I can do with the backyard to make it an even richer environment while waiting for the plants to come in. Maybe a small pile of river stones, a small pile of sticks, and a yogurt container for making sandcastles? Hmm…

2018-05-07 Emacs news

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Week ending 2018-05-04

  • Field trip
    • We went to High Park to feed llamas. A- liked it and asked to do it twice.
    • We checked out Grange Park. A- liked the rock-climbing section.
    • We had fun at Baird Park despite the drizzle.
  • Gross motor
    • She walked all the way to Lithuania Playground.
  • Fine motor
    • A- was interested in using scissors to cut along lines.
    • A- peeled mandarin oranges and put the peels in the lunchbox. She removed seeds from her mouth. She also shared some with other kids.
  • Language
    • She still mostly demands things (“I want a orange!”), but one time, she requested it: “Can I have an orange, Mommy?”
    • A- asked for and made up stories about everyday objects.
    • “Daddy, help find my glasses.”
    • “What else does Daddy have?”
  • Self-care
    • A- is starting to be able to stand and let a doctor measure her height and weight, and even listen to her heart. Progress!
    • Night weaning progress: A- can wait to nurse at night. As soon as she notices it’s getting lighter outside, though, she says, “I want to nurse. Sun is up.” Then she sleep-nurses for another hour or two.
    • We went to the pediatrician. No worries about her cough or growth at the moment. The substitute doctor asked if the resident could listen to A-‘s heart, since her murmur is easy to hear.
  • Emotion
    • She had a tantrum about wanting me to keep playing with her in the bathtub. I switched to setting a timer for myself, and she seems to tolerate that.
  • Social
    • She was worried about a crying kid in the waiting room. While the kid wailed, she furrowed her eyebrows and twisted the playdough in her hands. When the kid calmed down, she smiled and relaxed.
    • W- pointed to a bit of food on A-‘s plate and said, “I found that on your chin.” A- promptly took it and stuck it back on.
    • W- offered to trade a fork for the butter knife A- was playing with. A- said yes. The moment she held the fork, she said “No,” and refused to give up the knife.
  • Pretend
    • We had fun building sandcastles at Lawrence Park. I stuck a twig in the tower and pretended it was a flag, and then A- repurposed it to be a candle on a birthday sandcake.
    • I bought a bunch of farm animals.
  • Kaizen
    • I’m dipping a toe into babysitting waters and have booked a babysitter from an agency for an afternoon next week.
    • I worked on automatically filtering, categorizing, and formatting my journal entries.
  • Cognition
    • We stayed at the JFRC all afternoon. She played with cars and paint, a matching puzzle with three sets of 18 photos, and a playdough press. She even played with a facilitator while I interviewed a babysitter.

Monthly review: April 2018

Experimenting with more structure to help with tracking progress over time.

  • Gross motor
    • A- learned how to ride a scooter.
    • She had fun running around and around.
    • She walked most of the way to the library.
    • She walked all the way to the playground.
  • Fine motor
    • We got a lot of entertainment value from a sheet of embossed number stickers and a few sheets of colored paper.
    • She was interested in 12-piece jigsaw puzzles and helped me fit the pieces together.
    • She can peel diecut foam stickers.
    • A- completed the shape sorter easily, naming shapes as she pushed them in.
    • A- was interested in using scissors to cut along lines.
  • Sensory
    • I made some bath paint. A- likes using it to paint the bathtub wall and her body.
  • Language
    • Asking herself questions: “How can I figure this out?”
    • Identity: She referred to herself by a nickname while drawing.
    • Anticipation: I asked, “Do you want to go to Mind Museum or somewhere different?” She said: “I want to go to Mind Museum. See big dinosaur. I need a wrist band. Mama need wrist band too.”
    • Asking questions: “Why Mama say excuse me?” “What’s Mama doing?”
    • Asking for attention: “I want Nanay to focus on me. Put down phone.” (Or pen, if I’m writing.) “Look, Lola, I made it.” She also started learning how to gently touch someone’s arm to get their attention.
    • Describing: She said “A-‘s home has Daddy in it.”
    • Talking about missing things: She asked for a marker by saying “Where’s the red one goes in here?” and pointing.
    • Coining phrases: She wanted to specifically ask for a baguette, but didn’t know the word for it, so she called it finger bread.
    • Rephrasing: When I was trying to get her to change “I want Nanay to carry you” to “I want Nanay to carry me,” she rephrased it as “I want to be carried by Nanay.”
    • We’ve been talking about babies, kids, big kids, and grown-ups. She said, “Mama is a grown up.” Then she said, “I am a growing up.”
    • She said, “I am two years old.” She repeated it a few times. She doesn’t answer the question “How old are you?”, though.
    • She still mostly demands things (“I want a orange!”), but one time, she requested it: “Can I have an orange, Mommy?”
  • Music
    • A- can fill in the name of an animal when singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
    • W- came up with a new song: “Vegetables make the poo go down.”
    • So much singing! A- sings spontaneously and when prompted. She sings many nursery rhymes, and she also makes up her own.
  • Art
    • A- drew lines up and down while naming them. She also drew wavy lines while saying “W.”
  • Self-care
    • We got a helmet and pads for when A- rides her balance bike, and I got a new hat for myself.
    • We went to the ocularist to adjust A-‘s conformer. She liked the ball that she got from the treasure box.
    • A- has a dry cough.
  • Household
    • She wanted to trim Leia’s nails together, and insisted on holding the clipper with me.
    • She spread the bath mat out carefully while narrating what she was doing.
  • Social
    • Photos: She crept under her high chair, smiled up, and repeated the process in order to get a good shot.
    • Cousins: She sat on G*’s lap and asked her to read Go Dog Go.
    • Playing games: She explicitly plays, invents, and modifies games. “I push mama. It’s a game.” “I like to play balloon game with Lola.”
    • Modulation: I told A-, “Daddy’s room is only for quiet people.” She calmed down and used her quiet voice.
    • Empathy: She gave me a hug and said sorry after I spilled my drink because of Luke.
    • She wanted to sit close to Lola, and she enjoyed reading and playing with Lola.
  • Pretend
    • A- mimed releasing the coin lock for a pretend shopping cart.
    • A- had an extended pretend telephone conversation with her tower. Not just hello and goodbye, but quite a few other turns in between.
  • Kaizen
    • We took some Duplo to the playground and had lots of fun.
    • I learned that I like honey water much more than an endless stream of cough lozenges.
  • Us
    • We sorted out my dad’s niche at Heritage Park.
    • We went to Mind Museum several times, usually with Diane’s family.
    • I enjoyed getting together with my barkada. We ordered pizza. A- alternated between hanging out and going upstairs for quiet time, so I was in and out of conversations too.
    • We had a nice stay at Hotel Queen. We ate bibimbap at a nearby restaurant, and they gave us plenty of rice cakes.
    • We went to the EarlyON centre. A- had fun playing with stickers, puzzles, and the tunnel. I picked the facilitator’s brain about ECE and childcare.
    • W- laid patio stones next to the raised bed.

2018-04-30 Emacs news

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel